When to Seek a Counselor

“We are all just one small adjustment away from the life we want.” 

Movie: How Do You Know 

The events of this past year have caused a spike in anxiety, depression, and overall stress in many individuals. If there was ever a more prominent time to address mental health, it’s now.

One common question that I hear from a lot of people is whether or not counseling is needed and when to know that it’s time to go. When we’re physically sick, it’s obvious when we need a higher level of care due to factors such as an increase in body temperature or physical symptoms that clearly require medication to heal.

Unfortunately, signals aren’t always so obvious when it comes to mental health. This can cause many to go for extended periods of time without the proper mental health treatment, which can have detrimental effects on both the person needing care and those connected to them.

While reasons for seeking a counselor can vary, here are four of the most common reasons to seek therapy:

  1. Marked event or stressor. I think the most obvious reason to go to therapy is when faced with a specific situation or event that causes an unpleasant response. Losing a loved one, a huge life transition, or traumatic event are all clear indicators that processing is needed. Therapy for marked stressors can be brief or long term, depending on the presenting problem. Having a space to process and learn effective coping skills is key when it comes to managing the different things that life throws at you. 
  1. Shift in mood. This one may require a little more self-awareness as it can be subtle by nature. If you find yourself losing interest in things that typically brought you joy, or suddenly notice that you’re becoming irritated with those around you it may be an indication that something deeper is happening beneath the surface. You may not personally notice a shift, but may be getting feedback from others or find yourself being asked if you’ve been feeling ok lately. Reaching out to a counselor can help you navigate the source of the shift and help you get back on track emotionally. 
  1. Ready to stop unhelpful behavior. Let’s face it, we all have our quirks. Sometimes, however, our behaviors and choices can get in the way of us living our life to the fullest. Whether it’s addiction, calorie counting, or repetitive checking to relieve anxiety, behaviors like these can cause significant impairment in day to day functioning. If something seems even a little noticeable, it’s helpful to seek therapy to get it under control. A counselor can help you identify the causes of the behavior and help you work towards making new choices. 
  1. Just because. This is my favorite of the four. There’s really no rule that says that you have to have a specific reason to go to therapy. A mental health check-in is just as important as your yearly doctor’s visit. Sometimes people are nervous to go to counseling out of fear that there may be something subconsciously impacting them. They operate with the mindset of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. However, you wouldn’t wait until your car is malfunctioning to take it to the mechanic would you? How did we get to the point where we check our cars more than we check on ourselves? Give yourself the “oil change” you need by checking in every once in a while. After all, you’re worth it! 

As mentioned before, there are multiple reasons to seek a counselor outside of the four I mentioned. There is no wrong time to put yourself first. Reach out to a counselor near you and take the first step towards becoming a better you. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our page about how to find the right therapist. The first step may be the hardest, but it’ll be the best decision you’ve ever made! 

Written by: Salima Hart