By Dr. Julie Davelman
“I don’t need to talk to anyone, I am not crazy” is probably still the biggest obstacle that prevents people from addressing their mental health needs. When faced with this comment, I explain that therapy is a process by which people can reach the goals they set but have struggled to reach on their own. The range of possible goals is very broad. It can be: “I want to be less depressed” or “I want to be more successful in my job” or “I want to be happy in my relationship.” None of these sound like goals set by “crazy people.” I also usually reassure people who in all likelihood they can eventually get to their goal on their own, but a therapist can help them get there faster, easier and less painfully. I use the analogy that if a person breaks a bone, they can do nothing and the break will eventually heal, but that will take a long time, hurt a lot and likely not heal optimally. However, if they went to the doctor and had the bone set and put in a cast, the result, although requiring more effort in the beginning, is likely to be better. The same applies with therapy.
That being said, it is often difficult to say when one should seek therapy. Life transitions and major life changes, both positive and negative, often present people with situations they have not dealt with in the past. People try their old approaches and coping skills, but these may no longer apply or may not be as effective in the new circumstances. At such points, a therapist can help one flush out the problem and help develop solutions for overcoming obstacles, as well as provide support along the journey.
However, sometimes just the opposite situation produces the need for therapy. For example, a person may have been in school for years, but with the start of yet another semester of graduate school is no longer happy to be there. A therapist can help this person figure out what is leading to the new reaction in what appears to be continued circumstances.
The take away message is that one should seek therapy when they are not living their life in the way they would like to be living it and would like a resource that can help them get closer to that ideal.