Tens of thousands of Americans seek out professional counseling and psychotherapy each year. Their reasons for doing so are as varied and unique as the individuals themselves.
Some may be looking for help in their relationships, trying to cope with the loss of a loved one, or hoping to overcome recurring anxiety and stress, while others may be facing more serious issues such as eating disorders, bipolar disorder, or severe depression.
How can an individual determine that they need professional assistance?
And, more importantly, how can you tell if you can benefit from the assistance of a professional psychotherapist?
Some individuals’ signs and symptoms are undoubtedly more obvious than others. However, the decision to seek the help of a mental health professional all stem from asking yourself some important questions about how you feel in general and whether or not there are certain aspects of your life that continue to cause discomfort, uncertainty, or emotional pain.
The following are five particularly important considerations, if you’re trying to determine whether or not you may benefit from professional counseling or psychotherapy:
- What is your overall mood on a day-to-day basis? — While we all have bad days, if it seems the majority of your days would be better off if you never got out of bed in the morning it is a sure sign that you can use some help. Anxiety, stress, and depression are all normal and even healthy emotions. But, when they become recurring and or overwhelming facets of our lives, they can cause us to lose the confidence and optimism that is so vital to experiencing a rich and fulfilling life. If severe or recurring anxiety, stress, or depression has led you to no longer take pleasure from the relationships and endeavors that used to bring you joy, professional counseling and therapy can help.
- How often, and how greatly, do your moods change? — We all experience a variety of emotions each day as we’re confronted with an ever-changing world. Professional successes, meeting someone attractive of the opposite sex, and spending time devoted to things we’re passionate about can all lead to feelings of heightened joy and euphoria. Likewise, getting stuck in traffic, social rejection, or a monetary loss can leave us feeling frustrated, upset, angry, or depressed. However, if you regularly experience mood swings that don’t seem tied to specific causes, if your moods fluctuate from extreme highs to extreme lows with little middle ground in between, or if your mood swings are negatively impacting your personal and professional relationships, it is a sure sign you can benefit from assistance. A professional counselor or therapist can help you determine the severity of the mood swings you’re experiencing as well as their underlying causes, and help you restore balance to your life.
- Is a particular relationship issue causing difficulties in other areas of your life? — The relationships we care most about have a great deal of influence on our day-to-day experiences. If your relationship with a spouse, child, or parent is severely strained over any period of time, the stress is likely to have negative consequences in other areas of your life. Working through ongoing difficulties in an effort to make your relationships with your loved ones the best they can be is reason enough to seek professional relationship or family counseling. However, if relationship difficulties are affecting your professional life, your interactions with friends or other family members, or your own happiness and self-esteem, it’s time to seek the help of a professional counselor or psychotherapist
- Have you recently experienced any sudden and/or dramatic life changes? — Major life transitions, such as a birth or death, adoption, marriage, and relocating, can all lead to more anxiety and stress than we know how to cope with effectively. While talking through these changes with friends and family members can be helpful, it is rarely an adequate replacement for the help provided by a mental health professional. Professional counseling and psychotherapy can help you uncover and resolve any underlying fears you have about the new situation at hand, as well as determine the best coping strategies so you can move forward with confidence and optimism.
- Do you feel that the issues you’re facing a beyond hope? — No matter what problems we face, be they anxiety, stress, depression, relationship difficulties, grief, post-traumatic stress, or a myriad of other issues, if you’ve begun to lose any hope of overcoming the situation you’re facing or the emotional pain you’re dealing with, it’s time to seek professional assistance. Counseling and therapy can help you learn effective coping strategies, effect positive change, and restore hope and joy to your life.
Most emotional and relationship issues begin as relatively small issues.
However, when left unaddressed, they tend to worsen without our awareness until they reach a point where they consume a great deal of our time, thought, and energy.
Regularly assessing your feelings about the various aspects of your life can help you prevent small issues from turning into overwhelming problems, as well as making sure you get the help you need sooner rather than later.