Why Do People Typically Seek Counseling or Therapy?

There is often a misconception that to need counseling means that one is 'crazy.' But this is just not true!

Why seek psychotherapy?

Typically, people begin therapy (aka "psychotherapy;" or "Counseling") wanting to change something about themselves or their relationship.  For the most part, they may actually like the way they are.  Sometimes they don’t.  In any case, they decide on counseling because they have a sense that they do need to make some practical changes in:

  • How they’re thinking about things
  • How they feel about things and to manage those feelings (like, anger & stress) better
  • How they’re behaving in certain situations
  • How they relate to others

People seek therapy looking for a different perspective on particular issues; a different viewing point.  They may be aware of other perspectives, but they are limited or unsatisfying, and may not work.

In addition to scouring the internet, someone may have given you the name of a therapist they know and trust.  Still, because so many of us carry the myth of opening Pandora's Box, it can be difficult to make the call.  So, what actually moves people to call or to send the email, to set up your first appointment?

You could be in crisis.

An overwhelming, catastrophic event occurs and you have no clue how to deal with it.

The loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, job loss.  More: emotional or physical abuse, victimization, trauma, an episode of mental or physical illness or disability, a stressful situation that has reached the breaking point.  Therapy meets the need for acquiring immediate resources for feeling more stable, daily coping and adaptive survival.  

You are in transition

You need help adjusting, or proactively approaching an inevitable, perhaps radically different life change.

Leaving home and adjusting to adulthood, choosing a career, preparing for marriage or divorce, becoming a parent, retirement.  Sometimes sudden change, chaotically surprises us with the seeming lack of resources we thought we had. The role of therapy as I practice it, transforms transitional movement into a more predictable, organized [and often less chaotic] process of integrity and dignity.

You’re just feeling ‘stuck’

You keep repeating the same bad relationships or the same bad, self-defeating decisions.

You find yourself on the same emotional roller-coaster over and over.  You feel powerless to make different decisions or change your situation; you’re not progressing the way you know you could, and life seems to be passing you by!  Some of my clients simply want a psychological “tune-up” to make sure they themselves, or their relationships are healthy and their life is on track to meet their goals.

You just need to vent.

Sometimes we just need to get something off our chest...and that’s OK!

You could simply need a forum in which to express your feelings safely, where your pain will be held sympathetically, and you won’t be told, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  You may just need someone to listen well, or wanting to learn more appropriate stress management, or anger management strategies. You just want to be taken seriously and want to know that your pain matters to somebody.  You want to be able to say: “Finally, somebody ‘gets’ me!”

You’re concerned about your marriage or other commited relationship

1. You no longer, have anything in common. You spend hours together under the same roof, or at social gatherings, or performing routine errands, yet rarely engage in meaningful conversation.

2. Seems like you/your partner can do nothing right. You feel like every action is being watched and criticized. In your mind, your partner just can't to do anything right anymore.

3. Silence is becoming the norm in your relationship. You go out of your way to avoid being together and, when you are, you have nothing to talk about.

4. Your partner has stopped sharing much of anything with you about career, excitements, personal problems or achievements...

5. A change in physical appearance. There has been a more pronounced deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene by your partner and you wonder if they no longer care or, are not happy in the relationship.

6. Little attention is given to the relationship itself: the television is on constantly, you both sit with your face buried in a book; there is always something else that needs to be done.

7. Arguments have become routine: mostly petty; all the same issues and no resolution. You find yourself arguing over the same thing, repeatedly. Resentment and contempt have replaced patience and love.

8. Intimacy has become a thing of the past. Physical affection is minimal, if it exists at all, as is the sense of emotional/spiritual bonding with your partner. You've turned from lovers into roommates.

9. One or both of you is having an affair.

10. You have wondered about divorce.

You feel like you’ve lost yourself

“I just don’t know who I am any more.”

You’ve “lost your Self” to so much over-compliance or focusing for so long on your career, or the needs of others.  You may want to reconnect with an identity you’ve forgotten: your own legitimate needs, wants and desires, and the right to get them met; you’ll want to re-member and clarify your true feelings, attitudes and values to be reclaimed as your own again.

You need to resolve historical issues

You’ve finally realized, or suspect that your personal history is negatively effecting your current life.

You consider starting therapy to reflect on your life, process and resolve old feelings, perhaps “let go” of some past experiences so that you can “move on” and get your life back on track again.

You wonder if you are addicted to something

Repeated and increasing use of substances, or other forms of influence is detrimentally becoming the focus of your life.

You’ve been excluding other, more meaningful people and activities from your life and your circle of resources is shrinking: friends, family, coworkers and supervisors, are beginning to be concerned about you.  You wonder if your involvement with substance abuse, gambling, sex or relationship, work, or other preoccupations, are becoming a problem.

The therapeutic relationship should be a vessel that is safe and welcoming.  Within it, feelings, worries, concerns can be 'fleshed out' and embraced.  By the end of the first visit, you should have a pretty good idea of precisely what is wrong, and how to fix it: that is, your action plan.   Understand that, no mater who your therapist is, nothing should proceed without your complete approval, and your consent. In other words, there will be no implementation of any plan of action; there will be no counseling or therapy, unless you, or you designee approve it and give your permission!

If you live in the Lansing Michigan area, please feel free to email or call me with any questions or comments at the address below.

Peter Roseman Psy.S.
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