In Practice

Putting social psychology to work for you

Do I Need Help?

Do you need to see a psychologist?

Do I need help?

Do I need help?

The length of time people typically wait before seeking psychological help is astounding.

For example, in the couples therapy field, distressed couples wait an average of 5-6 years after the onset of relationship problems before seeing a therapist.

In my clinical practice where I see clients with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, at least half of my clients are already taking medication by the time they come to see me. Most people try medication (or even multiple medications) long before they try psychotherapy.

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If you're asking yourself "Do I need help?" here are some factors to consider.

Is your own plan just to try harder at the strategies you've already been trying?

When people have been struggling with a problem and they have a setback, they often plan to just try harder to overcome their problem. This is especially true with binge eating disorders.

This approach of "more of the same, but trying harder" is setting yourself up to fail. Seeing a psychologist will help you get some NEW strategies, ones you haven't been able to figure out on your own.

Are you doing a lot of thinking about why you keep doing what you do?

Overthinking about the causes of your problems is a common type of rumination. Rumination impairs problem solving and tends to lead to avoidance coping.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offer some very useful strategies for overcoming rumination.

Are you scared of getting stuck seeing a psychologist for a long time?

Sometimes people are hesistant to make an investment in themselves. You don't need to see a therapist for eons. Sometimes people see a psychologist for only a handful sessions just to move themselves a few steps forward with their problem, and then continue on themselves. Even if you have long standing problems that can't be completely solved in a few sessions, doing a short-term piece of work (and returning later if you want to) is a valid way to use therapy.

Intolerance of uncertainty

People with anxiety symptoms tend to avoid doing things unless they can be absolutely certain of a positive outcome. Therapy doesn't offer this but part of seeing a therapist is learning how to tolerate uncertainty. Learning to tolerate exposing yourself to situations where a positive outcome isn't guaranteed will help you feel less anxious and have more success in life.

Is anyone else telling you that you need help?

If other people are telling you that you need help, this is a good sign that you could potentially benefit from it. For example, I quite often have male clients come to see me after a marriage breakup and tell me they regret having refused their partners' repeated requests to go to marriage counseling. 

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photo credit: gruntzook via photopin cc

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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