If you have ever had a serious problem or personal issue on your mind, you’ve likely wondered if counselling/therapy would be helpful. In fact, you’ve probably ‘googled” your situation or dilemma and found some information that was helpful in the short-run. This is how the web can be quite helpful and lead to thoughts of “how did we ever survive without the internet!?”
We can now find reams of information online about just about any situation, dilemma, or psychological issue. But many of us do not seek professional support when we are feeling overwhelmed, or suspect we may in fact need mental health treatment. The stigma of going to a counsellor or therapist is slowly shifting, with newer campaigns for mental health featuring celebrities such as Howie Mandel, Clara Hughes, and John Hamm, to name a few.
So, how do we know when we need some professional support?
CMHA.ca statistics indicate that 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, and approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
It’s important to know that we all face stressors, change, grief and, at times, feel like we are at the “edge” of our coping abilities. Having supportive family, friends and connections can decrease the stress we are feeling and build resilience. But if your sleep is chronically disturbed, you’re irritable most of the time, you feel overwhelmed and hopeless, or bouts of crying and racing thoughts are becoming the norm, it may be time to talk to a counsellor or therapist.
Counselling or therapy is proven beneficial when we are needing to address mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. It is also recommended when clients have experienced trauma and/or abuse. But seeing a therapist can also be very helpful in a variety of other situations. For example, if we are: facing serious or multiple stressors, dealing with life transitions such as health and age-related changes, experiencing conflict or high stress at work or at home, having a general sense of not moving forward in life, needing to look at work-life balance, dealing with a new medical diagnosis, ending a relationship, using substances to cope, engaging in self-destructive behaviours, feeling generally overwhelmed, or feeling isolated.
What is important to know about counselling/therapy?
We use the words counselling or therapy interchangeably nowadays, but in the past psychotherapy was a longer term therapy, often delving into deeper issues and unconscious processes. Therapy and counselling have shifted over the decades, with shorter-term approaches and problem solving focus becoming more mainstream.
Counsellors provide an outside opinion and a neutral perspective, when family or friends may be too close to the situation. An outside set of eyes and ears can be beneficial to reframe our understanding of the situation and to explore new coping strategies.
In counselling or therapy, the relationship is very important. Therapists will work to build a good
relationship and basic trust as part of the therapeutic alliance. They are trained to listen in a therapeutic way and to challenge clients in a safe, supportive manner, often with a team approach. It is important that you feel a connection and have basic trust in your therapist. You get more out of counselling if you are as honest as possible. If you are holding back, it may be a sign that you need to talk about it with your therapist, or explore trust as a general issue.
Most therapists have training in multiple therapy approaches, and will work with clients to find a comfortable approach, and to set goals. Therapists are trained to look for patterns and processes, can help clients find ‘blind spots’ in their perception, and get to the root of their issues. In exploring our personal patterns, processes and families, we can sometimes uncover uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, but ultimately most clients benefit from the exploration and emotional work, seeing situations in a new light and changing behaviour to feel more confidence and direction.
Taking the time to explore your emotions, thoughts, patterns and behaviours is well worth the effort. Many clients are surprised at how quickly they notice improvement, just by talking about what they are facing and exploring things in a new way. We hope to move all of our clients toward feeling more confident, empowered, and self aware.
Frances Sreedhar, MSW, RSW
Crossroads Therapeutic Solutions