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How do you know when it’s time to see a therapist?

March 31, 2017

We all struggle with life’s ups and downs. Usually, most of us can handle the pitfalls that life throws our way by developing strategies to work through our everyday, ordinary worries. However, when things get a little more challenging, many people seek support from a therapist. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma and myths attached to therapy. How do you know that you could benefit from talking to a therapist? Here are some signs that you can look for:

First of all, if you are experiencing intense, roller-coaster feelings of anger, sadness, or hopelessness, it might be worth your while to seek professional help. You may feel a bit jumpy or on edge and not quite yourself. If you struggle with thoughts of self-harm or even suicide, then it’s important that you connect with someone immediately.

Secondly, if you withdraw from activities which have previously given you joy (family outings, going to the gym, attending social functions), and you feel the need to isolate yourself, you may want to check in with someone who can provide you with some tools to deal with these symptoms.

If you find yourself using (or thinking about) substances such as alcohol, drugs, sex, or shopping, you may be looking for ways to numb your feelings. Even food can provide comfort, so pay attention to your eating habits. Are you eating when you’re not hungry? Do you find yourself craving carbs and sugars? These foods can help us feel better, but may also jeopardize our overall health.

What do others around you say? Do friends, family, or co-workers ask, “Are you okay?” Do they express concern about your overall demeanor? Our workplace performance is often affected by problems that are linked to our emotional and mental health. Your boss or co-workers may express concern over your disconnectedness at work.

How is your overall health? Are you getting headaches, neck pain, or stomach aches? Does that cold or flu continue to return? Our emotional well-being has a direct effect on our health and can impact our immune system and sleeping habits. If you aren’t sleeping regularly and are having intrusive thoughts, you may find that a therapist’s suggestions are helpful. Have a chat with your family physician and they can suggest whether or not therapy might assist you in dealing with overall stress.

Have you recently experienced a traumatic event? If you are dealing with grief or loss, a relationship breakup, a move, a change in family dynamics, or a car accident, seeking support from a professional therapist can often help you to move towards healing your pain.

A therapist doesn’t have all the answers and certainly doesn’t tell you what to do with your life. The purpose of therapy is to provide you with more insight into your situation, help you develop healthy coping strategies and tools, and create a safe environment for you to express yourself. Fred Sudfeld, Clinical Supervisor at The Family Centre, says that “At various times, we all need someone to talk to who is neutral and confidential and can help us bring perspective to some of the challenges we face.” If life’s ups and downs have become a bit difficult to handle, you may benefit from seeing a therapist.

Karin Hitchcock, M. C., Certified Canadian Counsellor

Community Based Mental Health Therapist at The Family Centre