Do I need therapy? How can therapy help me?
If you’ve ever asked these questions, you’re not alone. Therapy is one of those words with many preconceived ideas attached to it. Some think therapy is only for people with severe mental health diagnoses. Others think therapy is only for crises or processing major life events. And some think therapy is a sign of weakness.
I hope to offer some brief thoughts on the value of therapy, and some reasons to start therapy today.
“There will be moments when you bloom fully and then wilt, only to bloom again. If we can learn anything from flowers it is that resilience is born even when we feel like we are dying.”
These words from Alex Elle’s poem, Rebirth, remind me that we all experience seasons of blooming and seasons of wilting in life. We face numerous challenges, both big and small, that can take a toll on our mental and emotional well-being. These challenges can range from everyday stressors to significant life changes. While it’s perfectly normal to experience these ups and downs, it’s also important to recognize when seeking professional help can make a difference. Starting therapy is a courageous step that can lead to transformative and positive change in your life.
Here are ten reasons therapy could be the next step that launches you back toward full bloom.
1. Managing Stress and Anxiety
You can never fully predict what curveballs life may throw your way. This uncertainty can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Some stress and anxiety are normal and healthy in life. In healthy amounts, these feelings can serve to motivate us to solve problems or keep us safe in dangerous situations. So then, when do stress and anxiety become problematic? If you’re concerned that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, here are a few common signs and symptoms to be aware of: excessive worry that interferes with daily life; avoiding people or situations that cause anxious feelings; sleep disturbances or chronic fatigue; and panic attacks.
Therapy can be a secure environment to confront those things that produce anxiety in your life. In therapy you can learn coping skills and techniques to help manage these feelings of stress and anxiety more effectively, empowering you to regain a sense of control over life’s stressors.
2. Addressing Depression
Depression can make life feel like an endless struggle with no hope of making it through. Common symptoms of depression include persistent sadness; loss of interest in activities you once found enjoyable; changes in appetite and weight; fatigue and low energy; withdrawal from social activities and relationships; and suicidal thoughts.
Therapy provides a supportive space to confront your feelings, understand the root causes, and develop effective changes for a brighter future. It is also a space to process the potential use of medicative treatment. Therapy can be a collaborative space to discuss questions and concerns about medication with a professional.
3. Boosting Self-Esteem
“I’m a failure. Everyone around me is so much more successful than me. My child is struggling in school, so I must be a bad parent.” If this is what your self-talk sounds like, you may be struggling with low self-esteem. Unfortunately in our comparative culture today, low self-esteem is all-too-common.
Therapy can help you recognize how your negative self-perception impacts all other areas of your life. It can also help you develop a more balanced and realistic perception of yourself. Targeting negative thought patterns, discovering root causes, and learning to set healthy boundaries are just some of the ways therapy can help you rebuild self-esteem.
4. Nurturing Healthier Relationships
The classic image of therapy is one person lying on a couch in a dimmed room with a note-taking therapist sitting next to them. And even if that’s not the image of therapy that comes to your mind, most people think of therapy as a one-on-one experience. Truth is, therapy isn’t just for individuals.
Therapy can help kickstart changes that positively impact your relationships with others. Sometimes the best work happens when multiple people do the hard work of change together. Couples and families can experience the benefits of learning healthier communication and conflict-resolution skills together through marriage and family therapies.
5. Grief and Loss Support
Loss is part of life. The most permanent form of loss is death, but other forms of loss can bring us to a deep place of grief. Perhaps you’ve recently lost a job, or maybe you’ve recently lost an important relationship, not through death, but for other reasons. Maybe you’ve recently lost an anticipated picture of your future due to factors outside of your control. These are all losses worthy of care and attention.
Therapy can be a comforting refuge to hold and process grief. As you cope with loss, a therapist can journey with you through the grieving process, providing support and strategies for healing and moving forward.
6. Enhancing Communication Skills
I guarantee you can describe a time when you and someone else encountered a major misunderstanding that left one or both of you feeling hurt and angry. This misunderstanding was likely related to poor communication between the people involved. Poor communication skills are the root cause of many issues that can adversely affect our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, bosses, and even strangers.
Therapy can equip you with skills to more clearly communicate your thoughts, emotions, and needs. With these enhanced communication skills, you can experience reduced misunderstandings and improved relationships.
7. Breaking Unhealthy Patterns
If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution, then you know how hard it is to start new habits. That’s because it’s so much easier to fall back into the old habits we’re used to. You might be feeling stuck in addictive patterns toward alcohol, drugs, pornography, or video games. Or maybe you’re seeing unhealthy patterns from your family of origin creeping into the culture of your family, but you don’t know how to stop it.
Therapy can help you raise awareness of these patterns and empower you to pursue positive alternatives. Whether it’s unpacking patterns from your family of origin or identifying unhelpful coping patterns, therapy offers the hope that change is possible.
8. Decision-Making Support
Many times people facing an important decision are so afraid of making the wrong choice that they do not decide at all.
While a decision is ultimately your choice as the client, therapy offers a supportive, non-judgmental space to process tough decisions. A therapist can offer guidance and support that empowers you to make choices that align with your values and goals.
9. Develop Coping Strategies
Coping strategies are like tools in our problem-solving toolboxes, helping us navigate challenges as they come. In therapy, you can develop effective and transferable coping strategies to deal with life’s challenges as they come in the future, increasing your resilience in the face of adversity.
Some of the coping strategies you learn in therapy include mindfulness and relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring, journaling, emotion regulation, assertiveness training, and grounding techniques. The more you practice and apply these strategies, the more ready you will be the next time you face a similar challenge.
10. Personal Growth and Fulfillment
Personal fulfillment is not something you just stumble upon accidentally. Contrary to the belief that personal growth just happens as we develop in age, growth requires an intentional choice to participate in your improvement.
Therapy isn’t just about fixing the problems that brought you to therapy in the first place. When used well, therapy can be a tool for personal growth. It can help you discover your strengths, values, and passions, allowing you to live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
Therapy As a Proactive Step
Perhaps you’ve read the ten reasons above and you’re thinking, Well, I haven’t hit rock bottom so I don’t know that therapy is for me. There is a common misconception that therapy is for major life crises or for when you have hit rock bottom. While therapy can certainly help during these times, getting to your lowest low does not have to be a prerequisite for choosing to make positive changes in your life. Therapy can be a proactive step toward wholeness and growth before life comes crumbling down. If any one of these ten reasons mentioned above resonated with you, don’t wait until you are at your worst to seek help.
A Brave New Beginning
Starting therapy is an act of courage, self-compassion, and a commitment to your well-being. It is a testament to your strength and determination to lead a happier and healthier life. Remember that seeking help is a sign of resilience, not weakness. So, if this blog post left you with more questions about therapy than when you started…follow that curiosity. Take the courageous next step and start therapy today. You are worth it!
*Ginger Hanny, MSW, LSW is a therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Ginger enjoys doing individual counseling with adults. She also provides teen and adolescent counseling. Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.