Do I Even Need Counseling? The Unique Expansiveness Of Psychotherapy
If you are considering seeking therapy, you are far from alone: according to a survey in 2021 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 22% of adults in the U.S. had received mental health treatment in the previous 12 months.
There are many different reasons to seek therapy, from mental health conditions and chronic stress to life transitions and relationship conflict. For the vast majority of people who seek therapy, the experience is beneficial.
If you’re questioning whether counseling is right for you, looking into the expansiveness of what it can offer may help you decide. Read on to learn more about the purpose of mental health counseling, signs you might benefit from counseling, and resources for seeking help.
Why Therapy? The Purpose Of Mental Health Counseling
There are several common myths and misconceptions about talk therapy and the purpose of it, which can create barriers to seeking care and lead some people to feel that therapy is not for them. One common misconception is that therapy is only for individuals with a mental illness. Therapy is for everyone and can be beneficial for a diverse array of concerns beyond mental illness.
You don’t need to have a mental health diagnosis, specific symptoms, or severe emotional distress to seek therapy. No matter your concerns or your situation, you can find a mental health professional who has experience helping people with those concerns. The purpose of therapy can vary widely from one person to the next; oftentimes, therapy is about what you aim to get out of it. Some people might go to therapy to discuss past adverse experiences, while others might go temporarily to discuss a loss or a recent transition. Still others might want support with relationship concerns. Each reason is valid.
Another misconception surrounding therapy is that seeking help is a sign of weakness. This myth is one example of the stigma surrounding mental health, which can create a significant barrier to care for many individuals. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness at all; rather, it can be a clear sign of strength. Taking steps to improve your mental health, quality of life, and relationships with others can indicate a commitment to growth and a willingness to confront difficult emotions in order to foster well-being.
Do I Need Counseling? Signs You Might Benefit
If you are feeling unsure about seeking help, it may be useful to consider some of the many different areas in which therapy can offer support. The following are just a few of the many possible reasons to consider reaching out to a counselor.
1. You’re Experiencing Chronic Stress
Stress is a physical and mental reaction that can occur in response to pressures or threats as a protective measure for safety and well-being. While occasional stress tends to be a natural part of life, if stress becomes persistent and ongoing, it can have a range of negative effects. Chronic stress can increase the risk of anxiety and depression and affect a person’s physical health through sleep problems, muscle tension, digestive problems, and more. According to the American Heart Association, stress can also increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you’re experiencing chronic stress or are concerned about the impacts of stress on your physical and emotional health, a therapist may be able to help you devise a plan to reorganize your life, reduce stressors, and cope with challenging sensations and emotions. Some mental health professionals may use sensory awareness, somatic therapy, and other techniques to help clients reduce stress.
2. You’re Experiencing A Significant Life Transition
Life transitions, even when they are positive and exciting, can also be overwhelming. Transitions might include the following:
- Getting married
- Moving to a new city, state, or country
- Starting a new job
- Losing a job
- Getting divorced
- Losing a loved one
- Welcoming a baby into the family
- Experiencing a natural disaster
- Coming to terms with an identity
If you’re experiencing a life transition and would like support, a therapist may be able to help you navigate any changes, mental health issues, and emotions that may arise during this time.
3. You Believe You Might Have A Mental Health Condition
Although you don’t have to have a mental illness or diagnosis to attend therapy, if you believe you might be experiencing a mental health condition, you may benefit from speaking with a licensed therapist. There are hundreds of types of mental illnesses, and speaking to a therapist may help you to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Common conditions include anxiety disorders, clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), to name just a few.
Different mental illnesses can manifest with a variety of symptoms, but a few potential signs of mental illness could include the following:
- Persistent fear or anxiety
- Difficulty finding motivation for daily self-care and responsibility
- Executive dysfunction (difficulty completing executive tasks like organization)
- Racing thoughts
- Moments of rage or irritability that feel difficult to control
- A sudden withdrawal from social interactions
- Intense fear and avoidance of a specific place, situation, idea, person, object, or animal
- Nightmares or vivid memories of a past traumatic event
- A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- A feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness in daily life
- Difficulty controlling substance use
- Thoughts of suicide* or death
*If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. The lifeline also offers an online chat feature in English and Spanish.
If you are experiencing difficulties with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) to receive support and resources.
4. You’d Like To Work With Your Partner On Relationship Skills
Therapy isn’t limited to individuals. If you and your partner are experiencing relationship challenges or want to improve intimacy and communication, you might benefit from couples therapy. Couples therapists often have training in resolution of common relationship disagreements, mediation, and activities that couples can use to build intimacy and connection.
You don’t have to be on the verge of a breakup or divorce to talk to a couples therapist. For instance, some couples may use therapy as a way to strengthen their connection, help minimize future conflict, or learn more about healthy relationships if they had difficult relationship experiences in the past.
5. You Want To Connect With Your Family
Families can also attend therapy together. If you’re experiencing family conflict, want to understand your child better, want to work through a family transition together, or have other concerns, family therapy might benefit you.
In some cases, family therapists can help families work through difficult transitions, such as welcoming a baby into the family. Regardless of the reason for seeking help, family therapy may lead to stronger connections and better communication.
6. You’re Experiencing Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem can have a range of negative effects, such as anxiety, social withdrawal, and weakened relationships. Low self-esteem can have many causes and might not be related to a mental health condition. For instance, negative messages from the media, criticism from parents, bullying from peers, and difficult life events can all contribute to low self-esteem.
If you are experiencing low self-esteem or challenges related to body image, self-love, and self-compassion, therapy can be a helpful resource. A therapist may use a variety of approaches, such as interpersonal therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, (CBT) to guide you in cognitive restructuring, which may help you to replace inaccurate, maladaptive thoughts with more constructive ideas and beliefs.
How Online Therapy Can Help
The myths and misconceptions around mental health can often make it feel challenging to take the first step to reach out to a therapist, especially if you’ve grown up in an environment where there is a strong stigma surrounding seeking help. In these cases, you may find online therapy to be beneficial.
With online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist online based on your unique needs, and then you can have sessions from the comfort of your own home. You simply sign into your sessions and communicate with your therapist by audio chat, videoconferencing, live chat, or a combination of these methods.
Research supports the effectiveness of online therapy for a variety of mental health concerns. One study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics examined the efficacy of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) for individuals experiencing chronic stress and it found that the online therapy program was effective in reducing stress-related symptoms.
If you’re wondering whether you need counseling, know that you are not alone. Many people ask themselves this question at some point, and there are many different reasons to seek help. Whether you’re living with a mental illness, experiencing chronic stress, navigating a life transition, or hoping to strengthen your relationship, therapy can be a valuable source of support.
If you don’t feel comfortable with in-office therapy at this time, you might consider online therapy. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience in your specific areas of concern. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.
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