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How Do I Know If I Should See A Therapist?

As a therapist in Fernandina Beach, Florida, I hear this question a lot. Let's take a look at some of the reasons people seek counseling so you can decide if it's the right time for you.

You Are Thinking About Hurting Yourself

If you are so sad, disappointed, or overwhelmed that you have thoughts about ending your life, you should tell someone immediately, whether this means calling 9-1-1 or confiding in a trusted person like a teacher, friend or parent. You need support and a qualified therapist can help you. If you have begun hurting yourself in any way, or are even just thinking about it, you should also seek the help of a therapist. Thoughts of suicide or self-harm should be taken very seriously and should always be treated with therapeutic intervention.

You Are Actively Experiencing Trauma

If you are currently experiencing trauma of some kind, you should be working with a trusted counselor or therapist to support you and help you process and determine your best course of action. This often becomes a matter of personal safety since trauma can short-circuit our rational thinking processes. It isn't a matter of willing ourselves to respond differently; we simply are not capable of making well-informed decisions when we're experiencing trauma. Some examples of trauma would be facing infidelity, divorce, or the death of a loved one, or involvement in some kind of frightful accident or incident. This just covers a few; there are many more situations and events that classify as traumatic. In these instances, counseling can help you work through your pain in healthier ways that allow you to begin to heal and move forward.

You Can't Stop Thinking About a Painful Situation or Event

I'm not referring to casually remembering or thinking about something more often than before, and then moving on to the day's tasks at hand. I'm talking about ruminating and fixating on specific details or thoughts, so much so that you are unable to perform your regular activities and routines. This is a clear indication that you should seek support from a professional. You may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, or another serious disorder, and symptoms are not likely to go away on their own without the help of a therapist.

You Are Experiencing Symptoms or Behaviors That You Can't Explain

You suddenly can't stop screaming at your kids. Or you can barely drag yourself out of bed in the morning. You've lost your ability to focus or stay on track. You may feel confused, frustrated, and even frightened by your whirlwind of emotions, and you can't figure out where all this is coming from. Conversely, perhaps you aren't feeling much of anything at all and you're just going through the motions lately. This can seem alarming, especially when it doesn't make sense. What I'm describing here is more than having a bad couple of days; if these symptoms or behaviors have been troubling you for more than two weeks, then talking to a counselor would likely help you.

Lots of times, however, we feel as though we don't have a good enough reason to seek counseling and we convince ourselves that we're doing okay on our own. We might even think that therapy is for only for other people who can't get their stuff together.

Isn't Counseling For Weak People Who Can't Figure Things Out For Themselves?

Sadly, the stigma surrounding mental health perpetuates this idea, but seeking therapy does not mean you are weak or stupid or incapable. We don't think twice about seeing our medical doctor for an annual exam, even when nothing seems to be wrong, so why not take this proactive approach to our mental health care as well? Especially when we're experiencing any of the symptoms described in this article.

So here it is in a nutshell: anyone can begin therapy and benefit from it.

If you're on the fence, wondering if therapy is right for you, let me encourage you to really consider the potential gains. You would probably gain a better understanding of who you are, your core values, and even the reasons why you do the things you do. You might see improvements in your relationships. You could look to your life and future with clarity, certainty, and hopefulness. These all sound like extremely valuable take-aways. You only have this one life and you deserve to be healthy and to love it.

Bethany Greenleaf Paige is the founder and director of Compass Christian Counseling in Fernandina Beach, Florida. She utilizes a holistic therapeutic framework in her practice and has a passion for helping people overcome hardships. She specializes in affair recovery work, helping both the betrayed and the betrayer, and grief counseling for infertility issues and pregnancy loss. Call her office at 978-403-0497 or email Bethany at to schedule an appointment.

Unsplash photograph by Matthew Meihler


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