Is it Time to Say YES to Counseling?

 

I have been a practicing Licensed Professional Counselor for 11 years. I have treated hundreds of men, women, teens, and couples. I have seen many people have great success in therapy, often with life changing results. And yet one of the statements that I frequently hear is “I don’t think it’s so bad that I need counseling”.

For many people, counseling is a new, uncomfortable, humbling experience. I get it, it’s not easy. But neither is living under the weight of the same struggles over and over again!

So how can YOU know when it’s time to say YES to counseling?

The past has a hold on you

We all have stuff that that we carry forward with us in life.  Relationship hurts, losses, experiences with depression and anxiety, trauma, and distorted beliefs about ourselves, others, and God that define our thinking.  As we maneuver through life, we are no doubt impacted by our experiences, and the past changes us as we move forward.  But sometimes the past hurts become a defining part of our present thinking, emotions, and interactions in ways that are unhealthy.

As I am working with clients, we frequently examine what baggage they are dragging through life and how the past is playing out in the present for them. For me, the goal is less about examining every nuance of the past and more about processing through it enough to be able to make peace with it. Sometimes in an effort to move forward, we attempt to move on too quick.  One area that I have seen people have great success in therapy is when they process through what life has handed them enough to understand how the past has changed them and finding healing from the controls of past experiences.

You struggle to control your emotions

Emotions are a valuable part of the human equation. Emotions give us the ability to connect with others, to understand our spiritual connections, and allow us to experience the fullness of life. Emotions, however, were never meant to be the drivers in our lives.

For many people, emotions become the rulers by which they navigate their lives and their thoughts. There is much danger in this.  I often see people living on the whim of their next feeling and feeling unable to make logical choices or gain control over their behavioral responses to how they feel.

When emotions start to feel bigger than us, it’s often time to consider counseling. There is great work that can be done in learning to process emotions in a healthy way and not be a slave to them.

Relationships feel impossible

Relationships are hard. Truly authentic connection with the people we love takes an extraordinary amount of work. However relationships are not impossible.  Although sometimes it certainly feels that way!

I have learned in the years of counseling couples {and experiencing the benefits of marriage counseling myself} that often things seem so bad inside our relationships that we cannot see a way out.  This is precisely why we should say yes to therapy.

One of the greatest joys for me in counseling is seeing the walls fall down in relationships.  Having an outside perspective and encouragement as we learn to communicate, to work through resentment, to forgive, and to be vulnerable with one another can often be the most valuable resource in making our relationships healthy.

Regardless of your best efforts, you feel “stuck”

One of the questions I often ask clients at the onset of counseling is “what have you already tried to address the presenting problem?”  For most people, there are many efforts made to address what is negatively impacting their life.  For many people, across many different situations, they are able to navigate themselves out of the struggle in front of them one way or another.  What about when you just can’t dig yourself out of the hole?

If you feel like you are on a merry go round that you just can’t seem to step off of, it may be time to consider getting outside help.  If you feel like you are out of ideas about how to tackle your problem, it may be time to consider getting help.  And if you feel like you just can’t budge from the way you feel, the pain from the past, or the difficulties in relationships, it may be time to consider getting help.

You think about how you should probably seek help

The stigma associated with counseling has improved significantly in the last decade.  I see more clients approaching counseling with freedom from shame or fear of other peoples’ opinions than I did in my days as a new counselor.  The reality is, however, that stigma still exists strongly in our culture and in our own perceptions.

For many people, there is an understanding that they cannot dig themselves out of a hole alone, however the choice to step forward and do the scary thing of initiating counseling often stops us in our tracks.

If you have considered counseling as an option for you, often that is an indication that it is time to take the step forward.  I have rarely encountered someone who felt they were worse off for having tried counseling.

Counseling is not a magic pill or a quick fix.  I tell my clients that at the end of our time together, they will likely feel like they have run the most intense of marathons.  And yet I frequently have people tell me that counseling was the best choice they ever made.  If you see yourself in this short list, I encourage you to consider finding a therapist!

 

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