Counseling Depression

When Should I See a Therapist?

Justin Work

February 13, 2020


I went out to eat with some friends some years back when this topic was breached. In the corner booth we sat each taking turns updating each other on the major developments in our lives since we last saw one another. Most of us had gone through the usual milestones: got that new job or promotion, moved to a new area and bought a (insert item: new car, house, lawnmower), met (insert person), and now we're engaged. We traveled to (insert destination), so on and so forth.

Once things got around to my one friend, for the sake of this story I'll name him Greg, the tone changed from congratulatory to somber. Greg had just gotten laid off shortly after getting engaged. His fiancee and him had been fighting a lot lately, and his motivation to get things done at work was waning. Lately Greg had spent most of his recent days in his apartment watching reality TV, and gaming. He said that he’s been feeling frustrated and stuck. On occasion he said he even felt more like a burden on his fiancee than an equal partner. Yet the drive he once had back when he was in school and when working felt absent. I asked Greg if he had ever considered seeing a therapist about these issues and how he was feeling; to which he replied "why would I do that? I’m not rocking in the corner whispering to myself, I'm just going through a tough time. I'll get over this". I sat with Greg's statement for a while, and continued to after going home that night.

...there is never an ideal time to seek out therapy, but there is never a "bad" or wrong time to turn to therapy either.

While I absolutely admire Greg's resolve, I couldn't help but ask myself if he was right. Why go to therapy if things aren't terribly bleak? Is there some threshold in an individual that when crossed, is a signal to seek counseling?

I've come to learn over my time working with clients that there is never an ideal time to seek out therapy, but there is never a "bad" or wrong time to turn to therapy either. I always feel like explaining things with analogies so here it goes: let's make the comparison to one's physical health. I may feel fine where I am currently, but I still prefer to get a physical exam every year. I still go to the eye doctor from time to time to update my prescription. My point is that it can be helpful to get a different perspective from outside your life every so often to assess how things are affecting our mental health. We can't feel high cholesterol, and just as we can't always be fully aware of how we're feeling and how different life events impact us. Often times we may be suppressing thoughts and feelings, or we may even just be too busy in our daily lives to detangle our ever-changing mental state. I have learned thought working with many types of clients, various reasons brought them to our clinic, but even before you feel the struggle of a life change or anxiety that won’t subside, treat your mind as you would treat your arteries or your physical health, a healthy you starts with a healthy mind.

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