We all know that therapy is helpful for people with severe mental health disorders. It's not new information that it can help with severe symptoms, and help people to develop skills to cope with panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, depression, and more.
We look at our mental health system when someone "goes crazy" and we see them in the news after they hurt someone else, or themselves, because their mental health wasn't in check.
But what about you? You're not "crazy" - far from it, actually - so how do you know when therapy will help - or when it will just be a waste of time?
If I were to define therapy (or counseling - two words that mean the same thing), I would define it as: nonjudgmental support and encouragement for you to live your best life.
And I think that most of us could use that at one point or another, honestly.
Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash
We can run into problems when we utilize our friends or family for this kind of support, because try as they might, they often don't do well with the "nonjudgmental" part. They may not be judging you, but they may judge others in your life based on what you're going through, which can cause long-term damage to the reputation of people that you love.
Fighting with Jonny again? Why do you try so hard, get rid of him!
Looking at taking a risk? That is a crazy idea, why would you even think about it?
Whether they realize it or not, they have their own agendas for you, what they see you as capable of, and the way that they believe your life should go.
Counselors are trained to help you weigh your options and come to your own conclusions. A good counselor won't provide advice, but will help you by asking the right questions to help you see all sides of an issue and come to your own conclusion.
They will sit with you in your pain instead of offering platitudes. Most counselors got into this profession because they want to see people succeed and support them to reach their goals.
Below, I've listed five things that therapy can help you with. There are far more than five, but these are some pretty common situations that I see in my practice.
When You Feel Overwhelmed
Sometimes you may have feelings that you can't really share with your family because they might be part of the problem. Sharing with them, talking to them about exactly why you're so overwhelmed, frustrated, or angry could cause lasting damage to your relationships, and the goal is usually to feel better, not to make everything worse.
Working with a counselor can help you to work through exactly what is causing those feelings of overwhelm, and help you strategize how to manage those negative feelings better - namely, so that you don't end up blowing up on the people that you love.
If it turns out that your relationships do happen to be the foundation of those feelings, a counselor can also help you to make sure you are doing your part to make those connections strong and healthier.
When You Are At A Crossroads
Have you ever had difficulty ending a relationship because you weren't sure if it was the right choice? Wanted to take a risk to better your life, but those around you just weren't sure if this was the right choice for you? Disagree with a spouse about what the future of your family looks like?
Counselors don't have the bias of your family and friends because they have no skin in the game whether you choose path A or path B. They can help you work through each option and the pros and cons, and maybe even see options you didn't know you had.
If you have fear, anxiety - or even family history, standing in the way of making a big decision, a counselor can give you the tools to set aside those feelings and make logical choices that will benefit you in the long run.
When You Feel Stuck
Sometimes, people get to a point where they feel stuck in the life that they've built, and unable to recognize and break out of the patterns that got them there. This can cause feelings of being "stuck" in the life that you've got, instead of being able to live the life that you thought you were working towards for all of this time.
Checking in with a counselor can help you to get out of the rut that you feel like you're in, even if you think that seems impossible because there is no logical "way out." It's amazing how much we limit ourselves to what is in front of us, and forget how very big the world around us actually is. A counselor can help to see the big world, and the big picture of your life.
When You Are Lonely
As adults, we are really good at living in our bubbles of work, family, and "responsibilities" and often not as good at making and building up friendships. Especially if you live in an area where you didn't grow up, it can be really difficult to get out of our natural comfort zone and meet new people.
A counselor can help you realize the potential in the relationships that you currently have, or give you the support and encouragement to make new connections.
Most importantly, a counselor will help you to understand that you are not alone in how you are feeling, and give you the motivation to make any necessary changes so you no longer feel alone in a crowd.
When You Find Yourself Just Wanting "More"
Sometimes we don't even know what's wrong, but we know that the life that we have is not the one we planned for. Somewhere, somehow, it started to look different. Maybe you had to provide for your family sooner than you expected, or maybe you stayed way too long at a job you hate, and now you don't see a way out.
Somewhere along the line, if you found yourself forgetting who you are, or who you wanted to be, a therapy can help introduce you to that person again.
If you lost your identity in parenthood, marriage, or your job, there is always still time to find it. Counseling can be exactly that support to get you back onto the life track that you always wanted.
Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a counselor licensed to practice in South Carolina. She specializes in making relationships thrive – whether working on marriages, parenting, friendships, or conflict in the workplace. You can read more about her here.