When is it time to see a therapist?
You Don’t Have To Be In a Crisis to See A Therapist
One of the best things I learned while working at the San Francisco VA Mental Health Department is that mental health is primary care. This means that mental health is no longer considered a specialty treatment designed only for people with medical diagnoses. Just like primary care is a general medicine for every single person, so is mental health care. To put simply - if you are breathing, then by default you have physical health and mental health to consider.
But most of us usually don’t start taking care of our health, both physical and mental, until something goes wrong. Up until that point, we might not even be aware that we have physical or mental health. When we are in good health, it’s easy to ride the wave and put aside that pesky thing called “preventive care” - things like going in for our annual physical check, getting the recommended screenings, exercising, sleeping enough hours, engaging in self-care even when you feel good, etc.
Mental health, I would argue, is even trickier to start addressing before we are pushed to our limits, ahem, myself included. Feeling like we need to be able to deal with hard things on our own (that’s just life, right?), culturally shamed for taking time and resources for ourselves, and the fact that mental health is not visible the same way that a broken bone is in an x-ray, keeps us from thinking “oh hey, my stress levels have been through the roof after I got this awesome promotion and usually my friends and my hobbies can get me through moments like these but this time it just doesn’t feel like enough, maybe I should see a therapist to help me during this moment and gain new skills to better support myself in these situations in the future.”
Because the point is not about whether something good, bad or neutral has happened to us (or maybe nothing has happened at all and instead we are looking for help to take action and make a change). The point is, you can see a therapist when you need help in your emotional and mental life that goes beyond the what your friends, family and hobbies can do for you.
Now, in some cases, a phone call with a trusted friend is all you need to regain your footing. Or going out to dinner with your sister is enough to help you cope with an emotional hardship you are facing. But sometimes there’s a limit to what a friend or family member can do for you. After all, they are not your therapist. Your friends and family have their own emotions to take care of, their own struggles to deal with, their own pain to manage. And they are not trained to separate their stuff from your stuff. So sometimes, even the most well-meaning of comments and advice can become muddled with their own emotions and opinions of the situation.
Beyond that, there are situations when even our best practices like meditating, exercising, or engaging in a hobby or relaxing activity might not suffice; what we might need is another (trained) human holding a situation, feeling, or mental state with us. So a therapist’s trained skills can be used at any point between where your ability & capacity and your friend’s/family’s ability & capacity to help ends - all the way to serious mental health illnesses covered in official medical textbooks.
Taking care of our physical and mental health before something goes wrong is the responsible thing to do. You don’t have to be in a mental or emotional crisis to go see a therapist. You don’t even have to be sick with a mental illness to go see a therapist as shown in the image above. So yes, therapy is capable of addressing serious mental illness and medical emergency. But that’s not all it can do. Therapy is a resource that can help you replenish your own emotional and mental resources, that can skillfully support you in dealing with a situation or an event or an emotion, and that can give you new tangible skills to help you reach a higher quality of life.
If you are considering therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out and get a free consultation with Reset Brain and Body. Share all of your concerns and hesitations about coming in with us - we would love to address them and put you at ease.
Before we continue with the day, let’s take a moment to ground ourselves in our bodies. Move your toes around in your shoes and feel their presence. Move your fingers around, enjoying the stretching. Now squeeze all the muscles in your body, hold them tight for 1..2..3.. And release. Experience your body and muscles relax. Great job.
Till next time.
Wishing you joy, safety and ease.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.