I recently wrote an article that might have been surprising, considering I’m a therapist. It was entitled 11 Things to Do Before Seeing A Therapist. After re-reading that I thought I should write this article, its natural counterpart. Admittedly, I’m a little biased, but I whole-heartedly believe that almost everyone could benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. Here are some of those times:
1) After the breakup of a relationship – This is a common time people enter therapy. When the ground is shifting under you and you are having strong emotions is a great time to seek out a therapist. Maybe you are just looking for some extra emotional support – or maybe you want to examine the entire way that you “do” relationship. Regardless, a therapist can help.
2) When you’re really ready to make change – Therapy is usually expensive. Don’t waste your money if you’re not really ready to try to make some changes. Just coming once a week isn’t enough – you should be ready to apply yourself outside of the therapy office as well.
3) If you plan on having kids and you don’t want their lives to be impacted by your negative patterns – Kids pick up on so much around them. Right from birth they are forming deep and lasting pre-verbal impressions about the world around them (is the world safe? will someone care for me? am I completely accepted?). And they are forming those impressions based on their environment and their caregivers (that’s you). Work on yourself now so your kids will have a loving, stable parent.
4) If you are thinking about hurting yourself or others – This one might seem obvious, but it’s important to say. If you are having recurrent thoughts about suicide or harming yourself or anyone else in any way, seek out professional help.
5) If you’re in a relationship and you just can’t work out your problems – Don’t waste another unhappy day enacting the same well-worn patterns. Find a good couple’s therapist and work it out. I teach couples how to communicate more effectively, as well as help them identify and shift the negative patterns they’ve fallen in to – often based on their early models of relationships.
6) If you find yourself angry or irritated a lot of the time – Sure, there’s lots of things in the world to make us angry. But there’s also a lot of beauty, love and connection. If you find yourself angry or irritated a lot of the time it’s probably a sign that something needs to change. You can figure out what’s really at the heart of your anger with a good therapist, as well as how to work through it.
7) If you have a hard time making the changes you want in your life – In my previous post I talked about the things you should do before starting therapy – but if you’re having a hard time implementing those things then a therapist can help you examine why it’s so difficult for you to get unstuck.
8) If people close to you suggest it – A good rule of thumb is if your partner OR two other friends/acquaintances suggest it try therapy. They’re aware of something you’re not seeing and they care about you – give it a shot.
9) If you’re on an anti-depressant – Perhaps you’re wondering why you should see a therapist if you’re on an anti-depressant and it’s working. Most of the time there is a reason you were depressed in the first place. It’s great that you’re not depressed now that you’re on medication, but perhaps it’s time to change something so that the reason you were depressed in the first place starts to shift. Yes, some people have chemical imbalances and anti-depressants help with that. But many others are depressed because of the circumstances in their life. Seeing a therapist now might be the key that keeps you off anti-depressants in the future (and away from their very real side-effects).
10) After a traumatic experience – Trauma, as defined by the Amercian Psychological Association, is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” If you have lived through such an event you might well be carrying that experience around in your mind and body, and it is likely affecting your life and relationships. See a professional skilled in trauma work and learn how to effectively process your traumatic experience.
11) If you keep thinking to yourself “maybe I should see a therapist” – Try it out – you’re probably right and you only have something to gain. Many therapists – myself included – offer a complementary consultation. Taking the first step to ask for help is often a relief in and of itself.
Congratulations! You made it through this entire article. It sure seems like you’re considering therapy. Take a risk and try it out.
What are some other times that you think it’s beneficial to see a therapist? Let me know in the comments below!
XY Counseling specializes in working with men, couples and teens. Alexander Warnow, Licensed MFT # 92437, started XY Counseling because he saw a need for men to be supported by other men.
I saw a therapist once, after my long marriage was breaking up (your # 1). He was extremely helpful to me, although not to the marriage! I saw him again, 15 years later, when I was at loose ends professionally. He advised me that I really didn’t need therapy, wasn’t in pain, wasn’t going to/didn’t need to change. He also said I shouldn’t look for a job as I wouldn’t find one equal to my capabilities. Then he charged me so much my head reeled! But his was good advice, I now realize, and the money was, in fact, very well spent. And my freelance business began to pick up.