When to Seek Therapy and How to Find the Right Psychologist

I was recently taking a Lyft to the airport when my driver discovered that I am a psychologist. As we chatted about recent research about new treatments and the brain, our conversation fell on an interesting topic. “I think it’s normal for adults to feel depressed sometimes,” he shared, “but depression that lasts a long time doesn’t make sense to me. Is that real? What are you supposed to do if you get stuck like that?” 

My drive was correct;  it is normal for people of all ages to go through some periods of sadness because sadness is an emotion. And, just as he said, when people get “stuck” feeling a certain way, despite changing circumstances, that can be a sign that someone needs professional support. 

Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or stress-related issues, seeking help from a psychologist can be a transformative step toward healing and personal growth. In this blog post, we’ll explore the signs that indicate it’s time to see a psychologist for therapy and provide practical tips on finding a skilled and compassionate therapist.

6 Signs to Watch for that Indicate When You Should Seek Therapy

Over the course of our lives, we will all face challenges and struggles that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. However, how we react to these challenges can help us figure out what our next steps should be. Whether it’s a feeling of drowning in an endless sea of stress, the burden of unresolved emotions, or the effects of a strained relationship, seeking therapy can help you sort out the causes of these feelings and provide support and guidance as you work your way through overcoming them.  

Here are 6 signs to watch for that can help you determine whether therapy is the best option for you:

1. Lingering or Persistent Emotional Distress

We all go through bouts of sadness, stress, anxiousness, or even rage. However, when these emotions are consistent or continually come back for even the smallest reasons, it may be a sign that it’s time to see if therapy could be right for you – especially if you’ve been finding that these emotions are impacting your daily life in any way.  

2. Problems Coping with Stress or Life Changes

Major life events can take a huge toll on mental health. Anything from changing or losing jobs, strained relationships, divorce, loss of a loved one, or having a child can affect your mental health in ways you never expected. If you’re finding yourself having a hard time coping with the stress of or adapting to these big life changes to the point of feeling an unbearable sense of overwhelm, loss of motivation, chronic burnout, or decreased productivity, therapy can be a proactive measure to figuring out how to develop a healthy strategy to cope with stress and life changes. 

3. Relationship Problems or Societal Withdrawal

Are your relationships with your friends or loved ones becoming increasingly strained? Or are you finding that you would rather just ignore your friends and family altogether rather than do the things that you used to enjoy with them? 

It’s normal for any type of relationship to have its own set of complications. However, when there are constant conflicts, consistent feelings of dissatisfaction, communication breakdowns, unhealthy patterns of codependency, or even abuse, therapy can help you work through these feelings to foster stronger and healthier connections and boundaries with others and help you rekindle your passions.

4. Unhealthy Behaviors or Addictions

When most people think of addictions, they normally think of drug or alcohol use. However, addictions can look like compulsive gambling, excessive shopping, or extreme gaming. It can also take the form of unhealthy behaviors like self-harm, binge eating, or purging. If you have tried and failed to rectify these behaviors on your own, going to therapy can provide you with the support you need to overcome these challenges. 

5. A Traumatic Experience or Unresolved Trauma

There are many reasons why someone may have trauma. While it can be something extreme like experiencing war, trauma can also stem from things like unresolved childhood issues, a major illness, abuse, a car accident, or financial hardship. Therapy can help you process the emotions surrounding your trauma and help you take steps toward healing.

6. Chronic Physical Symptoms

Just because mental health problems can’t be seen visibly, that doesn’t mean that they won’t come with physical symptoms. If you are experiencing problems like frequent headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances or insomnia, or a chronic weakened immune system that are seemingly unexplainable, it’s possible that they are stemming from some sort of underlying mental health concern. Therapy can help you get to the root cause of these issues.

Tips for Finding the Right Therapist for You

Everyone’s mental health journey is unique, and having the right psychologist to support you can make a profound difference in your progress. So, now that you have an idea of what to look for before deciding to seek therapy, it’s equally important that when you choose a psychologist, you choose the one that is best suited to your individual needs. Here is a quick guide to help you do exactly that:

Tip 1: Do your research.

Online resources such as directories like Psychology Today, Google reviews, and associations with medical practices you are familiar with can be a good starting point to finding a psychologist near you. But, to make sure you are supported in a way that you are comfortable with, you will also want to look into each psychologist’s experience, specialization, and specific approach to therapy. 

It is also a good idea to look into logistical matters as well. Therapy works best when it is convenient for you. If you have to drive miles out of your way to go to therapy, chances are your willingness to do so will decrease over time. The same thing goes for affordability. If the expense of therapy is too much or you’ve found that your insurance won’t cover it, it just becomes an added stress on your mental load. It’s important to find a therapist that is affordable and convenient to you, whether that means a superbill for insurance reimbursement or the option for both virtual and in-person meetings.

Tip 2: Ask for recommendations.

Although you might not feel comfortable discussing your mental health with your friends or family members, recommendations can make a huge difference when looking for a therapist. Collecting personal experiences and referrals from people you trust can make all the difference when choosing a therapist that aligns with you. Your team of healthcare professionals or local mental health groups and organizations is another great resource for finding suggestions.

Tip 3: Evaluate credentials and licensing.

There are several specialties within the therapist community. It’s important to find one that specializes or has experience in dealing with the specific challenges you’re facing. A psychologist who specializes in neurodivergence might not have relevant educational background or licensing to deal with addiction, eating disorders, trauma, or relationship problems. It’s best to do some research and look into psychologists who are specialized in your needs. Websites like Psychology Today allow you to use search filters to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. 

Tip 4: Book a consultation. 

Many therapists and psychologists offer a free consultation before officially booking their services. This consultation is perfect for assessing their communication style, expertise, and willingness to address your specific concerns. You can take this time to ask about their treatment plans, therapeutic techniques, expected duration of treatment, or any other questions and concerns you may have to ensure that you can work together in a comfortable and non-judgmental environment.

Tip 5: Check for compatibility. 

Different therapists use different techniques and approaches in their therapy. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on identifying problematic thought patterns and setting goals to modify negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to improve mental wellbeing. Meanwhile, psychodynamic therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on delving into the unconscious mind to find subconscious causes that might be driving negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A mindfulness therapy approach helps people become more presently attuned to their thoughts and emotions to help them learn how to regulate their emotions and actions. It’s important to make sure that the psychologist of your choosing uses an approach that will make you feel comfortable and safe.

Tip 6: Go with your gut.

Choosing to go to therapy is a very personal decision. Choosing a therapist that you trust is even more personal. It doesn’t matter if a psychologist has great credentials and experience and comes with glowing recommendations. If you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unsupported for any reason, find someone else. The key to a successful therapy treatment is trust between the therapist and the patient. Trust your instincts when it comes to selecting a therapist that feels right to you.

Conclusion

Your mental health matters. Understanding the signs and symptoms that indicate when it’s time to seek help from a skilled professional is an important step toward your mental well-being. Paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and beginning to recognize patterns that may be cause for concern is key to uncovering the areas of your life that you may need support in. Finding a psychologist that aligns with your unique needs can put you well on your way to a healthier and more fulfilling life. 

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