Here’s the thing: the decision to do therapy is a personal one. Sure, certain circumstances may make you a “good contender”—say, if you’re struggling with a serious mental illness like depression and need treatment—but there aren’t requirements for people interested in going on this journey. Basically, if you want to start therapy or you think you could benefit, that is reason enough. And nothing should get in your way of doing so. That being said, there are some signifiers that it might be time to seek out therapy. Annie Wright, a licensed marriage and family therapist, owner, and clinical director of Evergreen Counseling, delves into these below:
1) You’ve got a lot going on right now. Whether it’s old stuff from the past that’s making every day feel like you’re climbing a proverbial mountain with a backpack full of rocks or a recent event that has you shook, or whether it’s an accumulation of all the things, there are times in life where you might feel overwhelmed and completely stressed about what’s going on for you. In these moments, it can be invaluable to sit down with someone and get some relief and support with what’s going on.
2) You can’t talk to your friends and family about what’s going on. Your family and friends may sometimes be great resources when you’re in need of help. But there may also be times when you feel like you just can’t turn to them. Maybe it’s because you need help figuring out relationship issues and they know your partner, and it would be embarrassing to talk to them about it; or perhaps you feel like they would biased if you wanted to talk about changing careers. Whatever the case, sometimes we need an unbiased, confidential person beyond friends and family to turn to. And that’s where a good therapist can come in.
3) You feel like you’ve run out of resources. Whether this is external resources like people in your life who are willing/able to help you or internal resources like having no more coping tools for what it is you’re dealing with, seeking out professional help when you feel like you’re running out of resources is a wise move. Your therapist will literally be a resource for you and together you two can come up with ideas and a plan to help you gain new coping tools.
4) People around you are concerned, and they’ve mentioned it. Sometimes you may not think you need professional support until someone around you brings it up. Whether it’s a loved one like a spouse or friend, or it’s someone in your workplace like a boss suggesting you need to shift some behaviors, when those around you suggest therapy, that may be something you want to pay attention to. Of course, the choice to go is always your own, and you don’t have to do it simply because someone else brings it up, but those around you may be seeing things you can’t see and for this reason alone, it’s worth considering therapy.
5) You can’t focus well. You’ve been feeling excessive worry or mental preoccupation with certain subjects A LOT, and it’s getting in the way of your ability to be present at work or with relationships. Your mental strain is a clue it could be time to seek out the support of a therapist.
6) You’re experiencing biological changes. Changes in your diet or sleeping habits can also be a clue that it’s time for some professional support. Finding yourself eating more or drastically less, sleeping more or less, losing or gaining weight, or having other biological signs like pain in your chest, headaches, etc.—all of these can be signs that you’re physically being impacted by emotional stress. Of course, if you’re experiencing these signs, it’s also a good time for you to make a visit to your doctor.
7) You’re feeling isolated and alone. You may be surrounded by people—in your house, your workplace, your social life–but you still feel alone and really disconnected from them. You can’t seem to enjoy their company and you feel lonely. Seeking out therapy when you feel isolated and alone can be a huge support in helping you feel less alone.
8) You’re ready to change! You don’t just want to think about things getting better and you don’t want any more quick fixes. You’re ready to invest the time, energy, and vulnerability into therapy to make big life changes—whether this is changing who you’re attracted to in relationships, how you think about your body, how you talk to your mom when you guys get on the phone—whatever the reason, you’re fed up with the way things are and you’re motivated to change. This is a wonderful time to work with a professional therapist to rewrite old patterns and to develop new habits that will change results in your life.
9) You’ve always been curious. Maybe things are mostly okay in your life but you’ve just always been so curious about what therapy would feel like, and you simply want to try it out. This is a great reason to work with a therapist!
10) You want a trusted someone to be your ally in navigating this sometimes-intense life. Perhaps what you really want is some kind of an ally, a trusted, confidential, well-trained someone to be your weekly ally in working through the stuff that surfaces for you. You want someone you know you can count on no matter what’s going on in your life, someone who can help you make the most of your life and help you feel better in it. This is what you can have if you choose to begin therapy.