Help in our lives comes in many forms. Sometimes we are helped by a kind word or a thoughtful act. Getting unexpected assistance with a project or chore makes life a little easier. Other times, a friend listens to our complaints or troubles and offers advice. These are all forms of help that we are used to receiving in our daily lives, generally without feelings of nervousness or uncertainty. Most people, however, are not used to seeking professional advice or counseling for an issue that crops up in their lives. Seeking professional assistance can be like entering into strange, uncharted territory.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Most individuals have little difficulty in seeking other kinds of professional help. We visit a dentist to ensure our teeth are in good health. We go to an eye doctor to check our vision and correct it if needed. But we have a harder time going to a counselor or therapist to help guides us through especially difficult or troubled times in our lives.
Just as you know to go to a dentist when your tooth hurts, or an eye doctor when your vision gets blurred, there are specific things to look for that suggest that a therapy appointment could be helpful. One of the first and most telling signs is the feeling of being overwhelmed, that nothing you do to cope with the situation or your feelings is helping. For instance, a lot of people talk to a close friend or family member when times are tough and that is usually of some benefit. When you do that, though, and it’s not really calming you down or making you feel any better, it may be time to get more professional guidance.
Another sign to look for is that the feelings or symptoms you’re experiencing – whether they be depression, or anxiety, or something else altogether – last continuously for longer than two weeks. This is not a hard and fast rule, but if you haven’t found anything to help you feel better after two weeks, that’s your mind’s way of telling you that you might benefit from further assistance. The same goes with unhealthy or ineffective behaviors, such as a bad habit. If you’ve tried everything on your own to stop or change the behavior, but haven’t found success, psychotherapy is the next reasonable step.
Emotional pain a person experiences often becomes overwhelming when the resources we have at our disposal to cope with it are overwhelmed. A professional therapist or counselor – whether online or face-to-face – can help rebuild those emotional resources and assist you in finding more effective ways of dealing with the situation and your feelings.
Growing with the Times
People change as they grow older. There is no stopping this change, and some people even want to help guide how they change. These individuals want not only to grow older, but wiser and more skilled in their relationships with others. Psychotherapy can help guide a person’s own self-growth, teaching a person more effective ways to be with themselves and with others in their lives. It can help a person improve their self-esteem, reduce social awkwardness, and even search for answers to life’s meaning. Psychotherapy isn’t just about fixing what’s wrong, but helping to improve what’s right in a person’s life.
Individuals in relationships also experience change, which often directly impacts the relationship’s quality and tone. This can become problematic when two people in a relationship change in ways contrary to each other. Relationship problems often occur as this happens and can lead to serious differences if not addressed in a timely manner. When two people communicate regularly and effectively in their relationship, the changes wrought over time can be minimized. All too often, however, couples rarely communicate effectively, all the time, with their significant other. When you notice that your partner becomes a bigger drain on your life and emotions than anything else, that’s when it may be time to seek professional assistance.
Taking the First Step
Once you realize you might benefit from psychotherapy, you can either choose your own therapist or have one recommended to you by a trusted friend or other healthcare professional (such as your G.P.). You can even start a therapeutic relationship online and then move to a face-to-face interaction if you don’t have the time or money to setup a regular therapy appointment every week. If it’s a relationship issue you’re dealing with, talk to your significant other about joining you for an appointment. (While relationship issues can even be helped when just one of the people is in therapy, it’s typically more effective when both agree to work on the relationship.)
One of the reasons individuals resist seeing a therapist or counselor is fear of the unknown. Or more accurately put, people often have inaccurate expectations about therapy. Modern psychotherapy is short-term oriented (many problems are resolved within just a few months), affordable, and completely voluntary. Therapists don’t tell you how or what to change, but instead help guide you in a process of change. Ultimately, making changes in your life is your choice and up to you. Your therapist will be there to help you through the tough times, but cannot do it for you.
And remember, a psychotherapy professional is just like any professional. If you’re unhappy with the quality of service you’re receiving or have any questions about the process of psychotherapy, bring the issue up with your therapist. Changing therapists is always an option if you don’t feel like you’re getting the assistance you want.
Recognizing the need for change and then going through with it is usually a positive, life-altering decision. Don’t be afraid to take the first step; I’ll bet that in the end, you’ll be glad you did.