How Do You Know When to Seek Counseling?


Things aren’t that bad- isn’t counseling for people who are really messed up? 

Is it worth the money? 

Can’t I just confide in a trusted friend- why do I have to pay someone to listen?

Is this really going to work?

 Sound familiar?  Questions often race through our mind as we’re weighing out whether we should seek professional counseling.  Often times, we can experience ambivalence about the process.  On one hand, we really think it’s just a “rough patch,” we’ll pull through this without help.  On the other hand, we feel stuck- and if we could get out of this, wouldn’t it have already happened by now?  Many prospective clients experience these types of questions (which are all fair ones by the way!)

Here are some additional questions that may be helpful as you consider whether to enter counseling or not.

  1. Is the problem you’re facing impacting daily physical needs?

    • We all have occasional nights where we’re restless thinking about all the to-do’s of the next day and we don’t get the quality sleep we need.  But when anxiety, nightmares or flashbacks are consistently keeping us from sleep, this leads to exhaustion.  In the same way, skipping an occasional meal happens.  We lead busy lives, and time just gets the better of us.  But when we're consistently missing meals due to anxiety or purposeful food restriction, our bodies don't get the adequate nutrition it needs.  Adequate sleep, adequate nutrition from food- when you're consistently struggling with these types of physical needs, it's time to see a professional.

  2. Is the issue you’re dealing with getting in the way of everyday life? 

    • It is natural and normal for people to feel “down” or sad on occasion.  But when the sadness is so profound that you don’t feel like taking care of yourself (i.e. you’re not showering consistently or performing normal hygiene), this is getting in the way of everyday life.

  3. Is the problem adversely impacting your school or work performance?

    • We all experience times when we just can’t concentrate.  This is normal.  But when we’ve studied as much as we can, put in extra work with a tutor, spent dozens of extra hours on a project that should have taken much less time- and we’re still failing at school or work, it may be time to see a counselor.

  4. Are you turning to substances (alcohol or drugs) to cope with what is going on?

    • There is a difference between having a drink with friends over a meal and drinking to forget.  When we’re actively seeking to drink or drug to relieve pain, it’s not a long term fix, and often gets worse as tolerance builds up and you need more of the alcohol or drug to get the same effect.  Turning to substances is a sign you need to reach out to a professional to develop more long-term, effective coping strategies.

  5. Is the amount of social support in your life lacking?

    • Consider the important friends and family members in your life.  Are there people you can trust to share emotionally?  Do you feel like you have the support you need from others?  Sometimes (maybe due to a recent move to a new city, or a significant break-up) we go through seasons where our social support is not as strong.  This is often an opportunity to find someone to help you get through this season until other trusted friends or family are in the picture.  A therapist can never be a replacement for good friends and family, and the relationship is a professional one.  But during difficult seasons, seeing a therapist can help bridge the gap and provide a safe place while you’re building up other relationships.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, and you’re thinking about counseling, I’d love to meet with you for a complimentary consultation.  In that consultation, I’ll be able to hear more of your story and give feedback on whether counseling might be a good fit.  Contact me today to schedule an appointment.