7 Sure Signs You Should See a Therapist (and What to Expect for Your First Appointment)
Let’s face it – the idea of seeing a therapist can sometimes be overwhelming. It can be nerve-wracking to even think about talking to a stranger about your feelings and opening up about vulnerable things. It’s also easy to assume that only “crazy” people need therapists or that admitting to needing help is a sign of weakness. But, there is enormous evidence that the benefits of therapy are huge and is not something only people with serious mental illness can find useful.
A good therapist can be an excellent sounding board for many things, but can be especially helpful in guiding you through some of the more difficult times and emotions you may experience (or have previously experienced) in life, leading to better mental health. Better mental health makes it easier to tackle whatever life throws at us in the future. And, therapy really isn’t so scary! So, if you’re thinking you might benefit from therapy, here are some sure signs you should make that first appointment:
1. You’ve experienced a trauma and can’t stop thinking about it
Breakups, the death of a family member or close friend, divorce, or job loss are some of the most difficult and often traumatic life events anyone can experience. While it is normal for feelings of grief and sadness to last for a couple of weeks, these feelings often don’t go away on their own. If you’re experiencing a recent trauma, or an old one that seems to persist, a therapist can help you sort through your grief, establish positive coping skills, and help you find peace with your trauma or loss.
2. You frequently assume the worst
It’s not uncommon to think of the worst-case scenario from time to time, especially when making a big life decision. But, if you find yourself experiencing frequent bouts of anxiety over small decisions or situations – ones that are debilitating or just get in the way of being able to do your job or enjoy the things you typically enjoy, there may be some underlying issues to sort through. Finding a therapist to help you navigate anxiety or a general sense of doom can make for smoother sailing in the short and long-term.
3. Your friends and/or family have expressed concern
Sometimes the people around us can see things we might not be able to see about ourselves. Friends and family can be good detectors of change in your mood or behavior patterns as they can see a side of you that you may not clearly see.
If anyone in your life has asked if you are okay, commented on changes they’ve noticed in you such as “you haven’t been yourself lately”, or asking if you’ve considered talking to someone about something you’re going through, it’s probably a good idea to take their advice.
4. You’re feeling sluggish, hopeless, or disconnected – and/or having trouble focusing on working and the things you typically enjoy
These can be symptoms of depression, or signs that you’re just plain stuck in a rut in your life. If these feelings persist for more than a couple of weeks, a therapist can help you sort through the root problem, recommend treatment where needed, and help you get back on your feet.
5. Your relationships are strained
Frequent frustrations and emotional flare-ups in interactions with loved ones can be a symptom of multiple things. If you’re finding that you’re leaving many interactions with those you love feeling unhappy or hopeless, you may be a good candidate for therapy (or couples/family therapy!). A therapist can help you establish better communication skills, which can improve your relationships and life overall.
6. Your emotions feel constantly heightened
It’s normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, or stressed out for a few days. But if you find yourself stuck in a cycle of negative emotions – ones that seem more intense than normal and that you can’t quite shake, a therapist can help you identify the underlying issues and find healthy coping skills.
7. You’re using a substance to deal with your emotions
Drinking or using drugs more often than normal can be a sign that you are trying to numb feelings that are difficult to face head on. If you even find yourself thinking about drinking or using drugs as a relief from a challenging situation at work or in a relationship, it might be time to seek out a therapist. It is certainly a more healthy approach to coping with internal struggle, and is far less likely to negatively impact other areas of your life in a way that drugs and alcohol often can.
The good news is that seeing a therapist is not only a big step toward feeling better, it’s also not as intimidating as it might seem. Once you’ve found a therapist you think might be a good fit for you and your specific concerns, your first appointment will typically be a “getting to know you” session. The therapist will ask basic questions, such as your relationship status, living situation, employment status, basic family and health history, and what you hope to accomplish from therapy. From there, you and your therapist will develop a plan that you are comfortable with and you will start tackling some of the hard stuff together. You can always tell your therapist if something isn’t working or feels too uncomfortable, and you can adjust your approach.
Seeking help from a therapist is great for your mental health, even if you’re not experiencing any of the concerns mentioned above. Life is stressful for many of us, and a good therapist – even when life is going well – can help navigate you through the good times and make you more prepared for when you experience more difficult times.
Click here for an easy and helpful resource for finding a therapist in your area!
~Written by Chelsea Fristoe, Coastal Center for Collaborative Health blog writer