If you have found yourself here, you may find yourself asking that question, “Do I need therapy?” If you have read about my struggles with depression and anxiety, you probably know that I have been going to therapy off and on for a number of years. If not, you can catch up on some of my posts about mental health and my diagnosis here:
But the truth is that the work I’ve done in therapy is about a lot more then depression and anxiety. It is has been about being raised by imperfect parents. About experiencing an emotionally abusive relationship. About heartbreak. About negative body image and self hate.
I’ve always liked the Flannery O’Connor quote, “Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his life.” I believe this concept works for therapy to, because I don’t know many people who have managed to get through their childhood and teen years completely unscathed. Just like I believe that any couple could benefit from marriage counseling, I believe just about anyone can benefit from therapy.
The simple answer if you are asking yourself, “Do I need therapy?” is that in all likelihood you do. Not because there is something “wrong” with you. Not because you are “crazy.”
Why? Because you survived childhood. Because you have been in relationships with other flawed humans. Because you don’t feel content with your status quo. Because you have experienced loss. Because your relationship with your significant other is on the rocks. Because you are simply stressed out. Because life just, well, sucks sometimes.
Some people simply need an impartial sounding board to share their thoughts and feelings with. Others can use it as a tool to work through the things that are bothering them and discover where those feelings are actually coming from. Some may find a therapist that give them tools and techniques to manage past trauma or current addictions. It can also be a way to facilitate problem solving if you are stuck at a crossroads or want to create a life that you are happier with.
Ask yourself these questions to explore further whether therapy is something you could personally benefit from:
- Am I experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety, or symptoms of another mental illness? Medications can do wonders, as can lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet, meditation etc. But without therapy you can’t dive deep into what is exacerbating your illness or gain tools to deal with symptoms that aren’t completely eradicated with medication. Having the support of a therapist to help you develop a treatment plan is key, especially in the diagnosis stage.
- Am I having a hard time managing the feelings resulting from a loss or change? This could be the grieving process of losing a loved one, or dealing with a job loss, a move, or divorce. Even change that is good in theory, such as getting married or graduating, can be difficult to adjust to. Transitions and change are part of life, but turning points often lead to anxiety, self reflection, and doubts which can be explored further in a therapy setting.
- Am I experiencing low self esteem that effects how I live day to day life? Are you your own worst critic? Does your poor self esteem or body image follow you through the day, beginning with your morning look into the mirror, and remind you of how much you suck? That’s a miserable way to live. I should know, I’ve lived it. Developing a healthy self concept and learning how to treat yourself with respect and kindness is one thing that can be accomplished through therapy.
- Do I have emotional baggage that is causing bitterness, anger, or affecting my current relationships? We all have some kind of baggage from our past. Have you worked through yours? Feelings of resentment, difficulty trusting, and PTSD resulting from trauma can all affect how we live our lives and whether we are able to form and sustain healthy relationships. Therapy can help you to acknowledge your experiences, process their repercussions, and heal.
- Am I simply feeling stuck? Do you feel like your job sucks, your relationship sucks, and you aren’t where you want to be in life? Do you feel like you don’t know how to get there or where there even is? Therapy can help you sort through why you feel stuck, as well as discover what a live that you are content with looks like and how to achieve it.
- Am I ready for therapy? You have to want to be in therapy for it to be truly effective. Not because your husband or your mom thinks you should be or as the result of an ultimatum. But if you are here, then you are probably ready to take that next step, as frightening as it can be.
Have you ever tried therapy before? If not, what may be holding you back?