9 Reasons to Try Therapy

Life is hard, and it’s easy to feel down. Seeing a mental health professional for therapy can help, but sometimes people shy away from it because they aren’t sure if their situation is serious enough.

Spoiler alert: Everyone could benefit from therapy.

“Therapy is a form of self-care,” says UNC Health psychiatrist Nadia Charguia, MD. “You don’t need to be in crisis or have something major going on for therapy to improve your life.”

While therapy can help people experiencing a crisis or mental illness, it can also simply help you function better and feel happier. Dr. Charguia offers some common reasons people seek therapy and explains how to start the process.

1. You feel stuck.

Have you ever found yourself in a pattern that seems repetitive, but you feel unable to break it? You could feel stuck in your career, your relationships or your habits. You want to change but aren’t sure where to start. A therapist can help you get moving and see possible solutions you may have missed.

2. You’re facing a lot of stress.

You might be going through something very stressful, such as a divorce, job change or move. Or you might not know why your daily stress has become overwhelming. Some stress is normal, but if it’s affecting your ability to function or you can’t see the way through it, it’s time to reach out for help, Dr. Charguia says.

3. You’ve withdrawn from your emotions or social life.

Withdrawing from people and activities you used to enjoy can be a sign of depression. Maybe you’re not enjoying hobbies or work the way you used to, or you’re feeling less energy for those things. Maybe you’re avoiding friends and family or declining more invitations than normal in favor of staying home.

“If you notice that emotional shift, dig into that,” Dr. Charguia says. “It could be a sign that something is hitting you harder than you realized.”

4. You can’t move past difficult feelings.

Pay attention if you’re feeling guilty, irritable or upset in circumstances that typically wouldn’t bother you. Or maybe you are experiencing negative emotions that are warranted, but you’re having trouble moving past them.

“If you wake up to a new day but find you continue to hold onto previous events or experiences that leave you unsettled, seeking out therapy could help you get to the root of why this may be occurring and help you move through those things that have kept a hold on you,” Dr. Charguia says.

5. You’re always worrying.

Everyone worries, but if worrying keeps you from things you want or need to do, a therapist could help. Excessive worry could signal an anxiety disorder or a time of turmoil when you need extra support. A therapist can teach you strategies to reframe your thinking patterns and find ways to relax your body and mind. This can help you be more content and more effective in your relationships, work and daily activities.

“Worry doesn’t have to become a limitation in your life,” Dr. Charguia says.

6. You want to feel happier.

Therapy can help you understand yourself better, which can make your life easier and happier. It can help you connect more with the positive experiences in life, and process and cope with the negative ones.

“Therapy can help you better yourself overall,” Dr. Charguia says. And the coping strategies and tools you learn can stick with you for the long term.

7. You’re going through a difficult time.

Life is full of challenges and changes. You might be leaving a relationship, struggling with parenting, switching careers or navigating loss or grief. Even “good” change, such as a new baby or marriage, can be difficult because of the seismic shifts it brings to your life.

Therapy allows you to process these changes in a safe space, work through what it means for you and create a plan to get through it. A therapist can help you find meaning in times of great flux.

8. You’re not happy with your coping mechanisms.

If you’ve noticed that you’ve turned to drugs, alcohol or other potentially harmful behaviors to cope with the difficulties of life, you might want to find healthier methods. Therapy can help you identify what you’re doing to get through hard times and offer new strategies for feeling better.

9. You need to talk to someone other than a friend or family member.

In order to be vulnerable, sometimes you need to talk to someone neutral who won’t judge you. Therapy is a judgment-free zone and can help you open up, Dr. Charguia says. Friends and family can be wonderful listeners and give good advice, but a therapist is trained to try to help you understand your feelings and implement change.

“It can be common to withhold some information when talking to a friend or loved one for a variety of reasons,” Dr. Charguia says. “It’s rare that someone has a go-to friend for every situation, but therapy can be that space.”

Some people seek out therapy because they don’t want to overburden their friends. And no matter how wise or patient your friend is, there’s still a personal relationship to navigate, whereas a therapist has only one goal: to listen to you and help.

How to Start Therapy

If you think you are ready to try therapy and you have a primary care provider, it’s best to start by asking them, Dr. Charguia says. They might be able to provide helpful suggestions or make you a referral.

Another good starting point is a psychologist locator tool, such as those from the American Psychological Association or Psychology Today. These allow you to filter providers by age, insurance accepted, telehealth preferences and other characteristics. You also could search your healthcare system’s database of mental healthcare providers or reach out to a provider you heard about from friends or family.

It’s important to note that it could take a few tries to find a therapist who is the right fit for you. And once you find them, it could take a few sessions to become comfortable.

“Finding a space and individual where there is a good therapeutic connection is something you owe to yourself,” Dr. Charguia. “You have every right to be diligent in that process in order to get the most out of the investment you’re making in yourself.”

If you think therapy might be right for you, talk to your doctor. If you don’t have one, find a doctor near you.