I often hear the question: “How do I know when it’s time for me to start therapy?”
It’s a good question. For most of us, it is tough to know when to make the call to get help. And it’s not only mental health help I’m talking about – but financial help, medical help, automotive help, real estate help – it’s a difficult thing to know. Most of us want to believe we can do things on our own, or that our problem “really isn’t that bad,” or that if we ignore it, it will go away. But, in the end our problems don’t always go away, and we may need a little (or a lot) of assistance to stay on the right path.
So when people ask me this question, I have a few questions for them in return:
How long has your issue been going on? If you’ve been feeling worried, depressed, anxious for a day or two, that’s very different than if it has been going on for many weeks, months, or even years.
How is it affecting your life? By this I mean: Have you stopped doing things you used to enjoy because of your emotional struggles? Have your relationships suffered (with colleagues, friends, partners, family, kids) Has your ability to work suffered or changed?
What else have you tried? Therapy doesn’t have to be the first resort for dealing with emotional struggles. Have you read any books, tried changing your physical activities (yoga, walking, etc), talked to a trusted friend, family member, or clergy about the issue? Any other strategies you have used to feel better? What, if anything, has helped?
How do you think therapy might help? It’s important to have a realistic idea about therapy can do for you. It can’t change your boss, but it can help you learn better coping strategies for job stress. It can’t change the fact that your spouse has had an affair, but it can help you (or both of you) learn different communication techniques and provide a safe forum for discussing your feelings about the breach of trust.
With the above questions in mind, it might help you be better able to decide if now is the time to seek therapy. And if you do decide to start looking for a psychologist, check out first steps here.