Moodiness, stress, anxiety, marital tensions . . . These are all part of life that we face as crew, and sometimes we need someone to support us as we strive to get back on track. But, it can be difficult to determine whether your problems merit seeing a professional. When is it time for therapy? Finding your answer to this question may be easier than you think. If you feel that your challenges are impossible to overcome alone, it is time to look for a mental health professional.
Everyone has personal strengths and weaknesses, but certain events or circumstances can bring imbalance resulting in mental health challenges. Strong feelings of empathy and sensitivity can lead to depression; a perfectionist becomes compulsive; and a cautious person’s fear will not allow them to leave the house. Receiving help for such challenges does not imply permanence nor a diagnosis that could affect your career. Considering mental health this way provides a realistic perspective that opens one to accepting help.
Trust Your Gut Feeling
Intuition can become very strong when challenges multiply. It is essential to listen to this gut feeling. Consider this analogy: Imagine yourself wandering in an unfamiliar city. At first, you don’t think of yourself as lost — just disoriented. Then, a feeling that something is not right creeps up, but still you maintain hope that the hotel you’re looking for is around the next corner. Wandering further, your feelings of insecurity become stronger. The hotel is not around the next corner, and anxiousness kicks in. For some, it takes longer for them to realize they are lost than for others, but the certainty of having to ask someone for directions becomes inevitable. When are you inclined to ask for help?
Be mindful of when you are experiencing symptoms that interfere with your daily functioning. Some examples of symptoms that might adversely affect your day-to-day life include sleep problems, depression, relationship strain, traumas, burnout, fears, grief, loss, etc. There are many other complaints that can cause mental health symptoms, and without help, there can be a detrimental effect in the long term. Therapy can make life easier as you get to know yourself better and/or identify what has led you to need expert help.
Share & Prepare
Mental health issues can lead to isolation. Talk to a close family member or friend with whom you feel comfortable. A listening ear supports and helps you process challenges and makes you feel less alone. Friends may ask questions and have suggestions that might bring relief. Also, sharing personal worries and problems structure your thoughts thus preparing you for the initial consultation with a therapist. Knowing how to communicate your situation is essential to identifying the best therapist and most effective treatment for your needs.
Therapy is not a quick fix. The intention of therapy is to work with yourself guided by the therapist. Chiefly, it is you who is responsible to do the work, not only during the sessions, but also outside the sessions. In many forms of therapy, a therapist may give homework exercises and review them in subsequent sessions. Assignments could be, for example, to keep thoughts or moods in a logbook, or to conduct relaxation techniques. Exercises depend on the form of therapy and the therapist. It is essential to ask yourself if you are prepared to invest the necessary time and energy in the counseling process.
Be Open & Realistic
A receptive attitude is crucial when looking for help and this can be challenging. When you are depressed, a negative attitude is inherent to your mood. If you are not expecting anything from anyone, not even from a therapist, you remain very skeptical about therapy. If you are looking for reasons why it would not work for you, you will probably be right, for with that attitude you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. In addition, set realistic expectations for yourself. Goals such as, “I am looking for someone who can solve all my family problems,” or “I never want to be scared,” are not realistic. An example of a solid motive could be, “I want to learn to cope with my grief/loss/anger/conflicts better.”
Conduct online research and contact your insurance company to find a therapist who fits your needs. Before contacting a therapist, write down your questions and concerns. If you discuss the problems and treatment options, remember that your own assessment plays an important role. The success of therapy depends on your confidence that it will help you.
- When looking for a therapist, think about the following questions:
- What kind of help do you think you need?
- What kind of help would you prefer?
Keep in mind that there may be a waiting list before you can see a therapist. It is advisable to gather information and contact multiple therapists to expedite the process.
Find a therapist who suits you. Therapists are different in their styles and approaches. Studies show that your connection with the therapist is actually more important than the kind of therapy they are providing. Mutual respect and a strong therapeutic bond are important in order for the therapist to support you. During the intake, only you can decide if you feel comfortable and connected with your therapist. If you have doubts, discuss it or look for a new therapist. Your intuition is crucial, but also think about the following questions:
- Do you like the atmosphere in the therapy room?
- Do you feel comfortable?
- Do you feel understood by the therapist?
Go for it!
If you want to benefit from therapy, you will have to work hard. A therapist supports and guides you, but you are the one to do the work that makes the difference. It is advisable to inform those who are important to you that you are in therapy. Finally, keep reflecting upon yourself – be self-aware. Are you falling back into old habits? Do you apply what you have learned in therapy? To help you stay on track, do not hesitate to go back to therapy, even if it is for only one session.
Have you ever:
- Been to a therapist or other mental health professional?
- Reported sick from school or work because you could no longer endure?
- Felt dangerously ill from a headache or a pounding heart?
- Had sleepless nights because you worried?
- Wondered if you are “normal?”
- Had nervous habits such as nail-biting, scratching or picking?
- Suffered something that continued to bother you months later?
- Had a hard time eating?
- Heard voices in your head?
- Wondered if your life still made sense?
- Felt alienated from reality?
- Feared failure at something so that you decided not to try at all?
- Been to the doctor with symptoms for which no physical cause was found?
- Fantasized that you are famous?
- Been so mentally exhausted that you could not work for a while?
- Feared that someone will “figure you out?”
- Wondered if your sexual fantasies were normal?
- Thought you were too sensitive for this world?
- Feared that you would go insane?
- Seen things that were not there?
- Sensed you had to do something lest something bad would happen?
- Felt a strong fear of something harmless, such as mice, spiders, the telephone or open spaces?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone. Everyone copes with challenges in life. Only you can determine the severity and decide to reach out for support. There is no shame in consulting a mental health professional in search of what you need to learn about your challenges.