By David Joel Miller
You have a lot to do – why do they say you need therapy?
Clients tell me that “I am not crazy. I don’t need to be here.” Mostly I tell them I agree they are not crazy. But I do think some counseling or therapy could help them. Counseling may help them develop better life skills, find a better job, have better relationships, be a better parent or it may simply get that agency off their back. Government agencies, DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services), CPS (Child Protective Services, Parole, Probation and welfare agencies of all sorts refer people to see therapists every day.
People often come because someone, somewhere, who has some control over their life says they need to see a therapist or counselor. They may not understand why, but I do think seeing a counselor or therapist could help them. Here are some reasons you might get a referral to see a therapist and how to make use of that referral to improve your life.
Depressed parents create problems for their children.
Depression, anxiety, stress and a bunch of other problems do not just affect the parent. If you have struggles they are affecting your children. Being a parent is a lot more than the simple mechanical part of reproduction.
Most parents try to be the best parents they can but if you’re struggling each day just to get through the day you have nothing left to give your child.
The time to get help for your children is “the sooner the better.” Some things they may just outgrow but if you go for help no harm done. If your child does need help early intervention can change the trajectory of their life.
The most powerful intervention for children many times is helping their parents work out their problems. Marriage counseling for the parents can be helpful to a child with ADHD. Who can concentrate in school when your parents were having a loud argument last night?
Parents who are struggling have difficulty with relationships.
It takes a lot more skill to have a happy relationship than most people think. Navigating life takes skill unless you have fantastic luck. Even the lucky need some skills to make use of those lucky breaks. What is happening in your life affects your relationship. What happens in your relationships affects your life.
If you and your partner are having conflicts at home that results in you taking that relationship stress to work. Being in a bad mood after an argument with your partner may cost you your job.
The reverse is also possible, Have a tough day at work and you are at risk to have arguments with your partner. Learning relationship skills that help smooth the way at work and at home can make your life more successful. A counselor can help with all these skill sets.
Finding a job is good for your mental health.
Finding a job is tough sometimes, the worse the economy the tougher that search becomes. Plenty of people have come to counseling discouraged. They may have been trying really hard but their job search is not working. They are applying at places that are not hiring, they lack the skills for the job they want and they had not thought about doing the job that is hiring.
Career counseling can help you figure out what job you want to do, what you might be good at and how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
Getting a job does wonders for many people’s mental health. Finding a career that you love and that pays well can make a permanent improvement in your mental health. When you are down it is harder to find a job.
If your parents were not good at parenting you will have difficulties.
If your parents were not the best or if you were busy growing up and missed the lessons on being an adult and how to parent you should have received, then counseling can help.
Clients with no children and no plans to become parents can still benefit from taking a parenting education class. You may need to learn about the developmental tasks you should have learned at each age and if you did not get them along the way you need to learn them now.
Besides, you may encounter children in life other than your own and it is helpful to know about them.
Staying mentally healthy is a skill people can learn not something you were born with.
Regulating your emotions is a skill and skills can be learned. Some people picked this up on their own. Some had great teachers or parents in their life. Most of us had to learn about anger and sadness and how to cope with negative emotions the hard way.
There are things you can do every day to improve your mental health and there are things you may be doing that can make that emotional life of yours worse.
Most people know about skills to stay physically healthy whether they use those skills or not. Learning skills to be mentally healthy, that is something you might need help with. You could get that help in small doses from the internet or reading self-help books, but to really get focused help working on your problems you need in person individualized help.
If your emotional issues have gotten severe enough that you have developed a disorder, a mental illness, depression, anxiety, a substance use disorder or anger problems, then for sure you need professional help to get out of that mentally unhealthy place.
You could wait for that physical illness to just go away on its own but most people are wise enough to go get medical help when they have an illness in their body. A mental or emotional illness responds to treatment in the same way.
Many people do not have good support systems.
Some people have great support systems, most do not. Family and partners can get worn out listening to your problems and sometimes what you need most are to talk those problems out.
Family gets emotionally involved, they want you to do certain things or not do them. They may take sides in disagreements. A counselor can be supportive while helping you find the answers that are best for you.
Stressed out people tend to use drugs and alcohol to cope and the family pays the price.
A huge number of referrals by agencies are for people who are using or abusing drugs or alcohol. The agency may not even know that you are using, but excessive reliance on substances can result in impaired ability to fulfill the other roles in your life.
Many people with emotional problems turn to substances to cope. A little beer or wine to relax or some stimulants to keep going. Over time that reliance on a substance can begin to cause problems rather than solve them. A counselor can help you judge whether your use is impacting other areas of your life and help you decide what you want to do about that.
I have written in other places about the times that the counselor has to report that kind of use and the times they can maintain that secret. That is a long discussion and you may need to read those other posts or the full version in a book that I am working on that should be out soon.
Rest assured that most therapist’s goal is to help you cope, not to get you to say something that they will use against you.
If you have been referred to counseling or therapy consider what you want to accomplish in your life and how that counselor might be able to help you make your life better.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books