ASK FOR HELP
Is your life about to get really complicated (and it’s not just holiday stress)? Is a situation that was barely tolerable becoming completely unmanageable? Have you ever considered psychotherapy? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Millions of people have found that psychotherapy provides a supportive and confidential space to address personal concerns. There are many reasons why people consult psychotherapists. See if you recognize yourself facing any of these situations.
A MAJOR LIFE CHANGE
Even desired changes, like marriage or sending a child to college, pose new challenges and demand significant investments of time and emotional resources. You might have public “milestone” events, like retirement, or more private and subtle versions of change, like aging. Psychotherapy can help you mobilize new responses and recognize options in making important life decisions.
A LASTING MALAISE
Perhaps you are feeling flat, exhausted, irritable, or unusually anxious for more than a couple of weeks. Similarly, you might notice that activities and interests that you once really enjoyed now seem tedious, or you might refuse social invitations and crave more time alone. These are all important indicators of a change in your personal well-being that deserve attention from a mental health professional.
Some stress is caused by work environments that are demanding due to frequent deadlines, negative interactions with coworkers or customers, or abusive supervisors. The experience of commuting is also stressful for many drivers. Other versions of stress may be related to a lack of personal time or privacy. Psychotherapy reduces your stress level by offering tools to establish interpersonal boundaries, create self-care routines, and define lifestyle choices.
A number of studies have correlated social isolation with reduced life span, and others have found that unresolved anger can worsen medical conditions. Alternately, the presence of loving and supportive relationshipsfacilitates improved mood, cognitive functioning, and physical well-being. Psychotherapy helps to improve communication skills, develop new insights into how others think and feel, and clarify interpersonal needs and expectations.
Our culture is saturated with airbrushed images of youthful and beautiful people. In response, you may criticize aspects of your actual body. Intense feelings of shame, ugliness, and disappointment can result from experiences as common as acne or balding, as well as from any version of physical difference. Psychotherapy is helpful in addressing these critical feelings and embracing our physical capabilities.
Many people have learned to ignore both physical discomfort and emotional distress. Psychotherapy reestablishes those feedback pathways. By becoming more aware of your internal life, including thoughts, feelings and physical sensations, you have more ability to perceive and respond to your immediate needs. In chronic health conditions, such as back pain, psychotherapy is a useful tool to reduce levels of anxiety and unexpressed anger that may increase pain perception and physical tension.
A problem with reliance on substances can include known intoxicants like alcohol, prescribed medications, marijuana, and street drugs, as well as nicotine, caffeine, and sugar. The term “self-medication” is used to describe the way in which people often try to cope with untreated psychological conditions. Depression, mania, and anxiety disorders are often masked by the substance use, and therefore don’t get the needed attention they require. Psychotherapy provides support in developing other coping strategies.
The effects of trauma are significant and enduring. If you have a history of significant loss, exposure to violence (whether witnessed or received), or parental substance use or mental illness, the negative effects on self-worth, a capacity for trust, and the formation of healthy relationships are likely to persist without help from a trained professional. Psychotherapy provides a safe and supportive environment to explore painful experiences and regain a sense of control.
Maybe you’re feeling rapid shifts in mood, unusually high levels of energy, and less need for sleep. Maybe your level of irritability or anger is high, you are spending impulsively, and you have increased sexual drive. If left unaddressed, these symptoms impair decision-making and can result in significant health and safety risks. Psychotherapy identifies resources and strategies to manage impulsivity and risk factors.
Some losses include the death of a partner, parent, friend, or pet. Other losses might be more subtle or symbolic, such as the loss of financial stability, faith or sense of purpose. The experience of grieving a present loss can also reawaken feelings from other losses earlier in your history. In psychotherapy, you are supported through the grieving process as you recreate a new life and find meaning and purpose after loss.
Persistent thoughts of self-injury or suicide reflect a significant level of distress and hopelessness which is important to address with a mental health professional. Once you can get the urgent help and resources that you need, you can reconnect with hope, strength and improved ways to address the source of your pain.
Therapy can be helpful if you want to gain perspective on yourself, your relationships, your direction, and your personal goals. Psychotherapy provides a laboratory for learning new communication skills, challenging long-held attitudes or beliefs, and fostering creative problems-solving. This increased understanding of yourself and others clarifies personal priorities, reshapes the ways in which you think and act, and realigns how you structure your time and energies.
IS THERAPY RIGHT FOR YOU?
By now, it might be clear that there are many factors that bring people to psychotherapy. Even if you did not find yourself in any of these specific scenarios, know that psychotherapy is a good resource for many of life’s challenges. Psychotherapy does not need to be a “last resort” option for addressing your concerns. By initiating therapy, you are actively taking steps to improve your mood, self-knowledge and relationships. It is an affirmation of your worth and commitment to your future potential.