In Spring 2014, The Huffington Post published an article on the ‘Eight signs you should see a therapist’. This sounds a little dictatorial, because no one (and certainly no newspaper!) has the right to say that someone ‘should’ see a therapist. There are no rules about seeing a therapist, and in fact one of the things people find most useful about therapy is the complete lack of ‘shoulds’ – there is no right or wrong way to do it, and no perfect person to ‘be’. The therapy hour is a unique space in that respect: this is a place where people are valued, respected, and free to talk about whatever they wish, at a pace that feels right to them, in a space that is calm and confidential.
There are many reasons that people seek help through some form of therapy. Problematic situations or difficult emotions may loom large or seem acutely pinpointed. People visiting a therapist may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, or worried about feeling nothing at all. They may be wrestling with relationship problems, looking for ways to cope with chronic pain or simply feeling irretrievably ‘stuck’ in a painful place,for reasons known or unknown.
As author Scott Peck said, way back in 1978, ‘Life is difficult’, and sometimes our coping methods and support systems aren’t able to carry us through. When daily life becomes a struggle, sometimes therapy can help.
And those ‘eight signs’? They’re here, along with my suggestions of what someone might wish for in their place:
- You have unexplained and recurrent headaches, stomach-aches or a rundown immune system (you want to feel physically better)
- You’re using a substance to cope (you want to be able to feel good without self-medicating)
- You’re getting bad feedback at work (you want to achieve more and feel good about yourself at work)
- You feel disconnected from previously beloved activities (you want to feel joy as you go about your life)
- Your relationships are strained (you want your relationships to be rich and fulfilling)
- You’ve suffered a trauma and you can’t seem to stop thinking about it (you want to find a way to deal with a past event so that you feel peaceful and easy once more)
- Everything you feel is intense (you want more balance in your life)
- Your friends have told you they’re concerned (you want time and a place to work things out for yourself)
These are all good reasons for considering therapy. As are these:
- The wish to find a way to forgive others, or yourself
- The desire to stop feeling like you’re on ‘autopilot’
- The wish to turn an ok marriage into a great one
- The desire to find a different way of parenting
- The desire to find out what you really want from life
Therapy isn’t a cure-all, but it is a safe place to work out what’s happening now, where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you want to go. In your own time.
Here’s that Huff Post article in full:
Sarah Tomley is a counsellor working in Suffolk, UK, at Insight Counselling Ipswich.