Psychotherapy is a tool that many people find beneficial at some point in their life. The research is there to show its effectiveness in treating many of life’s problems. Sometimes a person struggles with knowing if they are experiencing a little struggle, or if it is something serious enough to seek help from a professional. Most people who come into our offices are not “crazy”. They just need a little extra help finding their way or managing life circumstances. Therapists can help with a variety of things, including, grief, trauma, anger, eating disorders, parenting issues, relationship challenges, and a variety of mental health concerns. So how do you know when things are serious enough to seek out therapy? Here are five signs that seeing a therapist may be a good idea:
- You are experiencing distress in your life.
Maybe you cannot concentrate at work, or you avoid any interaction with classmates or coworkers. Maybe you are so overwhelmed that the thought of doing the dishes seems unbearable. Most mental health diagnoses require that a problem causes significant impairment in your everyday functioning, whether at work, at home, or at school. If sadness, anxiety, or something else is causing you to function poorly, or to avoid things you typically enjoy, it may be time to seek help.
- Nothing you have tried has helped.
Rarely do we feel sadness or hopelessness for weeks on end and not try to do something to feel better. We have coping skills that we have developed over our lifetime, but sometimes these stop working. If you have tried a handful of things, but have had little success, it may be time to talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you to figure out why these things are not working for you now, and may have suggestions for things to try.
- You start abusing something.
If you turn to a substance or behavior to alleviate symptoms, it is another sign your coping skills are unsuccessful. This can be drugs or alcohol, but it can also be food, online pornography, gambling, or any other behavior meant to block out your other problems. It can even be anger or conflict directed at people in your life. These behaviors can lead to addictions or compulsive behaviors that require further treatment.
- You have experienced a loss or a traumatic event.
Grief and trauma can be difficult to process without the support of an expert. Not everyone seeks counseling during these times, but there is no shame in needing extra support. This may be especially important if you have experienced multiple losses or traumas at the same time. Having an outside resource can also be helpful when these losses or traumas are in the family and your usual support systems are also struggling.
- People have suggested therapy to you.
When someone we love suggests that we consider counseling it can be difficult to hear. Many times you brush it off or ignore the comment altogether. If someone in your life is taking the time to suggest counseling to you, they may be seeing something you don’t. Consider their reasons or their concerns.
Still unsure about whether or not therapy is for you? Consider going in to meet with a therapist and get a feel for what they have to offer. Just the simple fact that you are struggling with the decision may be a sign that you are having a harder time with things than you realize. By attending counseling you are not agreeing to a lifetime of sessions. A 2001 study, in the Journal of Counseling Psychology found that most people feel better within seven to ten visits. Although severe mental illness may require more intensive therapy, most people benefit from brief therapy focused on a specific issue, a major life decision, or getting out of a rut.
If you are still questioning if you should reach out, you can go to Psychology Today – Psych Tests and take a Mental Health Assessment – Self Test, by Psychology Today. This assessment can give you an idea of what a therapist might look at or target when working with you.
Studies have shown the sooner you seek assistance the faster you will feel better. You do not have to let your problems overwhelm you before you seek help.