People seek therapy for a number of reasons, from day-to-day stress to marital troubles to phobias and harmful habits. When it comes to seeking help, no problem is too big or too small.
This list includes an overview of some of the most common reasons why people seek therapy.
Substance use — whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, or drugs — is often a way of coping with an unresolved problem. The same is true of behaviors such as problem gambling and bingeing and purging.
A psychologist can help address both the problem behavior and its root cause, whether it’s stress, depression, or childhood experiences.
Psychologists also provide support for family members dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Individual and group therapy can help family members and caregivers better understand how best to support their loved one’s recovery while also coping with their own feelings.
It’s not unusual to experience stress associated with certain situations, like a performance review, a first date, or a school presentation. A therapist will work with you to identify sources of stress in your life and can help you build healthy coping strategies.
It’s also worth seeking help if you’re having difficulty managing day-to-day anxiety and stress. Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to other problems, such as sleep issues, unhealthy habits, and depression. While anxiety may never completely go away, you can learn ways to manage its symptoms.
In some cases, a therapist acts as a coach, helping you to recognize your full potential, work on communication skills, and find motivation. For many people, talking with a therapist can help them to see their problems more clearly and take action.
It’s not the same as talking with a friend. Psychologists are trained to be careful and unbiased listeners. When appropriate, your therapist might challenge you to recognize thought or relationship patterns that aren’t helping you move forward.
Depression is one of the most common health concerns in the United States, affecting people of all genders, ages, and races. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 17.3 million adults in the United States experienced at least one episode of major depression in 2017.
Depression makes it hard to function on a day-to-day basis. It can affect your work, relationships, sleep, energy levels, and appetite. Often, it causes overpowering feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and guilt.
Therapy can help you explore the cause of depression and manage your symptoms, which can provide relief.
The death of a spouse, a parent, a child, or a friend can be difficult to deal with on your own. Even when you give yourself the time and the space to mourn, grief doesn’t have a timeline. Denial can cause grief and related problems to linger.
Speaking with a psychologist about what you’re feeling can help you find closure.
And because grief can be the result of other experiences in life outside of death, talking with a therapist can help you understand and work through what is related to your grief.
Any serious illness, whether your own or a loved one’s, can be devastating. You might feel a range of emotions, from anger and denial to sadness and regret. Therapy can help you to cope with emotions and symptoms caused by your illness.
The same applies to mental illnesses. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental illnesses affect an estimated one in five Americans every year. A mental illness can be a lot to deal with on your own.
Effective, evidence-based psychological treatments are available for most mental health issues.
From the fear of pregnancy and childbirth (tokophobia) to anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia, phobias cause legitimate emotional distress. Most people cope by avoiding what they fear, which can seriously restrict their everyday activities.
Psychologists who specialize in treating phobias can help you recognize and tackle your fears using techniques such as exposure therapy and talk therapy.
Relationships can have a significant impact on how you feel. This includes your relationships with your family members, colleagues, romantic partners, and friends.
It’s not uncommon to seek help dealing with a relationship that has become a source of anxiety or distress. Therapy can help you to better understand and nurture the relationships that are important to you.
In addition to working one-on-one with clients, many psychologists also offer therapy for couples, families, and even co-workers.
Insomnia can seriously impact your everyday life, leaving you feeling drowsy in the daytime and wide awake at night.
It often has an underlying cause. While medication can help you sleep better, it won’t help you resolve whatever’s causing your insomnia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective non-drug treatment for insomnia. Look for a cognitive behavioral psychologist who specializes in treating insomnia.
Life threatening events, such as crimes, accidents, and natural disasters, can stay with you long after they’re over. In time, a traumatic event can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD causes symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance, and emotional distress. It can affect all people, including children.
Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. Psychologists use techniques such as cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and stress inoculation training (SIT) to help clients manage PTSD symptoms.
Psychologists aren’t only there to help after a problem becomes overwhelming. They can also help you plan for exciting but challenging life changes, such as moving cities, starting your own business, having a baby, or transitioning.
Taking a proactive approach can help you put your best foot forward, much in the same way that an athlete trains for a sporting event.
There are a variety of healthcare providers available for individual, couple’s, marriage, and family therapy. They typically provide counseling services and are sometimes trained to diagnose mental illnesses or administer diagnostic tests.
These providers include:
- Psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors that specialize in diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders. They can prescribe medication, but they don’t typically offer counseling services.
- Psychologists. Psychologists also diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions. They typically offer counseling services and other forms of therapy. Psychologists are typically not licensed to prescribe medication as part of their work. They often work closely with other healthcare providers who can.
- Psychiatric nurse practitioners. These professionals offer counseling, education, and can prescribe medication in some states.
- Counselors. Counselors include licensed professional counselors (LPCs), mental health counselors, alcohol and drug use counselors, veterans counselors, and pastoral counselors, among other types. They offer counseling targeted towards their area of specialization. Some are able to diagnose and treat certain conditions, but they can’t prescribe medication.
- Clinical social workers. These professionals hold a master’s degree in social work. They can provide individual and group counseling but can’t prescribe medication.
It isn’t always evident which professional you should choose. It will depend not only on your needs, access to health insurance, and budget, but also on factors beyond your control, such as specialists in your area. Keep in mind that online therapy is also available.
- Start with a healthcare provider. One step to finding help is to contact your family doctor to discuss your options. A general physician such as a family doctor can give you an overview of what’s available and possibly provide you with a referral.
- Ask friends, family, classmates, or colleagues. Friends and family may also be able to refer you to a therapist.
- Check with your insurance provider. If you have health insurance, you’ll want to contact your provider to find out more about what’s covered. Your provider should be able to give you contact information for therapists in your area.
- Look for a therapist online. Use a reliable database, such as the Psychologist Locator from the American Psychological Association (APA) or SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
Scheduling an appointment is a great start. Finding the right therapist for you will likely mean meeting with more than one provider over time. If it’s your first time ever meeting with a therapist, keep in mind that just because things don’t click with them doesn’t mean therapy doesn’t work for you. Talk with a different therapist.
If you feel discouraged, keep in mind that it’s worth it to put in the time to find someone who can support you over the long term. With the right therapist, you should be able to build trust.