How to Know if You Need Therapy?

One question I get a lot of (and have wondered myself!) is, How do you know if you need therapy?

How do you know if you need a doctor? You wouldn’t wait until the condition is debilitating, or you’ve broken every bone in your body to go to get help. So, don’t wait until everything is falling a part, you have lost your enjoyment in life, and you are so overwhelmed to seek help.

Prevention is the best treatment plan!

In my opinion, the answer if that is not a prescription, but I believe is so personal. On one hand,

I believe everyone has “stuff” and can benefit from a safe person and soft place to land, which can absolutely be counselling.

Having an objective person, and trained person is so vital. Friends and family members are so important, but they may not be equipped nor objective. It can be so freeing to have an outside non-judgmental perspective which is a major part of therapy!

The most important part of therapy, again in my opinion and backed by research, is the right fit with your therapist! Which is why we would love to help you find the right fit for you and your unique needs! Alive Counselling is a multiple year Best of Kelowna award winning team of therapists, with again in my opinion some of the best therapists in Kelowna!


Knowing if you need therapy is a personal journey, but here are some signs that therapy might be beneficial for you:

  • Persistent Emotional Distress: If you’re experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, or hopelessness that interfere with your daily functioning or quality of life, therapy can help you learn coping skills and strategies to manage these emotions.

  • Difficulty Coping with Life Changes: Major life changes such as divorce, loss of a loved one, job loss, or relocation can be challenging to navigate alone. Therapy can provide support and guidance during these transitions.

  • Unresolved Trauma or Past Experiences: If you have experienced trauma or have unresolved issues from your past that continue to affect your present life, therapy can help you process and heal from these experiences.

  • Strained Relationships: If you’re experiencing difficulties in your relationships with family members, friends, romantic partners, or colleagues, therapy can help you improve communication, set boundaries, and develop healthier relationship dynamics.

  • Feeling Stuck or Directionless: If you feel stuck in life, unsure of your goals or purpose, or struggling to make important decisions, therapy can help you gain clarity, explore your values and priorities, and identify steps toward personal growth and fulfillment.

  • Self-Destructive Behaviors: Engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, self-harm, or risky sexual behaviors can be a sign that you’re struggling and in need of professional help.

  • Physical Symptoms with No Medical Explanation: Sometimes, psychological distress can manifest as physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or insomnia. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms with no medical explanation, therapy can help address underlying psychological factors.

  • Lack of Support System: If you feel isolated, lonely, or like you have no one to turn to for support, therapy can provide you with a safe and nonjudgmental space to express yourself and receive validation and empathy.

Remember, seeking therapy doesn’t mean you’re “weak” or “broken.” It takes courage to acknowledge when you need help and to take steps toward improving your mental health and well-being.

If any of these signs resonate with you, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist or counsellor for support and we would be happy to connect with you!


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To unpack this further, I appreciate the article from Every Day Health below:

Seeking therapy doesn’t mean you have a mental illness or mood disorder. Therapists can help people get through difficult times and everyday life stressors.

If you’ve struggled with your mental health and have considered therapy, you are certainly not alone. 

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate at which adults seek mental health treatment increased from 19.2 percent in 2019 to 21.6 percent in 2021.

 Furthermore, in 2020, it was reported that 1 in 10 adults had sought counseling or therapy in the previous 12 months.

First of all: You don’t need a doctor’s referral to seek therapy to help with emotional or mental health. (“Therapy” can refer to a broad range of treatments for many types of mental and physical illnesses; throughout the rest of this article, we’ll use the word therapy to describe talk therapy for emotional or mental health.) 

And “you don’t need to have a mental health condition in order to engage in therapy,” says Christine Crawford, MD, MPH, an associate medical director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “Therapy is for everyone.”

Talking to a therapist about your emotional health is considered preventive care for your mental health, she explains.

“It’s about learning strategies and tools you can use to navigate life and protect our mental health, so we’re not inundated or overwhelmed,” says Dr. Crawford, who is also an adult and child psychiatrist and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Here’s how to decide if therapy might be a good option for you.

What Types of Conditions Does Therapy Help With?

For starters, therapy is often a key component of treatment for diagnosed mental health issues, according to Lynn Bufka, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the deputy chief of professional practice at the American Psychological Association (APA), where she works on healthcare policy issues and improving mental health care delivery.

Talk therapy can help people with clinical mood or other mental health disorders (such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and others) manage their diagnoses and learn how to live with them, she says.

“Through therapy, I’ve seen people change their lives dramatically,” Dr. Bufka says.

Research shows that talk therapy (sometimes called “psychotherapy”) is beneficial for treating several mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, panic disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders.

“In my experience, the most common reasons clients seek therapy can vary from things like day-to-day stressors, phase-of-life issues, relationship troubles, and needing support to more serious things like addiction, mental illness (anxiety, depression, etc.), grief and loss, trauma and phobias,” says Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with South County Psychiatry in Rhode Island. 

Specifically, therapy can help with the following conditions:

RELATED: How to Find a Therapist Who’s Right for You

How Therapy Helps

Dr. Patrice Harris and Dr. Corey Yeager, a therapist who works with athletes, discuss the importance of mental wellness in sports and in life.

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Therapy Can Help People Without Mental Health Diagnoses, Too

Therapy is for everyone, not just people with a mental health diagnosis. “Someone doesn’t have to have a mental health condition or a psychiatric diagnosis in order to participate in therapy,” says Schiff. 

According to a survey conducted by Barna Group, a California-based private research company, 28 percent of people who started therapy did so after a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, job loss, sickness, an accident, or a divorce. 

Another 19 percent began their therapy journey in light of a life transition, including marriage, moving, starting a new job, or having a baby.

Therapy is a deliberate step to take control of your mental health and take care of yourself, Crawford says. For many, talking to a mental health professional offers a unique opportunity to have a space to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, where you have someone to listen and guide you. “It’s a safe space to work on yourself,” she says.

Therapy might also be helpful for any of these life stressors:

  • Coming to terms with an ongoing chronic illness, or with death and bereavement in the family
  • Struggling with financial issues, job loss, or problems in the workplace
  • Managing relationship stress, including trying to make a marriage work, caring for young children or aging parents, and managing friendships
  • Recovering from physical or sexual abuse
  • Witnessing violence or a traumatic event
  • Coping with sexual problems, whether they’re due to a physical or psychological cause

Therapy can help you change behaviors that are holding you back, learn to manage unhealthy emotional reactions (like road rage or passive-aggressive behavior), build relationship skills, feel more resilient in the face of challenges, or heal from past pain that is affecting you.

About 75 percent of people who receive talk therapy report some benefits from it, according to a 2023 survey from the American Psychiatric Association.

 This includes improved mental health and well-being, and talk therapy may also mean fewer medical issues and related sick days, as well as increased job satisfaction.

Therapy can be useful before problems become serious, Schiff adds. “It can act as preventive treatment in order to protect your mental health and learn how to best cope with life and the stressors you may face,” she says. “It is like an athlete training for a sporting event.”

Previous research suggests the advantages of therapy continue even after sessions have stopped, with patients feeling better about themselves, reducing their psychiatric symptoms, and developing long-term coping skills and tools to manage challenges (this study followed individuals for at least nine months after therapy had ended).

Some people choose to seek therapy on a short-term basis, while others opt for ongoing therapy sessions. When you’re first establishing a relationship with a therapist it can be a good idea to see that provider on a regular schedule, Schiff adds. This builds a foundation. After that, maybe you continue to see that provider regularly — or maybe you return as new issues come up.

RELATED: The Best Online Therapy Services for Mental Health

How Do I Decide if I Need Therapy Right Now?

We all face hurdles at some point in our lives. Sometimes making extra time for self-care and talking with a supportive friend or family member might help us through these difficult times. Other times, those solutions aren’t enough.

“A lot of people think you need evidence of long-term impaired functioning to need therapy — the reality is it needs to be for just two weeks that you’re not doing well at work, school or socially, or you’re not doing well with basic things like eating or sleeping,” Crawford says. Or people think what they’re struggling with isn’t severe enough to warrant therapy. But for many people, seeking out help for your emotional or mental health early, before a problem significantly impairs their life, will prevent a lot of suffering, she says.

If you notice yourself preoccupied with strong emotions or mental distress at work, at school, in your social life, or in a way that it’s interfering with your day-to-day functioning (sleeping, eating, and so on) for two weeks or longer, therapy might help, she says.

RELATED: How Much Does Therapy Cost? Plus Tips for Finding Affordable Options

 

Ultimately, the decision to start therapy is often a very personal one. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the problem distressing? Do I spend a lot of time thinking about this issue each day or week? Is it causing me to hide or withdraw socially? Is it affecting my quality of life?
  • Is the problem interfering with some aspect of my life? Does it take up more than an hour of my thoughts each day? Is it interfering with my productivity at work or school? Am I rearranging my lifestyle because of it?

A “yes” to any one of these questions is a sign therapy might help.

Pay attention to what your friends and loved ones are telling you when you open up to them too, says Bufka. If they’ve noticed you’re struggling or they admit these are emotions or concerns they don’t feel qualified to help with, listen.

“If you’re struggling to do it all on your own or if your friends say ‘I can’t handle this,’ that’s often a clear sign,” she says.

Seek therapy if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for at least two weeks.

  • Feeling down, with symptoms of depression, apathy, or negativity “You may not even want to get out of bed to tend to your daily tasks,” Crawford says. Your symptoms could be subtle too, though. You may still be able to carry on with your daily duties while feeling low or out of sorts.
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of stress or conflict in your life. Bear in mind, most adults need seven or more hours of sleep each night.
  • Sleeping much more than usual, or excess fatigue. On the other hand, you could be logging more hours of sleep or napping during the day, while still feeling lethargic.
  • Appetite changes, like not eating enough and skipping meals, or turning to comfort food and binge eating to self-soothe. If you’re noticing drastic changes on the scale that aren’t the result of an intentional effort to lose or gain weight, consider if it’s due to an unhealthy emotional coping strategy.
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable This could include withdrawing from friends and family, or not bothering to engage in hobbies and extracurricular activities like your book club or sports team, Crawford says.
  • Thoughts of death or self-harm If you’re encountering suicidal thoughts, turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your emotions, or you’re thinking of hurting yourself, you should seek help from a mental health professional.

If you or a loved one is experiencing significant distress or having thoughts about suicide and need support, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24/7. If you need immediate help, call 911.

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