When Does Someone Need to Get Therapy?
The question, “When does someone need to seek therapy?” is a question I often receive both socially and in my practice. People don’t question when to go to the dentist or the doctor. Instinctively, individuals know if they have pain in their chest, they need to seek medical attention. However, mental health is a different story. Often, people are not sure when they need to seek mental health services. Why is this? As a society, there is a stigma attached to seeking mental health services and often we do not know, what we do not know. This discussion will attempt to alleviate the stigma attached to counseling and empower people with information so they will obtain needed services.
According to Mental Health America (2020), the reality is nearly 1 in 5 American adults,
and 13-20% of children living in the United States will experience a diagnosable mental health
disorder in a given year. One way to combat the stigma is to bring to light a few of the
First, people think that coming to counseling is a sign of weakness. This couldn’t be
further from the truth. Entering counseling means someone is willing to search their heart and
mind, open up to someone about their personal life experiences, and face their fears. No,
counseling is not for the weak of heart. Counseling is for those willing to fight to be a better
version of themselves.
Second, individuals think coming to counseling is openly confessing, “I am crazy.” Saying
someone is crazy just feeds the stigma. Whether someone is seeking therapy for a mental illness or
because they are experiencing overwhelming feelings, crazy is not the appropriate term to describe
these folks. People seeking therapy are just that, people seeking therapy.
Third, and not last, is the thinking that someone has to have a clear breakdown or traumatic
experience to warrant counseling. Although, this could in fact be the case, it is not necessary.
Often there will be a traumatic experience, relationship strains, or daily stressors that are causing
someone to feel overwhelmed and seek counseling. Although, these situations may be what brings
someone into counseling, it is not necessarily what keeps individuals in therapy.
Counseling is not intended to be a lifelong process. However, the process evolves. We all
experience life and life constantly changes. It is helpful to have an unbiased, non-judgemental
person to help navigate new life experiences. The stigma of counseling is changing and reducing
as more and more people are seeking help and finding it beneficial.
When to seek counseling?
Listed below are some signs that a person may need to seek mental health services.
A person may be experiencing a life transition like college adjustments, parenting, divorce,
employment changes, moving to a new location, etc. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
confused thinking, prolonged sadness or hopelessness, feeling extreme highs and lows, isolation,
intense anger, moodiness, or excessive fear or worries. Is there an increased inability to cope with
daily stressors? Do others state, “We need help, or you need counseling?” Could you be denying
Are you or someone you love participating in reckless numbing behaviors? These actions
could include substance abuse with illegal or legal prescription drugs or alcohol, promiscuous sex,
infidelity, excessive gambling, shopping or gaming. Are you angry all the time, crying all the
time, are you absent of peace in your life?
In Adolescents and teens
Middle school is a difficult season of life. If given the choice, most adults would not go
back to this life stage, which confirms it is challenging. So, counseling may be necessary to
navigate puberty, peers, and popularity/or lack of. Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
poor body image, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, changes in sleep patterns, extreme
moodiness, frequent anger outbursts that are out of proportion to the current stressors, isolation,
hopeless feelings, sadness and/or excessive crying. Excessive complaints of physical ailments,
defiance, weight concenrs or obsessions with weight can also be symptoms something deeper is
In Young Children
In small children anxiety, fear, and trauma all tend to show themselves in acting out
behavior. Often kids are unable to articulate their feelings in words and thus acting out behavior is
what others see. These symptoms can include but are not limited to: being easily agitated, extreme
moodiness, anger outbursts that are out of proportion to current stressors, sleep disturbances,
excessive worry, hyperactivity, nightmares, frequent temper tantrums, separation anxiety from
primary caregivers, bathroom “accidents” after being fully potty trained, inability to concentrate,
changes in school performance, and shift in grades at school.
Reducing the stigma of counseling and recognizing behaviors that need addressed are the
first steps when considering counseling. Talking to primary care physicians or clergy is often
helpful to point people in the appropriate counselors. Insurance companies often have a provider
list for your specific health plan. Psychology Today verifies providers in specific geographic
locations. If you are local to the Charlotte/Matthews area SureHope Counseling and Training
Center would be honored to speak with you and see if myself or our providers are a fit for your current concerns. Reach us at www.surehopecounseling.com or 704-443-8866. We have locations in Matthews and North Charlotte. We work with all ages.
Bradley University. How to overcome cultural stigma surrounding counseling.