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4 More Subtle Signs for Seeing a Therapist (and Finding a Good One)

In an earlier post we shared three signs it might be time to see a therapist. Today, we’re sharing four more signs. Because you don’t have to be in crisis mode, or have a diagnosable mental illness to seek professional help. You don’t have to wait until you “have” to go, or you’re barely functioning. And you don’t have to figure everything out on your own.

A therapist can serve as another resource in your coping repertoire, another tool in your healthy toolbox. Below, Ashley Thorn, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah, shared signs along with tips for finding a good therapist.

1. You don’t feel good about yourself.

Having a good sense of self helps us feel safe and secure in life, Thorn said. “Without it, you can often feel held back from things you want, and have a difficult time trusting people or experiencing meaningful relationships.”

Thorn has worked with moms who say they never feel good about themselves and don’t recognize themselves anymore. She works with them to rediscover their interests, values and dreams. They find a balance between caring for their families and themselves. They also find their voice, and learn to set boundaries in their relationships.

2. You’re experiencing more negative emotions than positive.

Many of Thorn’s clients will admit they’re worried, anxious and tired all the time. They’re quick to get angry. But they assume this is normal because they’re a parent or working at a stressful job.

While being a parent and having a hectic job can naturally trigger negative emotion, you don’t have to bear the burden on your own, she said. You can work with a therapist to explore what’s contributing to the negative emotion, and how you can manage it, she said. “You can learn to manage the negative parts of life better so that you can actually enjoy the positive parts.”

3. You need a support system (or additional support).

“It is important for all of us to have a large support network,” Thorn said. This network might include family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and religious leaders. If you don’t have a solid support system, or you’d like to expand it, you can see a therapist, she said. Therapy is “one-on-one, uninterrupted, non-judgmental time that centers all around you and what you need.”

Research has found that the most important part of therapy is the relationship between client and clinician. Mostly this is because “sometimes we all just need someone to listen to and understand us,” Thorn said.

4. You simply want to.

“This is the bottom line of subtle signs for seeking therapy,” Thorn said. “No one has to pass a test or meet a requirement to see a therapist.”

You can see a therapist if you’re struggling with an issue or need support beyond your loved ones. You can see a therapist if you have questions about yourself or your life that you just can’t answer, she said. Or you can see a therapist because sometimes you’ve wondered if it might help, she added.

Finding a Good Therapist

  • Look for someone who’s licensed. “Many people market themselves as being able to counsel, but don’t have the proper licensure of a professional therapist,” Thorn said.
  • Ask for recommendations. “Word of mouth is one of the best referral sources for therapy.” Ask loved ones if they’ve had positive experiences with a particular therapist or know of anyone in the area. “Churches, schools, and medical doctors also usually have a good list of therapists that they refer to.”
  • Conduct interviews. “I have had a few clients tell me at the end of a first session that they are scheduling a first session with multiple therapists before deciding who to go with.” You might want to do the same to get an idea of practitioners’ personalities and styles. You also can interview therapists over the phone. (Here’s a list of suggested questions.)
  • Consider comfort. “It’s normal to have some anxiety about therapy and to be cautious at first. But you should get a sense within the first couple of sessions whether or not you are ‘clicking’ with this person,” Thorn said. It’s important for you to be able to trust and open up to your therapist; to feel safe and understood; and to be challenged by them. If you have specific expectations, talk about them. This way you and the therapist can decide if it’s going to be a good fit.

Seeing a therapist early can be tremendously helpful. According to Thorn, people who seek therapy “early on usually progress faster [and] are able to absorb more information at a time.” They also “don’t feel like they need to stay in therapy as long as those that wait until their relationship or personal issues are at their worst.”

Stressed mom photo available from Shutterstock

4 More Subtle Signs for Seeing a Therapist (and Finding a Good One)

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 4 More Subtle Signs for Seeing a Therapist (and Finding a Good One). Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 4 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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