Research has found therapy can change the way you think. Founder of find a therapist platform welldoing.org Louise Chunn gives you 15 signs you need therapy (Clue: they’re not what you think)
People see therapists or counsellors for all sorts of reasons. Some will only book an appointment because they’ve been pushed into it – by a family member, partner, even their boss – but others go with much more enthusiasm. They want to get to the bottom of a problem in their lives and are prepared to pay whatever it takes to understand their behaviour. Like most things in life, it takes all sorts.
Research into the effectiveness of talking therapies is wide-ranging and ongoing; there will always be people who are sceptical. It’s clearly easier (and cheaper) to take an antidepressant to combat your low moods, but many people find therapy genuinely helps them. Just this year a new study from Kings College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust showed that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) strengthens connections in the brains of people suffering with the serious problem of psychosis, greatly improving recovery in the long-term.
cognitive behavioural therapy strengthens connections in the brains of people suffering with the serious problem of psychosis, greatly improving recovery in the long-term
CBT encourages people to change the way they think and respond to their thoughts and experiences, but it is only one of hundreds of different types of therapy, ranging from the styles that dig into past experience and childhood through to therapy linked to body treatments and mindfulness meditation. With this sort of choice, it can be hugely confusing to know which type of therapist you should opt for.
That’s why I set up welldoing.org, a platform where our questionnaire matches you with the therapists most suited to your needs. One of the most robust pieces of research about therapy shows that more important than the type of therapy or the experience of the therapist is the relationship between client and therapist. It’s making the best match of therapist that predicts the best outcomes.
research shows that more important than the type of therapy is the relationship between client and therapist
These are some of the issues and worries that might bring you to the therapist’s door. Psychotherapists, pcyhologists and counsellors have expertise in different areas, so it’s always wise to take a good look that your potential therapist’s website, or ask them if this is something they have worked with in the past. It is also part of the matching process on welldoing.org.
1. Repeating patterns
A very common trigger is the realisation that over a long period of time you are repeating the same behaviours. Therapy can help you understand where this behaviour may have originated and what is compelling you to repeat it.
2. Family issues that are making you miserable
It can be very difficult to deal with family issues as everyone feels they are in the right. Hurts and slights from childhood can last a long time, and communication can break down well into adulthood. Family history is much of what takes up therapists’ listening time, but a neutral observer can bring valuable insights.
3. Feeling stuck
Feeling stuck in one mood or emotion all day, every day, is a sign that there is an issue lurking beneath the surface that needs to be worked through. Going through mood changes is much more usual and healthy.
4. Can’t make up your mind
Some people find that talking to friends is the best way to help them come to decisions, but others find themselves going round and round in circles. Counsellors or therapists can, by getting you to talk about the problem, winkling out what you really think, help you sort out what direction you want your life to head in.
5. Nothing seems to make you feel happy any more
don’t let depressive thoughts bring you down
Don’t let depressive thoughts bring you down. Many people wait a little too long, hoping that their mood will shift – and for many it will – but others get into a dark place before they reach out, leading to a full blown depression that feels impossible to shoot. Talking to your GP is a good place to start, and if you are having thoughts of suicide, you can always phone or text Samaritans.
6. Stuck in an abusive relationship
This could be within a partnership or at work or another place where there is a power relationship. A therapist can’t do the work of the police, but a therapeutic alliance can give you the confidence to look at the relationship for what it really is, and decide about future action.
7. Mounting anxiety
Anxiety is a growing problem these days – and certainly on welldoing.org it is the issue most mentioned by people searching for a therapist. Anxious feelings can be helped by using mindfulness apps and a variety of other techniques, but if anxiety is becoming overwhelming, then therapy can be useful. NICE recommends CBT for anxiety.
anxious feelings can be helped by using mindfulness apps and a variety of other techniques
8. Haunted by the past
Many people struggle, sometimes unconsciously, with things that happened in their past. Seeing a psychodynamic therapist can help address the issues of shame and regret that can be so deadening if left to fester.
9.Post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD is caused by very frightening or distressing events. Some cases surface quickly after the stressful incident, but others may take months – even years – to develop. Lots of people come through stressful times — bereavement, divorce or revelation of an affair, bankruptcy, job loss – without PTSD, but if flashbacks and panic attacks are increasing, a therapist will be able to help. There are some specific types of therapy, like eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) that are best suited.
10. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, porn, gaming
If these are your problems, look for therapists who specialise in treating addiction. You may feel that addiction is too big a word for your issue, but if it’s something you keep returning to, finding an expert to talk to may be a good move.
11. Eating disorders
Eating disorders are complex, sometimes a symptom of underlying distress, but also bringing in genetics, the environment, life events and modern-day culture. Therapists say that people who develop eating disorders often have low-self esteem and perfectionist tendencies; if this sounds like you, remember too that eating disorders can cause major health problems, and even kill people.
12. Problems with infertility
For women who want to have children, but either struggle to conceive or know they can’t, it can be a difficult journey, coming to terms with a future they had not envisaged. Some therapists specialise in dealing with such clients, building up their self-acceptance, making life more bearable.
13. Someone close to you has died
Until you have experienced it, most of us don’t really understand how hard bereavement is to deal with. Losing a partner, parent, sibling, even a close friend can have a deep and lasting impact on your life. It’s not always necessary to see someone to talk about your feelings, but if time goes on and you’re still feeling undone by the weight of loss, bereavement counselling is often a great idea.
14. Chronic health condition
As if it’s not bad enough having your life affected by a serious illness, depression and anxiety are often close behind. Some therapists are specialists in helping people adjust to their changed future, and making them able to live well, if differently than they had once thought possible.
15. Relationships – or none
It may not seem obvious but lots of people – women and men – see therapists to talk about interpersonal relationships. Either because they are not happy with the one they are in or because they crave one, but they do not work out for them. Understanding yourself is a great advantage when it comes to working out your relationships with others.
understanding yourself is a great advantage when it comes to working out your relationships with others
And if you do see a therapist, remember —- if you see someone but decide they’re not right for you, they will understand. It’s not uncommon to see several for initial consultations before choosing to go ahead with one.
Louise Chunn is the founder of find a therapist platform welldoing.org. She is former editor of Psychologies and four other consumer magazines, but she is now firmly committed to her new life as an entrepreneur. Welldoing was recently chosen as a Top Therapy Blog 2017 and is linked to NHS Choices. Louise, who has three largely grown-up children, lives in London where she is determined to fit in friendly tennis matches, Pilates classes and dog walks with the fast-moving culture of heading up a tech startup.