Therapy Is For You
It's not easy to admit that things aren't going how you want them to. Harder still to admit that you might need help from a professional. I so admire each person that reaches out to inquire about counseling because I too know how difficult it is to make that call, email, or text whether an appointment is scheduled with me or not.
I think for most of us, we like to put our "best foot forward" to the outside world and portray that all is going well in our lives. I think of this as a "Facebook-syndrome" of sorts. I'm sure there's a more professional term, but that's my real life, "in my head", term for it. Most of us don't get on social media and post every negative thing in our life for the world to see. We want everyone else to see us with the perfect hair, perfect outfit, when we are getting along best with our partner, the times when our kids are smiling and playing peacefully, our lavish vacations, a happy picnic on the parkway, etc., etc. We want people to think we have the perfect life, even if inside it's all falling apart. This is probably one of the biggest reasons that there is such a stigma against people getting treatment for mental health concerns, relationship issues, or anything else. We aren't really living in the real world where people acknowledge seek help for real problems, even though we all have them and deep down we know it.
So, what happens when you don't live in Mayberry where everything is perfect and idyllic? Acknowledging that you need real help from a professional is tough, folks.
Here are some examples of how you might know it's time to seek out counseling for yourself:
When you've tried what you know to do to solve your problem and still haven't met your goal and made the changef
When you want a non-biased perspective
When you and your partner/friend/family member are having trouble communicating or solving a problem on your own
When you can't seem to break a negative or harmful pattern (i.e.: drinking too much, drug use, shopping, reckless behavior, sexualized behavior, trouble with motivation, pornography, binging/purging, etc.)
When you feel stuck or have trouble making decisions
When you don't love yourself or find yourself making decisions against your best interest
When you've experienced trauma that keeps coming up (i.e. bad dreams, flashbacks, etc.)
When you can't control your emotions or don't have healthy ways of coping
When life feels overwhelming and out of control
When you feel like people around you "just don't understand" or it feels like they are out to get you
When you mentally beat yourself up, think the worst is going to happen, work to avoid difficult situations, or care too much about what other people think of you
When you find your problems interfering with your day to day life
* Please know, this list is not exhaustive. Therapists see people for all sorts of reasons. Even if your reason isn't listed, give me a call. We can talk it out and see if therapy might be right for you. What do you have to lose?
A word of caution about waiting to seek treatment...
I always caution people around waiting until an issue is unbearable before seeking treatment or help and there are several reasons why. 1) Counseling doesn't produce instantaneous results. Your first session will be an assessment session where the therapist will be gathering information and working with you to build a treatment plan. Seeing results will take some time and effort. 2) If you wait until an issue is unbearable, you will be worn down and desperate when you arrive for your first session. Your ability to think clearly and process effectively will be impacted as a result and you are at increased risk of hitting crisis mode should any other part of your life go sour at this time. 3) I mentioned earlier that reaching out for help can be difficult/stressful in itself and if your problem is already overwhelming then you will likely be maxed out emotionally before you even attend your session. Your ability to give your best will be depleted.
If you have a problem or a concern that you haven't been able to find resolution for, please seek help from a licensed clinician. There's no shame in it. There's no harm in it. You have nothing to lose in trying.
The Cold Hard Truth
So here's the part that a lot of people have trouble with. Everyone can benefit from therapy. The mailman, the accountant, the stocker at the grocery store, the Baptist preacher, the head of the PTO, everyone. As I discussed earlier, no one is immune to the problems of the world. We can all benefit from practicing good communication skills, empathy work, learning more positive methods of coping, and processing some of the "stuck" places we find ourselves in.
When I first started my Master's program to become a therapist, this was one of the big topics in our program. How do we effectively sit with other people as therapists without having processed and worked through our own "stuff"? At the time I had previously been in counseling myself twice and each time learned so much about myself beyond what I originally started coming for. Now, having been in the field and having worked with some many different types of clients, one thing I've learned is that we all have something to learn, even me as the professional.
CARING FOR OTHERS AND THEIR MENTAL HEALTH
If you read my last blog post you know I promised to talk a little about how to effectively check in on others and how to know that others might be struggling with something they need professional help with as well. I think a lot of times it's hard to truly know what is going on for someone else because we can't ever truly be in someone else's head, however there are some good indicators that I can share with you all that someone around you might be struggling.
Changes in contact with someone (i.e. not calling, texting as much; less desire to be sociable or noticeable self-isolation; etc.)
Changes in appetite (increases or decreases, marked changes in types of food-- healthy vs. not, etc.)
Changes in hygiene, self-care practices
Less goal-oriented conversation, less future-oriented conversation
Giving things away, "not having a need" for things
Shift from being sad or hopeless to contentment
How to check in effectively on people we're worried about:
Stop by for a visit, call regularly, be an active part of their life
Listen and validate your loved one's concerns-- "I hear you are upset about ___", "your concerns are real and they matter to me too", "How can I support you in this?", "What do you need from me?"
Be honest and specific about concerns you have-- "I notice you haven't been reaching out as much, what's been going on?", or "We haven't seen you lately and we're worried you might be depressed. Will you talk to me about it?"
If you suspect someone is suicidal, ask them "Have you been thinking of completing suicide?" (Contrary to what some think, mentioning suicide does not put the idea in someone's head or give them the idea; if anything, asking specifically about it lets them know that you notice and you care and they will be more likely to answer honestly-- this is NOT the time to beat around the bush)
Don't be afraid to recommend that someone see a professional-- "I hear that you've been really depressed lately and I'm concerned about you and your safety. Because I care about you, it's important that you agree to see a professional counselor that can help you with this."
If they are in immediate danger of harming themselves, STAY WITH THEM. Help them remove lethal means for their own protection. Take them to the Emergency Room or contact a mobile crisis unit near you.
In the local Northwestern NC area: Daymark Mobile Crisis can be reached at 866-275-9552 for immediate assistance.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text "talk" to 741741 (free, open 24/7)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/
For more information on suicide, risk factors, etc., feel free to refer back to my previous blog post on suicidality as well as the above resources.
Stay well, friends.