When do people come in for counseling?? Typically they wait too long!! But the answer is, when they hit a wall, life isn’t working, and they’ve tried working it out on their own and it hasn’t worked. The person usually gets miserable enough for a voice to say loudly, "Dude, you need to call a therapist!" If I had it my way, though, people would come in before they reach that level of distress. Here are some questions I have developed for people to get a clearer understanding of whether or not it might be time to visit a professional counselor:
- Do I know who the real me is?
- Do I live life using a facade?
- Am I afraid for people to know the real me?
- Do I lead a joyful life?
- Am I finding it difficult to pursue goals or to reach my potential?
- Am I stressed, depressed, or unable to cope?
- Do I have turmoil-filled relationships?
- Do I feel fear, shame, doubt, guilt, anger over past issues?
- Do I feel my life is not moving forward?
- Do I make decisions in my life based on fear, shame, doubt, guilt and anger?
- Have I lost the energy to do much of anything?
- Do I involve myself in relationships that weigh me down instead of lift me up?
- Do I feel I am not good/smart enough?
- Am I unhappy in my relationships?
- Am I unwilling to emotionally connect in relationships?
- Am I afraid to be alone?
- Do I stay in unhappy relationships because of my fear of being alone?
- Do I do things to please others instead of myself?
- Do I mold myself to be who others think I should be, instead of just showing the world the real me?
- Do I have lots of ideas but little or no motivation or follow through?
In counseling school professors hammer into our head that all of us, even counselors, should be in therapy as part of an ongoing maintenance and accountability process – no, being in therapy is not correlated to being crazy or a nutcase, but it is correlated to being healthier mentally and physically. Even when my clients finish the bulk of their therapy, I tell them they’re not finished. Mental health is not a destination, it’s a journey, and all of us that have it have to stay on top of it and be mindful and consistent in order to keep it that way. After a person completes the bulk of his or her therapy, I ask them to come in at least once a month so that we can make sure they’re holding true to their new authentic and healthier self.
I’m wondering if anyone has any hesitation or biases about going to a mental health professional? Anyone had great experiences with it? Terrible experiences? Anything in between?