When is it time to seek the help of a Counsellor?

Rather than asking “Should I seek Counselling?” one should ask “Can I benefit from Counselling?” Feeling apprehensive about seeing a counsellor for the first time is normal.  Accepting help is hard, and engaging in counselling makes the problem a reality.

If you have never been to counselling before you may have questions about what it involves.  You may feel uncertain about committing your time and money to see a counsellor when you don’t know much about counselling and whether it will really help. Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t have to be “crazy” or on the edge of a nervous breakdown to come to counselling.

We are all faced with life challenges as we make our way through life, most of them we can deal with and continue on the journey. But sometimes life becomes too much and there may or may not be obvious signs that you are not coping.  Before it gets to the point where you start becoming dysfunctional in certain areas of your life, you may want to read through this check-list.

 1. Feeling out of sorts – sad, angry or otherwise.

Uncontrollable sadness, anger or hopelessness may be warning signs of a life episode that you are not coping with. Some warning behaviours can include:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Eating or sleeping more or less than usual
  • Continuous stress and never getting on top of things
  • Feeling sad, tearful and generally down
  • Unexplained and recurrent headaches, stomach-aches or a run down immune system
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide

If these reactions are intense and they are having an impact on your relationships or work, it is time to seek help.

2. Something traumatic has happened.

  If you have experienced a traumatic event such as being a victim of crime, an accident, a divorce, assault, diagnosis of a chronic illness or a close friend or family member being diagnosed with a chronic illness you may benefit from counselling.  The sooner you talk to someone, the sooner you can learn healthy ways to cope.

 3. Issues from the past are having an impact on your day to day life.

 If you have an issue from your past that keeps popping up in your current life and relationships, Counselling can help to deal with it and lessen or remove its effect on your current life.

 4. You have experienced a personal loss.

Grief can be a long and difficult process to endure without the support of an expert. While not everyone needs counselling during these times, there is no shame in needing a little help to get through the loss of a loved one, a divorce or significant breakup, or the loss of a job, especially if you’ve experienced multiple losses in a short period of time.

 5. Abusing drugs, alcohol, food or sex to cope.

If you start to turn to an undesirable behaviour or substance as a stress release or to make you feel better and you feel unable to control these behaviours or you can’t stop despite negative consequences in your life, you may be struggling with addictive behaviour and it could be time to learn better coping skills.

6.  You can’t do the things you like to do.

Have you stopped doing the activities you ordinarily enjoy? If so, why? Many people find that painful emotions and experiences keep them from getting out, having fun and meeting new people. This is a red flag that something is amiss in your life.

7. You are experiencing difficulties in close relationships

If you having trouble communicating how you really feel or even being able to identify feelings and reactions in the moment. If your relationships are not bringing the same joy they used to and you are struggling to connect with loved ones as usual, you might make a good candidate for Counselling or even couples or family Counselling. Sometimes friends can notice patterns that are hard to see from the inside, so it’s worth considering the perspectives of those around you.

 Although serious mental conditions will require more long term intervention, most people benefit from short-term, goal-oriented counselling to address a specific issue or interpersonal conflict, get out of a rut or make a major life decision.

Talking to a skilled Counsellor in a safe environment without fear of judgement can be life-changing. Sharing your feelings with a Counsellor can offer a different perspective to your thoughts and help to not feel so alone in your thoughts. In Counselling, gaining insight into your own patterns and problems and learning to manage them on your own is the goal.

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