When is it time to see a therapist?

This article is written by Sandra Zecevic-Gonzalez, Counselling Psychologist and Director of Orquidia Therapy, part of the Career Money Life Supplier Community. You can view the original article on Orquidia Therapy‘s website.

We all struggle with difficult emotions sometimes.  Sadness, grief, anger and fear are feelings that are as much a part of life as joy, happiness and love.  Oftentimes, when our needs are not being met for reasons outside of (or within) our control, we feel sad, angry or anxious. 

When we outgrow ways of being and need to update our belief systems, coping mechanisms, jobs, relationships, we may feel some of the more ‘undesirable’ emotions.  So feeling angry that someone in our lives is not taking us into account or grief at the loss of a relationship is not dysfunctional.  On the contrary, feeling these negative emotions lets us know that we may need to initiate a change somewhere (which may in turn triggers some fear?).  Or perhaps we must let someone go and that will probably hurt.  From a psychologist’s perspective, the lack of sadness or grief during a break-up or a death is more worrying than the presence of it.

At some point, however, the continued excessive presence of negative emotions must be addressed.  Does it feel like you spend more days sad or afraid during the week than not?  Is there no particularly obvious reason for your sadness or anger?  Are these negative emotions accompanied by thoughts of hurting yourself (or others) in some way?  Have you stopped engaging with others or in activities that you used to enjoy?  If you have experienced a difficult or traumatic incident and you find yourself dwelling, afraid or grieving for more than a month or two (depending on the event since the loss of a loved one may take longer than this), it may be useful to visit your GP and have a discussion about it.  Your doctor may give you a questionnaire to assess whether you may be depressed or struggling with anxiety and may recommend counselling.

I find that many people decide to see a therapist when feelings become overwhelming for them to manage by themselves.  Talking about it can help:  a problem shared is often a problem halved.  Other times I have noticed that a person’s current coping mechanisms or belief systems about him/herself, others and the world need updating.  Therapy can be very helpful for that.  If I chose to avoid social situations because I believe no one is trustworthy, at some point I may begin to feel very lonely and disgruntled with life.  Perhaps, exploring where we developed this belief that others are not trustworthy may be very useful.   Experimenting with opening up and exposing ourselves to relationships (instead of avoiding them) could offer a different perspective.  Perhaps with the help of the therapist, these belief systems can be modified or we can come to terms with previous hurts.

Overall, the choice to see a therapist is very personal.  Most counsellors, psychotherapist and psychologists offer initial consultations to give you the opportunity to decide for yourself whether therapy is the way forward.  Attending a first session does not commit you to a therapeutic contract, it is an opportunity to see for yourself whether this person is someone with whom you would like to share your journey of self-discovery, self-compassion and growth.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or thoughts you would like to explore about this topic.

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