People have a lot of questions when it comes to therapy. When should I start? How do I know if it will help? Do I have to have a lot to talk about? Are my problems big enough? What will I have to do? Will people think I am crazy? How will it help?
These concerns are understandable. If you don’t know much about therapy, it can be difficult to know what to expect. It is different than when you schedule an oil change for your car, or even a regular doctor’s appointment. That tends to have some degree of certainty — they will check your blood pressure, your weight, talk to you about cholesterol levels.
But, therapy is different.
What You Make Of It
The short answer is therapy can be what you make it. If you are willing to start the conversation then you are on the right track.
As far as knowing when to start, the short answer is—anytime is a good time. Therapy can help with lots of things. We could all use someone to talk to judgment-free from time-to-time. Someone who can help provide some perspective to our thoughts and feelings, who can help us understand why we might react a certain way, and problem-solve in a healthy way.
Therapy isn’t just about helping people with trauma, major life loss, or mental illness, although it can be very beneficial for all of those things. It is also about helping with the day-to-day. Whether it be feeling overwhelmed at your exploding to-do list, always wondering if you are doing a good job as a parent, feeling lost in your career or your life, or feeling generally sad or unhappy, therapy can help with it all.
Avoiding The Build Up
When we hold off on addressing things as they happen, they tend to build up. Often that build up can lead to bigger struggles—emotional outbursts, overwhelming anxiety, inability to focus, etc.
If you are looking for a few tell-tale signs that therapy might be a good thing to consider sooner-rather-than-later, here are few to look out for:
You feel overwhelmed. Maybe you have a lot of different things going on right now and you are trying to navigate them all well. Or, maybe you are struggling with some things from your past, making it difficult to focus on the present. Maybe it strikes you when you look at the pile of laundry in the living room and you just want to cry. Whatever it is that is leading to those feelings of being overwhelmed, therapy can help you sort through those feelings and prioritize what is important. Together you and your therapist can figure out some healthy next steps to calm those troubling emotions.
You feel like you have no one to talk too. We all go through things in life that we want to keep private. Maybe we don’t feel comfortable sharing with our friends or family for fear of repercussions. Maybe we don’t think they will “understand.” And, that is ok. Therapy is a judgment-free zone. A safe place to open up and be heard.
You are having trouble focusing. When we have a lot on our minds it can be hard to do much else. We become forgetful, absent-minded, and sometimes it seems impossible to get the simplest tasks done. Seeing a therapist can help to take that mix of thoughts and lay them out more neatly so they are easier to process.
You are experiencing physical changes. Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you getting frequent headaches? Do you feel achy often? Are you struggling with your diet? Do you feel like you have a crushing pain in your chest? Do you struggle to breathe sometimes? These physical changes can all be linked to your mental health. We encourage you to seek the help of a medical professional to make sure things are in check, but also consider finding someone to talk to. Stress can have a big impact on our overall health.
You feel stuck or ready for a change. Sometimes we just don’t know why we feel the way we do. We are bored, we think we might want a career change but we don’t know what or how or where. We know something has to change, but what? Talking it out with a therapist, who can help you to navigate your thoughts and feelings, can help you to figure that out. Sometimes it just takes a little help to look in the right direction.
You feel alone and isolated. Often when we are struggling, we feel like no one gets it. No one understands what we are going through. We feel lonely. We want to bury ourselves in our beds, a safe place. Therapy can be that safe place, too. A therapist is a trusted ally in your corner, just trying to help you along on this winding path of life. Nobody wants to feel alone.
Whatever challenges you face now, seeking the help of a mental health professional can have a big impact on your life moving forward. If you are unsure where to go from here or how to get started, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions or concerns.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.