“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin
People choose therapy, psychotherapy or counseling for different reasons (the terms are inter-changeable).
Many are seeking help for problems in relationships –with partners, family members or at work. Others are grieving loss or stressed by difficult life transitions such as divorce or career changes.
Some are struggling with depression or anxiety or trying to overcome the ongoing effects of painful past experiences.
Still others sense that they are not living life to the fullest and they are seeking support to change long-standing patterns and habits, to develop creativity or find a deeper sense of purpose.
Working with a therapist can be helpful for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by increasing self-awareness and understanding, developing personal strengths and working towards an improved quality of life.
Here are some questions that people often ask when considering therapy or counseling.
The notion that we should be able to silently and individually solve our own life problems is a myth. We are social animals. From the first moments of life, to our final breath, our growth and development primarily takes place through relationships.
Along with the joys and satisfactions of adult life, most of us have times when we face significant difficulties. Whether the problems come from the outer environment, in the form of loss, trauma or the suffering of a loved one, or whether they emerge from within as depression, fear or illness, we each must find ways to navigate these rough waters.
There are times when our best efforts are simply not enough to surmount the difficulty. To recognize that we need help is a sign of wisdom. To reach out and accept that help is a sign of strength. This IS solving your own problems—in the most human way possible, by utilizing the help and support of another person.
The relief that people feel when receiving emotional support or helpful advice from loved ones tends to be temporary. In most cases, advice or support does not address the underlying source of the difficulty. Therapists are trained to address the cause of the problem, with the intention of providing lasting change and preventing similar problems in the future.
Therapy is more than compassionate listening. While this is an important part of therapy, skilled therapists tend to be lifelong students of the human heart and mind. Those of us who practice depth psychotherapy have also devoted decades, to understanding the unconscious factors that drive our emotions, desires, choices, habits and relationships. We are skilled at assisting people to make those hidden factors conscious for greater self-awareness and expanded choices. Finally, when sharing problems with a friend, we also have to consider that person’s feelings, and the impact of our disclosure on the relationship. Our loved ones are affected by our problems and they can’t help having a stake in the outcome.
Your therapist is caring and supportive, but she is also committed to helping you as a professional. She is there to assist you in discovering the best answers to your concerns, not to give you advice or steer your choices. You don’t have to worry about imposing on her, saying the wrong thing, or talking too much or too little. What you say will be held in absolute confidence, so you can express your innermost thoughts and feelings without “real life” consequences. You can explore different ideas or new ways of being and then choose to keep or discard them. The relationship will be there as long as you need it and you are also free to end it whenever you’re ready.
It is a common misconception to think that only seriously ill or “crazy” people need help from a therapist. Studies show that over eighty percent of people can benefit from counseling at some time in their lives. It is normal to need counseling when special concerns or difficult feelings arise. Most people have a problem with anxiety, depression, stress, relationships, etc., at some point. If you are considering therapy, this is an indication that you probably could benefit from the experience.
While my practice includes people who struggle with conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, etc, many clients are seeking help for life problems, such as difficulties with relationships, career, parenting, bereavement or transitions. Others are functioning very well in life, but would like to develop more passion for living, creativity, aliveness, meaning or a personal spirituality. These are all good reasons to see a therapist.
We live in a time when emotional or psychological suffering may still be stigmatized as a sign of personal weakness. The truth is that all of us can be both mentally healthy and unhealthy at different times, depending on stress and changing circumstances. A wise man called this “mad parts of sane people.” This is not illness, it’s human nature.
It takes wisdom, courage and strength to seek help when you’ve reached the end of your own resources for change. Starting therapy when you need help is one of the healthiest decisions you can make.
Some people do not consult a therapist until they are in severe crisis or significant emotional pain. While it’s a good idea to see a therapist at such times, you don’t need to wait for a problem to become severe. Much like seeking medical treatment for an illness, you can wait to see a doctor until your symptoms are extreme, but you will probably benefit by treating the illness at an earlier stage. Addressed earlier, you’re likely to suffer less, require less treatment and have a better prognosis. Emotional suffering is similar.
I frequently see individuals who are seeking help for severe emotional distress, couples on the verge of divorce, and with people whose life problems have come to seem insurmountable. Progress can be made in such circumstances, but “the way back from the brink” can be a longer, harder road. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can start feeling better.
Hundreds of studies have found that psychotherapy helps people make positive changes in their lives. Reviews of these studies show that about 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show benefit.
To read research on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, click here.
The benefits you gain from therapy depend upon your goals in coming, the nature of your issues and how much you put into the therapy process. Here are some common ways that people tend to benefit.