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When is It Time to Consider Psychotherapy?

The mistake I most often see among my clients is waiting too long to begin therapy.  It seems we all would like to think that we should just know what to do about every problem in our personal lives.  We don’t hesitate to seek professional help if we have a physical injury, a sick pet, or even a car that won’t start, but for depression, anxiety, relational problems and other issues – some of which can actually destroy lives – for those, many of us soldier on alone, suffering needlessly and coping ineffectually.

Most people, at one time or another, find themselves in a painful life situation that has defied every attempted solution.  In these instances, timely therapeutic intervention can save months or years of being painfully stuck, restoring such people to quality living much more quickly than they would have managed on their own.  If you’ve wondered whether you need some outside help, that probably means that you do, but here are some ways to test it more specifically:

Signs that Therapy May be Useful

It’s a good idea to occasionally assess how you’re doing in a variety of life areas:

• Are your relationships generally in good shape, or have you been distancing and/or noticing more problems with your loved ones?

• Are you managing daily tasks at your usual level, or are you falling behind, making more mistakes, and hoping against hope that you can keep faking it long enough to fix it before anyone notices?

• Are you able to enjoy those activities you would normally look forward to, or are you just going through the motions?  Have you simply stopped doing some things you used to enjoy?

• Do you feel emotionally centered and in control most of the time, or do you feel chaotic and frustrated with yourself quite regularly?

• Is there any ongoing change in how you feel or function that you don’t like and can’t seem to correct?  For example, are you having problems with sleep, appetite, motivation, mood, nervousness, or energy level?

If your answers to any of these questions trouble you and you can measure your period of difficulty in weeks, this is enough of a pattern to show that what you’re doing isn’t working.  You could probably continue to muddle along for months or even years hoping “things will get better.”  The first problem with this approach is that “things” don’t usually spontaneously improve once you’ve already run out of strategies to try.  The second problem is that the longer you wait, the more damage accumulates, and the more exhausted you are from it all before you even start to get help.  The longer you wait, the more there is to fix, and the harder the work of repair. 

If you’re not sure whether therapy is a good idea for you or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and at least see a therapist for an assessment.  In a session or two, you can learn whether therapy is appropriate for you and also get specific ideas about how you can be helped if you want it.  If you’re currently hurting and don’t know what else to try, life is going by without you each day that you wait, so don’t hesitate.  You are welcome to contact me if you would like further information.

Copyright © 2007, Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW.  All rights reserved.

 

Related articles:

Grief: What All Mourners Need to Know

How to Talk to a Loved One Who Needs Help

How to Tell When Your Relationship is Out of Balance 
 
Self-Esteem, Part One: What Self-Esteem Means and Why Yours Matters 

 

 

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