Outside of work, when people find out what my professional background is, I frequently will get asked, “Should I see a therapist? Here is my situation…”
- “My husband and I seem to have been fighting all the time, since the baby was born. We have different ideas on parenting and we just can’t agree on anything.”
- “My grandmother died a few month ago. It didn’t hit me at first. It almost felt like it really didn’t happen. Now all of a sudden, I’m starting to feel a lot of anger.”
- “I just moved here a few months ago and haven’t met anyone yet. I feel very lonely and don’t have any friends. I’ve been crying most days of the week since I moved out here.”
The examples above are just a few common themes I see in people who are in the process of deciding if therapy is right for them. Therapists can certainly help them process some of the feelings they are having and help guide them on developing coping skills, strengthening communication skills or discussing other options to help them deal with what is going on with them at the moment. Many hesitate to see a therapist and I understand. Telling a therapist the most intimate details of your life can be downright scary, especially if it’s your first time. Some may fear getting judged. Others might be afraid a therapist will tell all their secrets to somebody. Some might want something to change in their lives, but are just not yet ready to see someone for help. Choosing to see a therapist is a very personal decision that only you can make. The scenarios described above are not the only times that would be good opportunities to see a therapist. Often, there are more subtle signs that could suggest seeing a therapist is a good idea and I’ve listed them below.
1.Several people who are close to you have pointed out that you seem more stressed or on edge more than usual.
It’s not unheard of to hear someone tell me they are surprised when someone tells him/her, “You seem more stressed lately.” Many people try to keep their emotions to themselves intentionally for various reasons. Other times, people might be so over-worked and busy that they never pause to reflect on what he/she is experiencing internally until something bad happens. However, many people, especially those closest to us, can observe quite accurately when something is just not quite right with us. This isn’t always the case, but regardless, if people have pointed out a change in your stress levels or emotions, it wouldn’t hurt to see a therapist.
2. You feel lonely frequently or all the time.
Feeling lonely is subjective. You can have tons of people around you or be surrounded by someone all the time, but still feel lonely. Other times, being isolated from loved ones, moving to a new place, or not having friends can also contribute to loneliness. Having a therapist can help you identify some of the environmental factors or behaviors that may be contributing to your feelings of loneliness, as well as helping you develop a plan to decrease these feelings.
3. You’ve started drinking more alcohol and doing more drugs.
You used to drink a glass of wine about 2-3 days a week. Lately, you’ve been drinking more and doing drugs, specifically as a way to cope with your problems or emotions that are slowly overwhelming you more and more as time passes by. Drinking on occasion does not have to signal a problem, but when your alcohol intake goes up because your emotions or problems have become too difficult to deal with, it may be time to see a therapist.
4. You wake up most days of the week, dreading the day ahead.
It’s not uncommon to hear someone tell me they feel nervous when they wake up on a big test day or know they will be giving a presentation to 200 people in the afternoon. However, on most days, do you find yourself waking up on a daily basis with complete dread to face what lies ahead? If so, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see a therapist to explore these feelings further.
5. You are reading this article
If you are not doing academic or professional research on this topic and you did an online search for “Should I see a therapist,” or searched for a phrase similar to this, it’s likely that seeing a therapist might be a good idea. Sometimes, you might need extra information to help you make an informed decision. You know something doesn’t feel quite right and need some help to decide if therapy or something else may be the answer to help you process what is going on.
As mentioned earlier, going to therapy is a very personal decision that only you can make. If you decide to go to therapy to address some of your issues, I commend you for taking the next steps in taking care of yourself and trying to get your life back on track.
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