6 Reasons to Talk to a Therapist
Mental health issues are common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 50% of people in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder in their lifetime. A popular way to address and manage mental health issues is through talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy). It often involves a therapist and a patient talking in a private setting about the patient’s mental health concerns. Some therapies are offered in a group setting.
Therapy is recommended for everyone, even when everything seems to be going well for you, but there are some specific circumstances where talk therapy would be highly recommended. Here are five common reasons to see a therapist.
Reason 1: A significant life change. If you’ve moved from somewhere you’ve lived for a long time, this change can be disruptive on your mental health as you navigate building new routines and meeting new people. A relationship with a therapist can help you navigate these new challenges. Other significant changes include starting a new job or losing a job unexpectedly. The end of relationships, including family, friends or romantic relationships, can also be distressing and a good reason to speak with a therapist to process your emotions.
Reason 2: Suicidal thoughts. If you’re starting to experience thoughts of suicide, thinking about death a lot or creating a suicide plan, seek help. Note: While therapy is beneficial for people struggling with thoughts of suicide, therapy is not the best option for people in crisis. If you are in crisis, call a suicide helpline through phone, text, or online chat or call or visit the local emergency room. Once you are no longer in crisis, a therapist can help you move forward. Learn more about the signs of suicide in adults, men, and children.
Reason 3: Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a serious mood disorder that is very common. It can affect every aspect of your life including sleep, appetite, work and school, relationships with others and the way you think and perceive the world around you. There are different types of depression that can develop under unique circumstances (such as postpartum depression, which affects women after giving birth or seasonal affective disorder, which appears during seasonal changes every year). To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must persist for at least two weeks.
Reason 4: Anxiety affects millions of people in the United States alone. Anxiety can come in many forms, including social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorders, various phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder and many others. Anxiety can cause significant issues with job or school performance, personal relationships and other daily activities. Having a conversation with a licensed therapist can help you manage the anxious feelings you may be dealing with.
Reason 5: Grief. If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, therapy can help you handle this difficult time in your life with coping strategies and allowing you space to process your emotions.
Reason 6: It’s a gift to yourself. Having the opportunity to speak to a neutral party about yourself and have all the focus on you is a gift. Oftentimes we hesitate to talk to friends and family because of myriad reasons. Going to a therapist alleviates that pressure and allows you to be your whole authentic self to a captive audience. What a wonderful gift to give yourself.
It’s important to remember that this is not a complete list of reasons that people see therapists. If for any reason you feel you need to speak to someone, you should reach out to a mental health professional even if what you’re experiencing is not on this list.
What should you expect when you choose to see a therapist? Depending on the type of therapy you’re engaging in, you may speak with a therapist through video chat, text message services or traditionally in a therapist’s office. Therapy sessions typically last up to an hour. Depending on your needs and the type of therapy, other factors may be involved. Why should you see a therapist instead of talking to a family member or friend? Therapists are professionally trained to be a blank slate and are unbiased. You’re also more likely to be honest when talking to someone that you don’t know personally.
Learn more about Courtney Gunn, PhD and Ochsner Psychiatry & Mental Health Services.