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When to Seek Therapy


Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t have to be “crazy,” desperate, or on the brink of a meltdown to go to therapy.  At the same time, therapy isn’t usually necessary for every little struggle that life throws your way – especially if you have a strong support system of friends and family.  So how do you know when it’s time to see a therapist?

Most people can benefit from therapy at least some point in their lives.  Sometimes the signs are obvious – but at other times, something may feel slightly off and you can’t figure out what it is.  It is a good idea to seek help before life becomes unmanageable though.

Here are five signs you may need help from Dr. David Sack, CEO of Elements Behavioral Health and Promises Treatment Centers:

1. Feeling sad, angry or otherwise “not yourself”

Uncontrollable sadness, anger, or hopelessness may be signs of a mental health issue that can improve with treatment.  If you’re eating or sleeping more or less than usual, withdrawing from family and friends, or just feeling “off,” talk to someone before serious problems develop that impact your quality of life.  If these feelings escalate to the point that you question whether life is worth living or you have thoughts of death or suicide, reach out for help right away.

2. Abusing drugs, alcohol, food or sex to cope

When you turn outside yourself to a substance or behavior to help you feel better, your coping skills may need some fine-tuning.  If you feel unable to control these behaviors or you can’t stop despite negative consequences in your life, you may be struggling with addictive or compulsive behavior that requires treatment.

3. You’ve lost someone or something important to you

Grief can be a long and difficult process to endure without the support of an expert.  While not everyone needs counseling during these times, there is no shame in needing a little help to get through the loss of a loved one, a divorce or significant breakup, or the loss of a job, especially if you’ve experienced multiple losses in a short period of time.

4. Something traumatic has happened

If you have a history of abuse, neglect or other trauma that you haven’t fully dealt with, or if you find yourself the victim of a crime or accident, chronic illness or some other traumatic event, the earlier you talk to someone, the faster you can learn healthy ways to cope.  Trauma can be anything that has an emotional impact on you.  It doesn’t have to be a rape or violent abuse.  Oftentimes people experience trauma but are unaware that it is considered trauma.

5. You can’t do the things you like to do

Have you stopped doing the activities you ordinarily enjoy?  If so, why?  Many people find that painful emotions and experiences keep them from getting out, having fun and meeting new people.  This is a red flag that something is amiss in your life.

If you decide that therapy is worth a try, it doesn’t mean you’re in for a lifetime of “head shrinking.”  In fact, a 2001 study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology found that most people feel better within seven to ten visits.  In another study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 88 percent of therapy-goers reported improvements after just one session.

Although severe mental illness may require more intensive intervention, most people benefit from short-term, goal-oriented therapy to address a specific issue or interpersonal conflict, get out of a rut or make a major life decision.  The opportunity to talk uncensored to a nonbiased professional without fear of judgment or repercussions can be life-changing.

You may have great insight into your own patterns and problems.  You may even have many of the skills to manage them on your own.  Still, there may be times when you need help – and the sooner you get it, the faster you can get back to enjoying life.


Works Cited:

1. 5 Signs It’s Time to Seek Therapy. Health Medicine Network. 18 March 2013. Web. 20 March 2013.

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Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Conditions and Disorders, Interviews with Recovery Professionals, Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Treatment · Tags: Addiction, anger, depression, grief, Intervention, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Counseling Psychology, life, Loss, mental illness, psychological therapy, suicidal ideation, suicide, therapy, trauma, Treatment

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