When Is It Time To See A Therapist?
If you have never been to therapy before, this might not be an easy question to answer. A lingering misconception is that people only seek therapy because they reach a point in their lives when things feel desperate or unmanageable. While it is important to seek help from a mental health professional in times of extreme distress, therapy can be an invaluable resource even when there is not a full-blown crisis to be managed.
Therapy does not have to be a last resort – an ounce of prevention is, as the saying goes, worth a pound of cure. Dealing with issues as they arise and before they become worse is incredibly effective and can save a lot of trouble down the road. Compare it with a car when the “check engine” light comes on. You could continue to drive on without an immediate consequence, however, not addressing the matter early on could lead to greater (and more costly) consequences down the road. Here are some common concerns that prompt people to seek therapy:
Stress Management – There is no such thing as a stress-free life. However, when stress begins to take over and managing it begins to feel like too much of a struggle, it might be time to reach out for help. Chronic stress can lead to health complications that can be both physical and psychological. Insomnia, headaches, upset stomach, and digestive issues are some of the common physical complaints. Psychological issues include irritability, panic, and increasing restlessness, which makes it difficult to focus on the things we want.
Unhealthy Coping Strategies – Unwinding with a glass of wine or binge-watching your favorite Netflix show from time to time is not inherently bad. However, virtually any coping strategy can become unhealthy when used to excess. Things such as overeating, drinking too much, compulsive spending, or frequent gambling can backfire and can actually introduce more problems into your life. When coping strategies prevent us from dealing with real problems that require our attention, they become more harmful than helpful.
Relationship Difficulties – Perhaps you are noticing more frequent arguments, or you feel as though you are walking on eggshells around certain people. Maybe you struggle to assert yourself and always avoid conflict, but keeping the peace is costing you your own inner peace. These could be signs that you are having difficulty managing aspects of your relationships. Therapy can help you understand some of the problems that may be leading to relational challenges and help you discover better ways to address them.
Being Too Hard On Yourself – Most people have an inner voice. Sometimes that voice is helpful, and other times it might be unreasonably harsh or even cruel. While self-evaluation is important, being undermined by our own internal script is ultimately unhelpful. Therapy can help us learn how to cultivate a more compassionate and kinder voice that can serve to make us more productive and successful and allow us to move towards the things we value.
Feeling Stuck – Sometimes people struggle with a lack of purpose or direction, a sense of apathy, low energy, or perhaps they are just not feeling quite like themselves. If you have been struggling with any of these things, you may think you have no choice but to just accept it. Talking to a therapist can help unburden us from these concerns, allowing us to feel less alone and helping us realize we have more power and potential for growth than we might think.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are among some of the common reasons people seek help from a therapist. The reality is that almost everyone can benefit from therapy at some point or another in their lives. If you have been struggling with any of these issues or desire to make some positive changes in your life and you are not sure where to start, it might be time to talk to a therapist.
About the author of the article:
Emma Langeveld, MA, Registered Provisional Psychologist
Emma is a registered provisional psychologist in Alberta who currently works for the Airdrie Counselling Centre. If you would like to see Emma's profile or book an appointment with her, please click on the link below.