There are many misconceptions about therapy and—let’s face it— asking for help can be difficult, especially when it comes to matters of mental health. We may ignore or suppress negative feelings to maintain an image of being able to handle our problems. Or we may believe that our difficulties are not that serious compared to those of others. Often that is why we put off seeking help and why, for most, it can be hard to know when it’s time to see a therapist. Here are some insights from marriage and family therapists on when to reach out for help.
Sometimes our best efforts to resolve a problem leave us feeling confused, hopeless, frustrated and asking, "Why does this keep happening to me?" This is a great time to consider seeing a therapist. Another great time to seek professional help? Usually when a friend or family member suggests it (if you believe generally that the person has your best interests at heart). We can become so tangled in our own life that we forget to pay attention to our mental health needs, and sometimes others notice first. Heather Holmgren, MFT, Salt Lake City, UT
We are constantly responding to problems that show up in our lives (problems at work, relationship difficulties, mounting pressures) and are often able to work through or alleviate the influence of these problems by ourselves or with the help of friends and family. However, especially in times of greater vulnerability (compounding stressors, after a loss, major life transitions), even little problems can start to show up more often and at times when we do not want them to. Whatever the problems may be, when they interfere in your daily life (influencing your thoughts, emotions & behaviors) and potentially disrupt your relationships (partner, family, friends, coworkers) then seeking out a therapist might be an important step in returning to life as you want it to be. Eugene Hall, LAMFT, Minneapolis, MN
When you and your partner become gridlocked on an issue. Many couples have issues to deal with in their relationship. Some issues that never get resolved. It's how a couple handles this that can really make or break a relationship. If a couple is in gridlock, essentially the problem comes up often and they each get defensive about it. It becomes a devastating elephant in the room. They never find a resolution or even a happy middle ground for how tolerate the issue better. If you and your partner are gridlocked on an issue, it is good to seek some help from an outside party.
You can also come in to therapy for preventive matters. Before getting married or before having a baby is a great time to come into therapy for a relationship checkup and to explore different issues that are likely to arise as a part of the transition. I have noticed that couples that spend time exploring potential issues tend to make transitions better. Come into therapy to talk about what it will be like as a new parent. What challenges do couples face with a new baby? How will our sex life change after baby? What will be our plan for discipline and teaching our child new behaviors? etc. Angela Skurtu, M.Ed. LMFT, St. Louis, MO
If you know that it is time to seek therapy, we can help. Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems. The unique feature you will find during treatment with an MFT is the therapist will focus on understanding your symptoms and diagnoses within interactions and relationships. The existing environment and context is given careful examination paying particular attention to the family system – as defined by you. MFTs treat predominantly individuals but always from the perspective that “relationships matter.” Find a therapist here.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy represents over 50,000 marriage and family therapists worldwide.