Dr. Richard Taborga, Psy.D., LMHC, NCC, a Lotus Counseling psychotherapist, shares his blog on "A Journey Toward Change."
There are many roads that lead to therapy and most involve some sort of suffering. Luckily, though stigma still exists, the view of mental health services in the United States has improved over the years. According to a 2015 survey by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 90 percent of Americans value mental and physical health equally. People are beginning to make the connection between mental health and overall well-being.
Attending therapy takes courage! It’s a significant step toward changing your life that should be celebrated. You’ve suffered a great deal before making that first appointment and now you await your first meeting with nervousness, excitement and hope. Success in therapy will require vulnerability, commitment and honesty in recognizing and admitting the difficult parts of yourself that may be carefully hidden deep inside. Even in the safety of a well-established therapeutic alliance, that’s no walk in the park. I smile with pride and admiration when I think of the courage shown by my clients when confronting uncomfortable emotions, beliefs, thoughts and past experiences. With time, I hope that clients feel empowered, freed, alive, aware, and most of all, happy.
While many people seek therapeutic services during a moment of crisis, therapy can be about more than alleviating symptoms; it can be about living a more fulfilling life and evolving into the person that you hope to be. Being in crisis may get you to therapy, but once we’re able to get you past that crisis, therapy can truly begin to focus on the development of insight, as well as changes in thinking, behaviors and beliefs that will contribute to meaningful change.
Here are some signs that therapy may be helpful for you:
1. You are experiencing emotional distress.
This includes feeling sad, worried, stressed or overwhelmed. Life is filled with so many possible life stressors and going at it alone can be difficult. I often think that obstacles and emotional distress can be the motivation we need to make meaningful and positive change in our lives.
2. People around you are concerned.
Sometimes it takes the people around you to tell you that help is needed. You may be defensive when you first hear it, but these are people that care about you and are able to see that you are not well. Whether it’s a loved one, someone from work or a friend, this may be a sign that it’s time to consider help.
3. You feel alone because you have no one to talk to about what’s going on.
There may be many people who are willing to help, but sometimes it’s hard to turn to them when you need it. Maybe it’s because you need help figuring out relationship issues and friends know your partner; or perhaps it’s embarrassing, you don’t want to worry people or you feel like a burden; whatever the case, sometimes we need an unbiased, confidential person beyond friends and family to turn to. And that’s where a good therapist can come in.
4. You feel you’re running out of resources.
Whether it’s people in your life who are willing or able to help you or you don’t know how else to deal with a problem, seeking professional help when you feel like you’re running out of resources can be a good decision.
5. Difficulty adjusting to life changes.
It may be hard to adjust to life changes such as divorce, occupational changes, financial difficulties, relationship difficulties, the death of a loved one, or stage of life changes. Regardless, this may be opportunity to take control and learn a new way of navigating through changes.
6. You’re ready for change.
You’re ready to invest the time and energy to better understand yourself, grow as a person, and be a better partner, parent and/or friend. Whether this means understanding why you keep engaging in unhealthy romantic relationships, changing the way you think about yourself, becoming more positive, or you’re simply tired of the way things are and you’re ready for change. Therapy is an investment in the present and the future, and this is an amazing to work on you!