Therapy can help resolve conflicts, whether this is interpersonal or intrapersonal (conflict with another person or conflict with oneself). Seeing a therapist can serve as a safe space for you to voice your thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs. This can improve your communication skills, emotional self-regulation and your relationships. As parents, there may be moments when your child expresses abnormal behaviour, doesn’t respond to you or is acting out at school that you can’t comprehend. Maybe they’re battling bullying at school, have entered a new relationship or grappling with their sense of identity during teen years… but most times, therapy can help!
When to go to therapy (the immediate signs):
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests therapy when:
- You’re thinking about/trying to cope with an issue for at least an hour each day
- This issue makes you want to avoid others or has caused you pain/embarrassment
- Your quality of life feels stifled or otherwise compromised
- This issue has negatively affected school/work or other relationships
- You’ve made changes to your life/developed habits specifically to cope with this
More signs that you or your child should go to therapy:
- Numbness/mindset shift: Every thought you have is irrational and you feel either worried or indifferent.
- Mood changes & withdrawal: Pulling away from those you love, not taking part in your usual activities or experiencing dramatic shifts in mood/energy levels.
- Psycho-symptomatic signs: Increased sensitivity to stimulus such as light or sound, having aches and pains that can’t be explained.
- Eating habits: Eating less or more than you normally would – loss of appetite, overeating or emotional eating, changes in self-perception related to food.
- Sleep patterns: Sleeping too much or too little, restlessness, difficulty falling asleep.
- Genetics and family history: Your family history or genetics indicate an inherited behavioral pattern/tendency (e.g. compulsively switching off the lights repeatedly).
- Loss/trauma: You’ve lost someone dear to you/experienced something traumatic (e.g. bullying, the loss of a friendship, a death, etc.)
- Change in grades/performance: You can’t seem to concentrate and are seeing a shift in your productivity/achievements and overall level of performance.
- Relationship struggles: You’re struggling with relationships – whether that means cultivating new ones or maintaining your current ones (e.g. romantically or platonically).
- You see room for self-improvement: Therapy is a great place to get to know your true self better. A good therapist will serve as a mirror and reflect back specific traits, characteristics or tendencies to you causing deeper self-reflection.
- You’ve become dependent on something/have an addiction: You use alcohol to numb your pain or have formed an unhealthy habit (e.g. binge eating) to deal with emotions.
How to find the right therapist:
- Ask the people who know you best/who you trust and can confide in: Maybe they’ve gone to someone they know and like before or know of qualified mental health professionals. In either case, your future therapist will ensure that there are no conflicts (E.g. if you’re going to talk to your friend’s therapist about your friendship with said friend, their therapist might refer you out – matching you with a new therapist to maintain confidentiality/your therapist’s ability to advise you objectively).
- Ask your doctor/physician: This makes a lot of sense for those motivated by psychosomatic signs, and will ensure a better therapist-patient fit.
- Search online: Many therapists have their own website or have listings available on popular websites such as Psychology Today which allow specific “search tabs”, allowing you to filter through preferences such as age/gender/speciality with ease.
- Phone interview: Their tone of voice will tell you a lot. If you’re comfortable during a 5-minute phone chat or a 15-minute, free consultation session – there’s a higher likelihood that the two of you are a good match going forward.
- Sift through the different forms of therapy to find the right therapist: This is a slightly more nuanced way of searching. It does, however, work for those who have a specific form of therapy in mind. E.g. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), CFT (compassion focused therapy) or a LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist) practitioner.
If you’re reading this article and what I’ve written about resonates with you… that’s a good first step. Acceptance of yourself, your needs and the needs of others you love is key. Therapy can seem daunting (fear of the unknown is common) to some but will provide relief if embraced openly. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, famously said “We may define therapy as a search for value.” Make of it what you will, and good luck!