HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED THERAPY?
This really presents two different but related questions.
Sometimes people come to see me because they feel that they “need” to see a psychologist. In those situations, the person usually has found some area of their life not working the way they would like, and they may even feel like things have fallen apart in their lives. They have tried everything they can think of to make things better, and it still hasn’t worked the way they’d like. Sometimes they feel hopeless or desperate and may either be contemplating some drastic action, such as quitting a job, ending a relationship, or suicide, or they may have actually tried do to something like that. Similarly, they may be involved in some kind of behavior, such as drinking, substance abuse, or something else that they do in addictive kind of way. Or, they may be stuck in a relationship or a pattern of behavior and they can’t stop. These people are acting in more of a reactive way, and in those situations, they feel that they “need” the therapy in order to make those changes in their lives.
Alternatively, some people come to see me because they “want” to see a psychologist. They want their life to be better. Nothing drastic or terrible has happened in their life, and in many ways their lives are going well, but in some ways they may feel unfulfilled and just want their life to be better. It’s like some people get help with how their body works only after an accident or injury, and then they go to a physical therapist to fix what was damaged. Some people go to a gym only when they are extremely overweight, and even then they may only then do it because their doctor very strongly told them that it’s a serious health issue or they have found that the weight problem has had some really negative impact on their life. This is more in the realm of “need.”
In contrast, some people go to the gym, and/or see a nutritionist perhaps, because they want to be more healthy and fit. They may not have any physical problems, but they may want to be more healthy, toned, flexible, strong, resilient, and generally more capable to using their bodies to do things that they enjoy. They are wanting some help to make their life as fulfilling as they want it to be, not just trying to fix something that may feel “broken” or “damaged” in their life. These people are acting in more or a proactive way.
I think these different descriptions will help you to answer your question as you think about what got you even thinking about reaching out for some kind of help. As for the question about “what can one gain from speaking to a psychologist,” let me answer that in a general way that has to do with how I work with people. We talk together about what brings you in for therapy and what you’re looking for. With that in mind, we talk about what works, what doesn’t, and why. Together we explore various options for alternatives to all of that. So, what you may gain is a clearer understanding about how it came to be that your life is as it is, some understanding of what has made it difficult for you to change it, some tools to make those changes, and growing new and better abilities to deal with those things that had been obstacles for you previously.
When All Your Best Efforts Haven’t Worked
Maybe It’s Time to Talk to a Professional