by Andrea M. Darcy
Thankfully, we live in a day and age where therapy has shed the stigma of only being for ‘crazy’ people. And yet the outdated notion still persists that you have to feel awful, or have a life that is in pieces, to benefit from counselling.
The result? Even if we suspect we could use some support, too many of us think about seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist for a very long time before making the decision.
The result is that we miss out on help we could sorely use and our psychological issues drag out for far longer than they need to.
“Do I Need Counselling?”
The more common reasons people seek therapy include the following:
- feeling sad and angry all the time
- unable to feel interested in all the things they used to enjoy
- lost a loved one, either because of bereavement or to a relationship breakdown
- abusing drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or any other sort of addiction
- had something important to them, like a job or money, taken away
- experienced either physical, mental, or emotional abuse
- experienced a major trauma like a traffic accident, personal attack, or natural disaster
- suffering a personality disorder.
15 reasons to see a counsellor or psychotherapist
But if none of the above apply to you, don’t assume that now is not a good time for you to seek therapy. Not all reasons to seek a counsellor or therapist are so cut and dried. Read on to discover important times when hiring a counsellor or psychotherapist could be the best thing you could do for yourself.
1. You are in a constant state of overwhelm.
Life is not always easy and nobody has all of the answers, all of the time. Perhaps you’ve run out of strategies for how to deal with a life that increasingly feels out of control. Perhaps you aren’t even sure exactly why you feel stressed every day, but you just know that the sense of overwhelm is increasing.
The good news is that therapy isn’t just for those who feel sad, it’s also great for stress and anxiety, and a counsellor can help you figure out the reasons behind any unexplained overwhelm as well help you make life choices that work better for you.
2. You can’t seem to stop making choices that are self-defeating.
Have you ever felt that no matter how many times you tell yourself that you ‘won’t do that again’, when it comes to a certain damaging behaviour, you can’t seem to keep doing it? Whether it’s choosing destructive romantic entanglements, risky behaviours like binge drinking, overspending, or unprotected sex, or lying to people you care about, there is nothing more frustrating then knowing you are making bad choices but feeling unable to stop.
Damaging behaviours are often connected to deep-seated beliefs we have about ourselves that are secretly running the show. Therapy helps you not only recognise these core beliefs, but find ways to change them so that you are finally free to make better decisions.
3. You are stuck in a rut and it’s making you frustrated.
Sometimes in life we just feel trapped, and like we are stuck in a loop that isn’t terrible, but just isn’t what we want. Perhaps you keep saying yes to things because your friends ask and you can’t seem to say no, constantly take jobs you know will make you unhappy, or are just can’t seem to get out of debt no matter how hard you try.
Therapy is wonderful for helping you get beneath what is going on and see the hidden reasons you are making choices that don’t work for you. It can also help you find out who you really are and what you really want.
4. You just feel like nobody understands.
Feeling misunderstood can lead to constantly being left alienated and lonely. Therapy can help you realise what is behind your inability to connect with others, if perhaps you are suffering a fear of intimacy, or why you are constantly surrounding yourself with people who can’t understand you. And, of course, it’s a therapist’s job to understand you, so the very act of hiring a counsellor begins to solve your problem.
5. Your emotions are increasingly out of control and disproportionate responses.
Do you find that you are flying into a blind rage over your kids not doing their homework? Feeling so despondent when your book club is cancelled you stay home for the rest of the day? Or bursting into tears when the cashier at the grocery store accidentally overcharges you?
When an emotional response is not a match to what has triggered it, it’s often because longstanding suppressed emotions are fighting to come to the surface and be dealt with. These big emotions are often the residue of experiences you have had in your past that you have not examined or healed. A counsellor or psychotherapist creates a safe environment and a support system for you to begin to unpack and finally deal with these repressed emotions and experiences.
6. You have a feeling that the life you are leading and the person you are pretending to be isn’t who you truly are or what you want to do.
Being authentic can be a real challenge in a world that increasingly dictates what we should be, do, and have to be happy. But real happiness only comes when we take the time to listen to ourselves, stop trying to impress others, and discover what we really want for ourselves. Which all sounds great, but can be a real challenge – one that therapy can help us work out much more quickly.
7. You crave a new perspective.
Do you ever get the feeling that your friends and family are too emotionally attached to be objective? Or want you to stay a certain way they are comfortable with and don’t give you the best advice despite their best intentions? They want to feel good, and they want you to feel good, but truth is often uncomfortable.
And yet truth is what we need to grow and change. A therapist offers an unbiased perspective and is not invested in anything but helping you find answers that work for you personally.
8. You just really need to feel listened to.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we are struggling with problems we can’t talk to others about. Perhaps you’ve had a breakup, and you know everyone still likes your partner so feel too guilty to talk about what has happened. Or you have moved to a new city and have yet to develop any close friendships.
Or perhaps the issue you are dealing with is something you feel your loved ones aren’t ready to listen to, such as struggling with your sexuality or having dark thoughts. Or your loved ones just aren’t very good at listening and you need someone who is. Whatever your reason, a counsellor is a willing ear when you need it.
9. You want to finally understand why you do the things you do, think the things you think, and feel the things you feel.
While it can be easy to see others clearly, understanding ourselves is a different story. The way we see ourselves is naturally biased by our own insecurities and fears, so that not only might we not be admitting to the weaknesses we are living out, but we can’t acknowledge our strengths either. And friends and family will have their own biases around how they see us. Working with a therapist can be like finally having a clear looking glass and is an incomparable opportunity to get to know yourself.
10. You secretly suspect your self-esteem isn’t what it could be.
Counselling is a great way to identify what is stopping you from feeling good about yourself and source new ways to grow your self-worth.
11. You suspect your relationships could be way better then they are.
One of the main ways our issues surface in life is in relationships. If your life seems fine on the surface, but you just can’t seem to maintain a relationship long term, a therapist can help you identify and change your blocks to intimacy.
And it certainly doesn’t have to be just your romantic life that brings you to therapy. A counsellor can also help you understand why you might be choosing friendships that don’t make you happy, why you always have troubles with colleagues at work, or why you can’t connect with your children like you hope to.
12. You actually feel fine right now, but you are prone to low moods.
Sometimes the best time to go to therapy is when you are feeling strong, because once the blues hit it can become harder and harder to gather the energy and focus to make that call.
And if you start working with a counsellor or therapist when you are feeling okay instead of in pieces, there is a good chance that the next low might not be as deep as you’ll have better tactics to manage it as well as a support system already in place.
13. You keep getting little comments from friends and family.
Going to therapy because someone else told you too is generally an incorrect reason. Unless you have decided to be there, therapy won’t be as effective (see reason 15 for why).
But if you are constantly getting comments from friends and family that you don’t seem yourself and they are concerned, and if deep down despite your defensiveness you know they might be right, then it might be time to seek counselling. Family and friends know us well, and can sometimes be the ones who love us enough to give us the nudge over what our ego, mind, or pride is refusing to see. Remember, you can go to therapy privately. You don’t have to tell others about it at first, or really ever if you don’t want to certain people to know. It’s something you do for yourself.
14. You are tired of acting strong all the time.
Acting strong is often a sign that you aren’t being honest with yourself about feeling vulnerable or needing help. True strength involves being brave enough to allow yourself to be less then perfect, to like yourself even though you are sometimes weak, and to reach out for support when you need it.
15. You are ready to take responsibility for your life.
Therapy, despite the things you might have heard, is not at all about blaming others or feeling sorry for yourself. It’s about finding support and clarity to take total responsibility for the choices you have made, which means you can then have power to make better choices for your future. So if you are ready for that, then you are ready for therapy.
There actually isn’t an exact, ‘right’, or single reason to see a therapist, there are many causes for seeking therapy, all equally valid and important. Nor is there a hierarchy to what issue therapy is best suited for. We are all unique, and emotional and mental stress is not a mathematical ratio.
Still asking yourself, ‘do I need counseling?’ If you are not feeling at peace with your life, if you are experiencing stress and anxiety that is overwhelming, or you just sense that having someone to talk to could affect real change in your life, then now is the right time to work with a therapist or counsellor.
Would you like to share how hiring a counsellor or psychotherapist worked for you? Do so below. We love hearing from you.
Images by Alan Cleaver, Ben Coulson, Chase Elliot Clark, Paree.
Andrea M. Darcy is a health and wellbeing expert, trained in person-centred counselling and coaching. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD, and advises people on how to plan their therapy journey. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy