As Therapists we are frequently asked about the when? Why? and how to know if therapeutic intervention should be sought? There are no hard and fast rules but we thought it would be useful to put together some indicators and helpful thoughts. It is useful at this point to clarify that ‘therapy’ can mean different approaches and essentially, at different intensities; varying from three times a week, once weekly or ad hoc sessions. The approach and intensity is negotiated during the initial contact and assessment process. Contrary to the portrayal of therapy in popular culture, you don’t need to be mad, bad or on the brink of a breakdown to benefit from therapeutic intervention.
We all have good days and bad days, stressful life events and unforeseen difficulties. There may be periods in life where we feel resilient and supported and other times where we struggle with relatively minor bumps in the road. An event or experience is therapeutically speaking, relatively unimportant; the impact on our internal, inner experience is of much more significance and the role of therapy can be about processing and coming to terms with an event, relationship or circumstance, as well as considering the role and influence of earlier experiences and relationships.
If you notice being overwhelmed with recurrent sad, hopeless or anxious feelings rather than having a bad day, it may be worth considering therapy. Therapy can be both a place to process, identify and label what may be going on and also to consider strategies to help in coping with these feelings. The same can be said if you find yourself frequently reminded or experiencing a recurrence of a traumatic event.
Similarly if family, friends and work colleagues have noticed a change in you, or if you have lost interest in previously loved activities, this can also be a sign that psychological support would be of benefit.
As Descartes proclaimed some time ago – the link between mind and body is un-refuted and many years later, still not fully understood. If you have on-going physical symptoms that cannot be medically explained, it may be useful to consider pursuing therapy. Since symptoms in our body can be signs of stress or emotional distress – treating the latter can also have significant improvement on the former.
Likewise if you notice an over reliance on alcohol, drugs or food – therapy may be a consideration for you. At times, we turn to external means to cope with feelings inside ourselves. It may be that therapy can help with fine-tuning our coping mechanisms and explore other ways of managing or challenging thinking.
Parents perspective – an important one
Parents are often best placed to notice emotional changes in their children. Roller coaster emotional changes in teenagers may come with the territory, however children or young adults who show a persistent or significant shift in mood over a sustained period of time may also benefit from psychological therapy. Changes in behaviour in relation to school, eating and friendships as well as repeated checking behaviours, recurrent tearfulness and withdrawn behaviour may also benefit from a space to talk. If there have been significant changes within families such as a bereavement, separation or new partners it can also be useful for families to have psychological support, together.
If this article has got you thinking about the possibility of seeking therapeutic support it is always worth having a non-obligation conversation with a therapist in order to explore the next steps and whether this is what would help you at this point in time.