“Only crazy people seek psychotherapy”
“I can Just Talk to a Friend”
“It’s a sign of weakness or failure”
“A therapist will just listen to me vent and tell me what to do! Why pay for that?”
“I could never discuss personal matters with a stranger”
“My issues only affect me, no one else”
Ordinary, every-day people seek psychotherapy for ordinary, every-day problems, including
- Substance abuse
- Loss of loved ones
- Chronic illness
- Major life transitions
- Changing behavior
- Relationship issues
- Work-life balance
- Managing stress
- …And much more
None of us are immune to life stresses and everyone can benefit from psychotherapy. Any number of situations can bring about great stress and distress into your life. Researchers have and continue to find new links emphasizing the value of taking care of mental health to ensure good physical health. The decline of mental health impacts your physical health just as a decline in physical health impacts your mental well-being. This is called the MIND-BODY Connection. Psychotherapy aims to improve your quality of life by helping you cope with and adapt to life’s stresses. When ignored and untreated, psychological symptoms can often manifest into physical ones and have serious repercussions for one’s health, family life, social life, and work life. While some levels of stress are normal and even healthy, excessive chronic stress can have serious repercussions. For example, excessive worrying interferes with appetite, sleep, relationships, and job performance, which leads to harmful habits such as smoking, overeating, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Idiopathic Physical Symptoms, also called psychosomatic symptoms often present. These symptoms consist of pain and other physical complaints that remain medically unexplained. Patients with common psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety have a tendency to first present to primary care physicians exhibiting idiopathic physical symptoms. And so, if you’re experiencing physical symptoms after medical causes have been ruled out, it’s possible the symptoms are a result of psychological distress. There’s an unfortunate belief of physical symptoms being “real” and psychological ones being “imaginary” – this often causes problems in treatment as patients go from doctor to doctor seeking a physical diagnosis or self-medicating.
Physical Manifestations of psychological issues may include
- Headaches, Migraines
- Loss of energy
- Digestive Issues, Upset Stomach
- Muscle tension
- Hair Loss
- Heart Problems
if support from and conversations with friends and family are not alleviating ongoing issues and symptoms, it may be time to see a trained specialist
A strong support system of family and friends is critical in good times and bad. However, if support from and conversations with friends and family are not alleviating ongoing issues and symptoms, it may be time to see a trained specialist. We express our worries and our very well-meaning friends typically respond with positive statements such as, “Everything will be OK,” “Just snap out of it,” “You just need to relax,” In other words – “Just Stop It!” The trouble is, that in times of real psychological turmoil, such statements are rarely effective and often even detrimental as a person realizes that they are unable to simply “Stop It,” or “Snap out of it,” which further adds to their despair.
There are distinct differences in talking with a therapist versus a friend:
- One of the distinct differences between a therapist and a friend is that a therapist remains objective, which offers her the ability to recognize patterns in thought and behavior that friends and family may not notice or would not regard as significant
- You can be completely honest and open with your therapist without fear of jeopardizing your familial and social relationships
- You can be assured full confidentiality in everything you disclose in therapy as all psychologists and counselors adhere to a strict Code of Ethics issued by the American Counseling Association and designed for client protection
- A therapist uses techniques developed over decades of research that offer much more than just talking and listening
- she is an expert with years of specialized education and training to understand and treat complex issues.
- A friend will listen, but a therapist can help you develop skills to manage your stress and emotions, as well as help change unhealthy behaviors and ineffective coping mechanisms
A therapist does not have to respond in a way that necessarily pleases you. Our job is not to tell you what you’d like or expect to hear. Our job is to respond in a way that will be effective for you and conducive to your treatment goals. Part of the reason we are able to do this is because we remain unbiased. Incidentally, this is part of the reason why it is highly unfavorable for therapists to treat their friends and family, since we would not be able to remain unbiased or emotionally uninvolved, and so we would not be very effective. Such a dual relationship, in fact, may even have implications for ethical violations since it can impair professional performance and thus be harmful to the client.
Research overwhelmingly shows psychotherapy to be effective and helpful. Psychotherapists have to undergo rigorous training and obtain expertise in behavior and the human experience. We utilize techniques based on this training, experience, as well as research in the field and then tailor treatment based on your individual circumstances and goals. For instance, say you broke your finger. A friend may know how to treat your broken finger, but you’d still likely seek the expertise of a medical doctor to ensure proper care, observation, and recovery.
*The only time a therapist is required to break confidentiality is if the therapist has reasonable suspicion that you may bring harm to yourself or others. Such possible scenarios should be clearly conveyed to you by your therapist before treatment may commence.
It is a sign of strength and emotional maturity
Having the courage to reach out and admit you need help is a sign of strength rather than weakness – and the first step towards feeling better. It is a sign of emotional maturity to accept that help or guidance is needed and to seek out such help and do what is necessary to take care of yourself. Just as a mature and responsible person seeks medical care when plagued with physical ailments, so too should a person seek psychological care for psychological issues. We do not consider ourselves failures when we become physically ill. Nor do we consider ourselves weak when we seek medical care for these physical illnesses. There may even be a biological component to some of our psychological disorders such as depression or panic attacks, which make it incredibly difficult to heal yourself. The decision to seek psychological help can itself offer relief because it arms you with the knowledge that you don’t have to keep suffering on your own. Help is readily available and effective. The decision alone can be quite empowering!
When should you seek therapy?
- When life stresses are affecting your physical and emotional well being
- When your emotional well-being is negatively impacting or preventing your daily functioning with family, friends, and on the job
- When you feel overwhelmed and unable to handle life’s stresses on your own
- When you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a chronic illness
- When you want to change patterns in your behavior
- When you want to gain self-awareness, build self-confidence, and develop resilience to life’s stresses
A therapist’s role is not idle or silent
What actually happens in therapy? A first session usually begins with the therapist asking to explain what had brought you there and asking some basic background questions. This is only the starting point. Together with your therapist, you will identify problems, set goals, and monitor progress. A therapist’s role is not idle or silent. The therapist utilizes all her training and experience to help you cope with you issues. A therapist’s role is NOT to solve your issues or tell you what to do. No person, professional or otherwise, should dictate someone else’s life, nor is this the goal or intention of the therapist. Our job as therapists is to help you view your issues from different perspectives, help you identify solutions, help you cope, and offer a safe place to do all this. A place free of judgment and criticism, where all thoughts, views, and options can be considered and explored. You have to do your own work to get where you want to be, and we help you get there. When you invest your own efforts and energies into your therapeutic work, the results are remarkable.
You are not obligated to discuss any topics that makes you uncomfortable unless or until you chose to do so.
Just as a therapist couldn’t possibly MAKE you do anything you don’t want to, or aren’t ready to do, a therapist can’t MAKE you share or say anything you wouldn’t want to share.
As for talking with strangers, many people are surprised to find how easily they are able to speak with therapists. Oftentimes, it’s actually easier to talk to a stranger such as a therapist because this particular stranger is there to give you the space and place to talk, shout, cry , or just think without judgment. This stranger also has the unique advantage of considering your troubles without bias or preconceived notions about who you are and where you come from. A therapist will respect your opinions and encourage you to look at your issues in different ways.
Our friends, family, and colleagues are very much affected by our moods, sentiments, and troubles.
Certainly, we all have our bad days. But when psychological issues are ongoing, a person can become consistently withdrawn, isolated, scattered, angry, or even abusive. Unfortunately, in times of turmoil, we take out our frustrations on those we love most because we depend on their devotion and loyalty to withstand our outrage and still be there with us when the dust settles. A refusal to seek help not only keeps you from your own health and well-being, but also makes you unavailable to those around you. Those who need and depend on you: your partner, your children, colleagues and friends. Oftentimes, people who know us will ask or even beg that we seek seek counseling. The fact that they are asking is itself evidence that they are affected by the state of another person. Sometimes it just pains them to see a loved one suffer. Sometimes, they are suffering along with or even, because of the loved one’s predicament.