Knowing when to book an appointment with a therapist can be tricky, as I’ve witnessed in my own life. A lot of people see therapy as a last resort, while others suggest therapy at the slightest sign something may be “wrong.” I believe finding the middle line is important.
I grew up struggling with severe depression, which led to seeing multiple therapists over the course of the years. In almost every case, I waited longer than I should have to see a therapist, because I felt I hadn’t quite hit the end of the rope yet. What I’ve learned now is how to pinpoint some of the signs seeing a therapist is a good idea, and what signs may just be indications I truly am having a bad day or couple of days. While I no longer struggle with depression (thank goodness!), these tips are also useful for anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, or any other issue interfering in your life.
Deciding when to see a therapist is made more confusing by the fact that anxiety and depression may not be an every-minute-of-the-day occurrence for a lot of people. You may feel horrible one day and in need of desperate help and then fine and on top of things the next. This is what prevented me from getting a therapist when I needed one, because I didn’t know which version was the truth: did I need desperate help or was I on top of things?
Of course, I was both. Things are seldom black and white. Some days I needed help, and other days, I was perfectly fine. If you’re in this situation, take a look at the days where you feel you need help. How often do those days occur? How do you feel on those days? Do you engage in self-harm (and not just the physical kind—talking down on yourself and self-sabotaging count as well)? For myself, the times where I felt down occupied 50% or more of my time and led to self-sabotage, cycling, and putting myself down. I felt absolutely horrible, and as time progressed, I felt worse and worse. Here’s a tip: you may not need a therapist if you can pull yourself out of those down times by accepting the feelings, working through them, and redirecting your energy. If you can’t do so and instead cycle to the bottom every time, you could benefit from working with a therapist to learn the skills and techniques to stop cycling on your own. Everyone has negative experiences and moments where we put ourselves down. That’s perfectly normal and human, even if it isn’t helpful. I haven’t seen a therapist in months because now when I enter those periods, I feel fully confident I can bring myself out the other side relatively unscathed. I also feel confident in my ability to keep growing toward what I want when I feel good and how to generate good feelings and helpful thoughts and actions more often.
I view seeing a therapist as less akin to seeing a doctor (you could view it that way, but I feel this is not helpful for many people) and as more akin to taking a class for a skill you really want to learn. Just was we take art classes, photography classes, and psychology classes, we see a therapist to learn skills and techniques we can apply toward our own growth. We are taking a class on how we function and how we can grow. I find that fascinating and much more rewarding than viewing therapy as a surgery that may save your life (though, hey, that view isn’t incorrect, either!).
If you feel seeing a therapist and learning those skills is beneficial, I’d suggest taking a look around online for one near you who offers an affordable rate. Some therapists offer a sliding scale (based on what you can afford) or accept insurance. Look at the profile pictures, read the descriptions, and check out their websites, then book a first appointment to see if you’re a good match (tip: it may take a few visits for you to determine this). If that’s out of your price range, look for an online course and community (they are often offered together) that you can purchase once and come to again and again. You can also find a texting therapy service. I haven’t tried either of the latter two, so I can’t speak to them personally, but I’ve found in-person therapy to be extremely beneficial and one of the best decisions I ever made. Because of the training I received from them, I feel confident I can handle anxiety, grief, numbness, frustration, and self-doubt on my own. Without that training, I believe learning those skills and techniques would have been much harder.
I wish you the best, whatever you decide! If you have any questions, please comment below, and I’ll be happy to address them. Have a good rest of your day, and take care of yourself! You do deserve it. 🙂
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