10 signs you could benefit from therapy
Updated 14 October 2014
by Sarah Graham
Tuesday 14 October 20148216 10352
There are many reasons why people seek therapy to help them with conditions or challenging life experiences. If you're considering therapy but not sure if it's right for you, we asked some RSCPP therapists to pinpoint ten signs that you may benefit from talking to someone.
1. You are afraid of your feelings or feel 'stuck'
Very often, life's events leave us feeling fearful, alone or stuck. Frequently I meet people who are either afraid of their own feelings or believe that they are alone in those feelings. This can lead to a sense of isolation, pre-occupation or self doubt. Therapy often 'normalises' the feelings being experienced as a result of life's challenges - and this normalisation may reduce or eliminate the negative feelings. This may bring a sense of understanding and relief, upon which coping strategies can be built and a sense of acceptance can prevail.
2. You've noticed the same problem or behaviour recurring over time
You may have noticed that a problem has become a recurring issue over many years and, despite talking to friends or family, you seem unable to break this pattern. This could be anything from significant personal relationships, to job losses, self-harm, or regular bouts of depression or anxiety. Talking to a therapist may help you untangle and understand your part in the problem and your historical patterns of relating. With this insight you may then be able to make decisions about what, if anything, you wish to do differently. Sometimes just understanding can be enough.
3. You feel your problem isn't serious enough to justify seeking help
In my experience, people often put off coming to therapy if they feel they haven't experienced a serious enough event to make them justified in seeking help. You may feel unhappy and have low self-esteem, however you feel that you have everything you thought you needed and then feel bad about being dissatisfied with your life. Therapy can give you the time and space to explore honestly how and why you may be feeling as you are, and may enable you to connect with what you really want out of life.
4. You feel a recent life change has put a strain on your relationship
Relationships can start off well but, over time, life changes and events intervene. You move house, change jobs, or have children. Unexpected events occur, like illness, redundancy or bereavement. Relationships can come under strain and, when they do, tension may build unless things can be talked about and resolved. If you're concerned about your relationship, therapy can help by giving you time and space to take things up with one another that you perhaps haven't been able to discuss at home, or haven't been able to talk about without conflict.
5. You have experienced trauma, including sexual abuse or rape
If you have experienced historic trauma that you haven't been able to process, or if you find yourself experiencing current trauma, such as an accident, crime, or illness then therapy can help you to learn healthy ways to cope.
Survivors of sexual abuse or rape may hold a misplaced sense of shame and suffer lasting problems with relationships and their own self-worth. You may need support for symptoms of post-traumatic stress such as flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and anxiety, along with depression, alcohol or drug misuse, sexual problems, and issues around boundaries. In therapy, you have the opportunity to share your story in a non-judgemental, trusting and safe environment, which will help to counter your feelings of powerlessness and isolation.
6. You have lost a loved one
Bereavement can be a situation where you may benefit from therapy to support a healthy grieving process. Although we all know that death is part of life, the actual experience of losing a loved one can be traumatic. Therapy can help, especially when the death is sudden and unexpected, when the circumstances of the death or your relationship with the deceased are problematic, or when you have no immediate support network. Speaking with a therapist about your loss can make the pain more bearable and manageable, and may enable you to come to terms with your loss and move forward.
7. You have been finding it difficult to relax or stop worrying
Therapy can help you to learn strategies for relaxing, reducing irritability and controlling worrying, as well as supporting you in facing some of the fears you may have been avoiding, in a gradual, step-by-step way. As a result, you can feel more in control of your life and mood, and more confident in your ability to tolerate uncomfortable feelings without missing out on life.
8. You have been experiencing symptoms of physical tension
You may be experiencing bodily symptoms which, after checking with your GP, appear not to have a medical cause, such as a painful head, neck, shoulders, joints, the feeling of struggling to breathe, constant tiredness. These symptoms are often caused by the physical tension created in the body when you are experiencing a high level of stress. By working with a therapist, you may be able to identify the particular stressors in your life that are causing your physical symptoms, and explore ways to reduce their impact on you, which can lead to a reduction in symptoms and an increased sense of wellbeing.
9. You find it difficult to relate to people
You may want to find a partner or just make friends, but you always end up feeling isolated and envious of other people's ability to do this. In therapy, you commit yourself to a safe setting, where you have the opportunity to explore what stops you from engaging with others. One part of this is your relationship with the therapist, which can help you to understand what is at the core of your behaviour. This may enable you to become aware of old patterns of relating and give you the opportunity to deal with relationships in a different way.
10. You've turned to excessive use of food, sex, drugs and alcohol
Excessive use of anything, whether legal or otherwise, is never a good thing and may well be a sign that all's not well. Excessively using food, sex, drugs or alcohol may be a symptom of covering up feelings of hurt, anger, or despair. The trick is not to bury yourself in substances but try to figure out why you might be indulging in this behaviour - what is the meaning behind it and how can whatever is causing the upset be resolved? Therapy may help you understand the meaning behind the excess.
If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you
. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.