For many people, deciding to see a therapist for the first time feels like a very big deal. Typically, people wait far, far too long to see a therapist. It's common for people to endure their problems for years before seeking help. Studies show that even a single session of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be helpful. Here are some signs you should go for it.
1. You've thought about it multiple times.
If you've thought about seeing a therapist but hesitated, it's a sign you want to do it but something is holding you back. Instead of continuing the internal debate, give it a go. That way you can test if it will help you rather than continuing to wonder.
2. Basic life tasks feel hard.
3. You've thought about a goal or project for over a year, but haven't taken any action.
4. You feel lonely.
Loneliness is more psychologically complex than you might expect. When people feel lonely, they experience cognitive changes. Lonely people start to expect that other people won't be interested in them. They perceive they don't have support available, even when they do. These cognitive changes cause lonely people to withdraw further, so they feel more lonely, and their fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
5. You procrastinate doing reasonably simple tasks.
Procrastination is linked to a wide array of problems. When your to-do list rolls over from one day to the next, this causes a lot of mental drain. And procrastination can annoy loved ones and coworkers. A therapist will help you figure out the psychological causes of your procrastination and develop strategies for procrastination based on those causes.
6. Making or keeping friends is hard for you.
Some people don't struggle to make friends, but may struggle to keep them. This can happen for a variety of reasons. You may simply never have been taught skills for keeping friends. When we're young, we develop what's known as an attachment style. People with insecure attachment styles tend to have more difficulties with trust in both romantic relationships and friendships.
Friendships are important for our well-being. A good therapist can help you learn to manage your friendships better and find more fulfillment in them.
7. Your romantic partner has asked you to attend couples therapy with them.
People are often leery of individual therapy, and this is even more true when it comes to couples therapy. It's common for people to be extremely fearful of it. They fear the therapist will side with their partner, ask them to do things they don't want to do, or even suggest breaking up. And it's true that sometimes one partner wants to break up but is too scared to do it. They want the therapist to take responsibility for the mental health of the person they're trying to break up with.
None of these are reasons to avoid couples therapy. Good therapists are careful not to side with one partner over another. Bring up all your fears with the therapist. Get them out in the open. It's not their first rodeo. Any experienced couples therapist will have had many clients with the same fears. Yours may even be shared by most people coming to couples therapy.
8. You have a physical health condition you're not managing well.
Ill health has a lot of mental health aspects to it. For example, if you've been told you have pre-diabetes but so far are just ignoring that information. Or, if you're at risk for cancer but you put off screenings or follow-ups. Or, if you're not following your doctor's recommendations or taking your medication, but you don't know how to address that with them. A therapist can help with all that.
9. Stress is disrupting your sleep.
Rumination, worry, depression, and substance use all disrupt sleep, and they're common reasons people seek therapy.
10. You're unsure about a big decision.
Mental health conditions aren't the only reasons people see therapists. When people seek support from friends or family, they'll usually weigh in with their opinions. A therapist won't do that. They'll help you figure out what you truly want and get all the pros and cons clear in your mind.
11. You're unreliable.
If you're missing deadlines, bailing on friends, forgetting things, etc., there are numerous potential mental health-related causes, including adult ADHD, depression, or anxiety. Instead of just being self-critical about it, get some help to figure it out.
12. You're wondering, "Is this normal or is it a problem?"
People often have fears about whether there is something drastically wrong with them. Sometimes this is about substances (alcohol, food, drugs). Sometimes it's about habits ("Am I addicted to exercise?"). Sometimes people want to know why they find some aspects of life more difficult than other people seem to.
A therapist can help you understand yourself better. If you're not sure whether you need or want to make a behavior change, one particular type of therapy called Motivational Interviewing might be best for you.
13. You spend a lot of time and energy overthinking.
If this is the case, you're probably ruminating. Rumination and avoidance, which often go hand in hand, are two of the most common problems worked on in therapy.
14. You read a self-help book you really liked, but need help to put it into practice.
People often feel jazzed when they read self-help books, but then their actions fall short of their good intentions. Self-help alone is often just too hard. If you loved a self-help book (about habits, mindfulness, anxiety, etc.), a therapist who works in that area can help you put those ideas into practice.
15. You're not enjoying being a parent.
Parents and kids can get into a tug of war over the child's behavior or fall into other struggles (e.g., around the child's anxiety). This can lead parents to still love, but perhaps stop liking, their child. To best help your child, you might need support yourself. In fact, in child-focused mental health services, one of the first steps is usually boosting the relationship between the parent and the child.
16. You're unhappy at work.
Sometimes people accept being unhappy at work as just the way life is. You might think that everyone feels this way, that everyone dreads Mondays and hates their boss. Therapy can help if you're stuck in a state of inertia and need strategies for managing work-related challenges, including some systemic ones like sexism.
17. The state of the world is getting you down.
One way depression can manifest is as hopelessness. Another is alienation. When people are depressed, they often find themselves thinking "What's the point? We're ruining the planet, politics is messed up, social media is messed up, and racism and sexism are rampant." Therapy isn't and shouldn't be viewed as an individual solution to social problems. But given that you've got one life, therapy can help you figure out how to exist in the world and live out your values.
18. You don't like your personality.
We all have a personality. Some of us are more neurotic, more cantankerous, or more sensitive. Society may make it seem like the ideal personality is that of the easygoing, worry-free, enthusiastic extrovert—and that may not describe you. Therapy can help you make peace with your own personality and learn how to work with it.
19. You want support to cope with a stressful life event.
Going through fertility struggles? You've got a parent with dementia? Your mom is dying of cancer? Your boyfriend is clinically depressed? Those are all valid reasons to see a therapist. You don't need to be experiencing a mental health condition to justify it.
20. You're curious.
You don't have to need therapy to go. You might be interested in getting a different perspective on yourself, or just gaining some new strategies in one area or another. There's not a bar you need to cross whereby the therapist will decide if you warrant getting their help (except potentially in the case of government- or insurance-funded therapy).
Contrary to popular perception, therapy doesn't need to be a big commitment. Across all sorts of different conditions, the most common number of sessions of therapy is one, followed by two and three. And this isn't primarily driven by dissatisfaction; a lot of it is driven by people getting what they needed in a short time. There isn't much downside to trying it out.
To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
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