What are some of the indicators that tell us that we might need psychotherapy? Life is hard, and it has been especially difficult for us all during this most terrible of times.
For many, new and past issues may have arisen as a result of lockdown and social isolation, which might make some of us feel anxious and depressed.
But how do we know whether we might need some psychotherapy?
1. Feeling depressed.
Depression can be very difficult to manage on one’s own. Here are some of the symptoms of clinical depression:
Wanting to stay in bed, loss of appetite or over-eating, needing substances such as excessive alcohol, drugs or medication, overwhelming feelings of being unable to cope, lethargy, feeling inadequate, hopeless, anxious, suicidal, having difficulty sleeping, having repetitive and intrusive thoughts, mood swings, panic attacks, withdrawing from people, feeling life is pointless, being unable to concentrate, not being able to enjoy anything, feeling lonely, apathetic and listless, and feeling fragmented or not ‘together.’
Edvard Munch – The Day After [c.1894]
Gavino Crispo – They Will Not Understand Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
There is a combination of factors in relation to the causes of clinical depression; it has both chemical and psychological origins. Therefore treatment often needs to address both of these, in terms of medical or psychiatric help and therapy.
It is up to the individual to decide, along with professional advice, which treatment or treatment combination may be right for them.
Michael Mao – Morning Dream. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr
[To discover more about depression, press the following links to refer to my previous posts on this subject: ‘Snap Out Of It! How Depression Gets Misunderstood’ and ‘Depression:Can Psychotherapy Help?’ ]
2. Frequently Having Disturbing Or Troubling Thoughts, Feelings Or Memories.
Dana Levin. Echo.Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Being constantly beset by disturbing or troubling thoughts, feelings or memories, or struggling with general feelings of unhappiness, might mean that we need to contemplate having psychotherapy.
Sometimes these thoughts and feelings can affect us physically, manifesting themselves psychosomatically, resulting in bodily symptoms with no discernible physiological cause.
If it is difficult to concentrate or get through the day because of psychological or somatic pain, then this might indicate we need to think about getting help.
3. Family And Relationship Difficulties.
Psychotherapy can be beneficial for those who are experiencing problems in family relationships. Sometimes, being able to understand how these have developed and are being maintained can be a way through to gaining insight, leading to change and resolution.
Couple therapy can be helpful and may be necessary for some; it is available online at this time.
Such therapy is aimed at improving understanding of self and other in a relationship, and grasping how the couple ‘fit’ together, both consciously and unconsciously.
It is based on exploring past and present reasons for disharmony, both within the self and with the other person.
Edvard Munch. Consolation. Wikimedia Commons.
Getting through the loss of someone we love is a painful and extended process. There is no blueprint, there are no rules or formulae, timelines, or rights and wrongs in terms of how we grieve. Grief ebbs and flows, it cannot be denied or hurried, it must take its own course.
What we need is time, patience, comfort, love and support from others around us during what might be a long period of deep sadness. It will feel as if we have lost a part of ourselves.
At times, grief might be overwhelming, and the feeling of emptiness may persist even years after the loss. Things might still feel unresolved, and we may turn to a psychotherapist for help.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” Shakespeare.
5. Difficulty Coping With Work Or Studies.
Sometimes, psychological difficulties can manifest themselves in being unable to focus on work, or finding it hard to concentrate on studies. Then we may need to discover what it is that is preventing us from being able to work in our usual way.
This might be especially important for students now, whether at school, college or university, given the isolation and upheaval caused by the pandemic. Many students are finding that lockdown and quarantine, often accompanied by economic hardship, causes extreme anxiety and distress.
Student counselling services are available online at universities and colleges for those who are finding their mental health is suffering.
If there are any suicidal feelings, or thoughts about self-harming, it is very important to contact the GP as soon as possible, in order to get help.
Amel Djenidi – Soi Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
6. Feeling Directionless, Or Stuck.
Elisa Anfuso – As If He Did Not Have Feathers  Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“I suddenly realized that if we are sitting around waiting — maybe even begging and pleading — for our circumstances to change so that we can finally live life the way we really want to live, chances are very good that we will stay stuck waiting forever.” Richie Norton
There may be feelings of stuckness and lack of direction in life, as if we are trapped on a hamster-wheel. There might be a sense of not knowing where to go or which path to take, be it in one’s career, relationships, or generally.
Max Ernst – Birds in a Cage . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Sometimes, there may be identity issues or existential fears and concerns, that might need airing in an atmosphere of therapeutic understanding.
Psychotherapy can help us clarify our thoughts, ideas and feelings, sorting out the stuckness and the blocks to moving on.
“One day I asked a wingless bird what will she do now. She replied, “If I can’t fly than I shall run. If I can’t run I shall walk. If I can’t walk I shall crawl. But I will never be stuck in cage.” Joyce Guo
7. Just Wanting To Share Thoughts And Feelings.
Sometimes, we may feel the need to share our thoughts and feelings with someone professional, insightful and empathic. This will need to be a qualified therapist who is trained to listen, to understand difficult thoughts and feelings and to help the other gain insight and move through the issues towards change.
Maybe there are no apparent outstanding problems in our lives, but a sense of needing to talk in a personal way that might be difficult to do with friends and family.
This is just as good a reason to embark on psychotherapy as having obvious issues to work through.
Potential Benefits of Psychotherapy.
(For further reading on this issue refer to my previous post:
So how might psychotherapy make a difference? Will life be just great afterwards? Will it be roses, roses all the way?
Well, no, it won’t. Life just isn’t like that. It will still have its ups and downs, its highs and lows, our moods will still fluctuate and, sometimes, we will still feel unhappy and dissatisfied with life.
We need to be realistic and not have unattainable goals or expectations.
“Sometimes I simply remind patients that sooner or later they will have to relinquish the goal of having a better past.” Irvin D. Yalom.
People can become trapped in their past, which is very depressing. Coming to terms with long-held feelings and disappointments can be a releasing experience, for these can inhibit personal growth and development.
‘We repeat what we don’t repair.’ Christine Langley-Obaugh
Adjusting to newly-found truths about oneself and one’s past may be difficult, but it often leads to increased energy for life and the wish to move on more hopefully and constructively.
“…much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness. With a mental life that has been restored to health, you will be better armed against that unhappiness.” Sigmund Freud.
“The harvest of psychotherapy is not cure – surely, in our field, that is an illusion – but instead change or growth.” Yalom.
Whilst the process of therapy can be both comforting and containing, it can also be, at times, difficult and unsettling. Facing oneself may not always be easy, and we need to muster all our strength to deal with the realities we might face.
However, the rewards can be enormous, with increased awareness of self and other, a clearer and more mature way of thinking about and seeing the world around us, and a sense of knowing more who we are and where we fit in the world.
“Psychotherapy is a sanctuary; it is a battleground; it is a place I have been psychotic, neurotic, elated, confused, and despairing beyond belief.” Kay Redfield Jamison.
“People don’t come into therapy to change their past, but their future.” Milton Erickson.
Julio Reyes – Vessels. Gandalf’s Gallery.
“Love yourself… enough to take the actions required for your happiness…enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past… enough to set a high standard for relationships… enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner… enough to forgive yourself… enough to move on.” Steve Maraboli
Life can become more balanced, brighter, clearer, after psychotherapy. This happens, at times, when we are freer of past psychological problems and ties, and are more able to live our lives in the present.
Nicola Simbari – Gennarino . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Therapy is a special kind of teaching or training which attempts to accomplish in a relatively short, intense period what should have established during normal growing up.” William Glasser