Why Do People Go To Therapy?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

It may seem like more people are going to therapy and speaking openly about their experiences with the process. While the stigma around seeking therapy for mental health conditions may persist, treating your mental well-being like your physical well-being has become more socially acceptable for some communities. Many more people feel comfortable reaching out for support from a professional to cope with life’s challenges.

If you have never gone to therapy, you may wonder if it would be beneficial to see a therapist and what mental health conditions are often treated with this method. To get started, looking at the reasons people go to therapy and how therapy can make a difference may be helpful. 

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Why should I go to therapy?

Therapy was developed as a treatment response to address mental health conditions. Over the years, its popularity as a treatment method has grown, and in 2023, over 41.7 million US adults saw a therapist. Research demonstrates that many forms of talk therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of conditions like generalized anxiety disorder or major depression. 

While you do not need a mental health diagnosis to go to therapy, medical doctors might refer clients experiencing specific symptoms to have a follow-up conversation with a therapist. Below are several conditions therapists commonly address: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Chronic stress
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) 
  • Mood disorders
  • Phobias
  • Prolonged grief disorder (more commonly known as complicated grief)
  • Substance use disorders

You don't need a mental health condition

You can also attend therapy for mental health challenges not related to a mental health condition, such as conflict with friends and family, seeking advice, diagnosis, or work stress. Although depression and anxiety may be some of the most common causes of seeking a mental health professional, you’re not alone if you do not have one. 

Challenges you can address

You do not need to have received a formal diagnosis of any of the above conditions to seek therapy or benefit from therapy’s potential impacts. Below are a few life challenges that may be benefited from going to a therapist.  

Intimate relationships

Intimate and romantic relationships can be a source of joy and fulfillment but can also cause stress when conflict occurs. Going to individual or couples therapy can help address relationship troubles like mismatched expectations and communication breakdowns. 

While many relationship issues can be solved by both partners learning to recognize and assert their needs while respecting their partner’s needs, some relationships may be doing more harm than good. In the case of abusive relationships, therapy can be a valuable support system for the survivor in identifying and addressing problematic patterns. 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat

Parenting and family dynamics

Families can involve complicated social systems. In situations involving family strife or intense family dynamics, family therapy can help family better understand one another and learn ways to be more supportive of each other’s needs. Family therapy may be beneficial when attempting to identify unhealthy dynamics before they become ingrained family behavior patterns in the long term. 

Life changes

Some people associate stress with a negative experience, but any life change, whether positive or negative, can produce stress. Therapy may help mitigate the stress associated with significant life shifts, such as starting or ending a relationship, having a child, beginning a new job, moving, or losing a loved one. With any dramatic change in your life, therapy may be able to provide you with tools and techniques for adjusting and coping healthily. 

A physical health condition can be another form of stress in one’s life. Some people might go to therapy to discuss the emotional aspects of a new physical diagnosis or terminal diagnosis. Although they may seek primary care from a doctor for additional information and medical advice after a new diagnosis, a therapist can offer skills for healthily coping with the resulting emotional impacts. Some people with a physical illness may also be at risk of depression. 

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Career therapy, credit counseling, and life coaching

Sitting in a therapist’s office may not be the first experience that comes to mind when you envision seeking career support, but therapy can be an effective way to learn more about yourself and what you want to do with your life. A better understanding of yourself can shift your mindset to improve other areas of your life as well. Therapy can reduce dissatisfaction, boost personal growth, and improve your ability to thrive.

Unhealthy behavior and/or thought patterns that are affecting you

At times, experiencing painful emotions can lead to individuals attempting to numb or distract themselves from their feelings. This drive can result in behaviors like substance use, gambling, emotional eating, compulsive pornography use, and self-harm, among others. These behavior patterns can become a go-to for addressing intense feelings and may become harmful coping mechanisms. Therapy can help identify such behaviors, recognize what is prompting the behavior, and teach more positive coping strategies to handle emotional upheaval.

Potential benefits

Therapy can help clients address mental health symptoms and better understand themselves, their needs, and how to pursue an authentic and fulfilling life. Even if you are not experiencing any immediate challenges, therapy can offer you a place to talk to someone who can validate and listen to you discuss anything you choose.

Below are a few of the benefits of therapy you might encounter: 

  • Reduced symptoms of mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder or depression, that may be negatively impacting your life
  • Leaving your comfort zone 
  • Recognition of problems you have previously struggled to confront 
  • Validation and empathy from your therapist 
  • Identification of coping mechanisms
  • A more significant understanding of maladaptive coping techniques 
  • An understanding of the deeper meaning behind your actions and reactions
  • A more profound understanding of yourself 
  • Perspective from someone outside of your social circle
  • An understanding of the value of self-care 
  • Comfort in being vulnerable with others 
  • Integration of self-reflection into your daily life
  • Improved self-expression and self-advocating skills 
  • A realization of behaviors and thought patterns that may be holding you back from achieving your goals
  • Greater resilience 
  • A recognition that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness 
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How to get started with a therapist  

If you’re curious about trying therapy, consider what you hope to get from the experience and the type of therapist you’re seeking. You might ask your friends, family, or physician for a referral to therapists in your area. You may also consider online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, which can be a convenient option for people with busy schedules or those who prefer to seek therapy from the comfort of their own homes. 

Online support options

Research demonstrates that online therapy can be as effective as traditional in-person therapy in treating various mental health conditions and life concerns. If you are starting your therapeutic journey, online therapy may be a lower-cost, more convenient option. In addition, you can personalize it by choosing between phone, video, or chat sessions with your provider. 

Takeaway

Therapy can be a helpful support system for many challenges, including symptoms of mental health conditions, significant life changes, or improving self-esteem, among others. Online therapy may be a convenient option if you want to learn more about what therapy can do for you.
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