With the increase in stress, anxiety, and fear in our country, you might be asking yourself, “do I need therapy?” Over half of all adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness in their lifetime. 43.8 million people experience a mental illness in any given year. In 2004, over a quarter of adults received therapy that year, and that number has grown exponentially in the last 15 years.
Who goes to therapy?
As the numbers show, millions of people each year go to therapy. There are therapists for children as young as age 2 and therapists for older adults. Couples can attend therapy whether they are married, engaged, or dating. Sometimes whole families attend counseling together. Therapy is appropriate for people of all races, cultures, languages, socioeconomic status, religions, sexual and gender orientations, and disabilities or disorders. Almost anyone can benefit from therapy.
Why go to therapy?
Therapy is not for “crazy” people or those who can’t handle their problems on their own. There are many different reasons people get counseling. Based on what I see in my private practice, here are some of the most common reasons people go to therapy:
- Relationship problems, such as problems with your partner, family, in-laws, children, or friends
- Mood and emotion issues, like mood swings, feeling down and depressed, or feeling anxious, worried, and stressed
- Adjusting to life transitions like a new job, new baby, empty nest, moving to a new place, graduating from school, etc.
- Loss and grief, whether the death of a loved one, or another type of loss like losing your job, divorce, or miscarriage
- Personal self-exploration, like understanding yourself better, resolving spiritual issues, and improving your self-esteem and confidence
- Healing from the past, such as abuse, trauma, a difficult childhood, and problems in your upbringing
- Mental illness or addiction
Does therapy work?
In a word, yes, therapy does work. Research studies consistently show that psychotherapy is just as effective, and sometimes even more effective, than no treatment or than medication alone. For mental health issues like depression and anxiety, therapy is extremely effective at helping clients improve their mood and reduce their worry.
Therapy is not one-size-fits-all. You’ll want to make sure there is a good fit between you and your therapist. Find a therapist that is experienced in the problems or issues you have. When you meet with him/her, make sure that you feel understood and validated.
Are there any risks to therapy?
All healthcare professionals are required to inform clients about the potential risks and benefits to treatment. The potential benefits of therapy are enormous, but there may be some risks as well. There is always the chance that you won’t feel better or your problems don’t improve. If that happens, make sure you talk to your therapist about it to see if he/she can change the therapeutic approach or focus, or as a last resort, see a different therapist.
Another potential risk is that other people in your life (partner, family, friends) won’t like or agree with the changes you’re making. I see this the most with people-pleasing clients who work with me to build their assertiveness and learn how to set boundaries. Then when they practice those skills in their relationships, their spouse/boss/friend doesn’t always like it! Change takes time to adjust, and fortunately most people in your life will come around to your new changes and value the improvements you’re making.
So hopefully you have answered the question, “do I need therapy?” and learned how therapy can help you.
Therapy Basics Part 2 will answer your question, “how do I find a therapist?”