When should you seek a therapist?

I was reading a blog post on Psych Central about when a person should seek a therapist.  It can be a difficult decision to make as I’ve found on some web boards where people ask about choosing therapy or whether or not to go.  People think that since they are shy or have a hard time talking to strangers that therapy won’t work.  As a therapist, I’d like to say that I won’t be a stranger to you for long – part of my job is to get to know you and to have an alliance between us.  Others worry about being judged.  This is not my job.  I’m not there to judge you.  What I am there to do is help you move in a healthier direction and we’re going to do it side by side in collaboration.  Others have been raise to just ‘buck up and get over it’.  I know that feeling.  Really.  In my family, we were raised to deal with physical illness that way (and I still fight it sometimes).  Sometimes you just need someone who will listen and work with you to find a new direction.  Someone who isn’t part of your personal life (like a friend or parent).

So, once you have figured out that you might possibly, maybe, think about going, when should you go?  I like the list that Psych Central came up with:

1.   The problem causes significant distress in your life.  Is it coming between you and your friends, your significant other?  Are you struggling to do work at school or in your job?  Have you stopped doing the things you love?  Yup, it’s time to seek help.

2. Nothing you’ve done seems to help.  I get it.  I try everything I can think of before I seek out my GP.  I don’t want to acknowledge that I can’t handle the pain.  But sometimes you have to acknowledge that the problem is bigger than you and someone else might be able to help.  Yup, it’s time to seek help.

3. Everyone in your life is sick of listening to you.  Are you becoming a broken moaning record?  Are people seemingly avoiding you because all you can talk about is your problem?  Can you focus on nothing but your problem?  While most people have friends or family who would love to help, sometimes a problem is too much for them to handle.  And that’s okay.  That’s what therapists are here for.  We won’t get sick of listening to you, and we’re trained to help.

4. You start using or abusing someone or something to alleviate your problems.  It’s tempting to have just one more drink.  It feels like it covers the pain.  But it doesn’t make it go away, and you may start to use that alcohol more and more.  Or you may feel anger.  And take it out on a significant other.  Yup, it’s time to seek out therapy.

5. People have noticed and said something to you.  It’s easy to discount what other people say…they don’t know your life.  But if you keep hearing it or you hear it from someone you have always trusted, then it’s time to look within and figure out if they are right.  What are they noticing that is so concerning?  Is it something from the above 4 reasons?  Perhaps, it’s time to find a professional to talk to.

This decision can be hard, but you can learn so much about yourself and the way you work.  There are so many possible therapists and therapies out there.  Talk to your GP, talk to a friend you know who’s seen a therapist in the past, check out the professional associations to see who is recommended.  But if you need therapy, find someone.  You don’t need to live with the pain.

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