We all have good days and bad days. But when the bad days start to add up, it can be overwhelming. It's hard to be at your best when life is weighing on you.
If the sad feelings don't go away after a period of two weeks or more, talking to a psychotherapist might help.
You may be reluctant to ask for help. You may feel you should be able to work out your problems on your own. Therapists are specially trained to guide you through times like these. Think of seeking out a therapist as a sign of strength, not weakness.
Millions of Americans seek professional counseling every year. Talk therapy may be all that's needed to get you back on track if you are experiencing stress, mild depression or anxiety. Talk therapy can be combined with medication to make life's troubles easier to bear for those with more serious problems.
A therapist can listen objectively and give realistic feedback and support. Seeing a therapist for a few visits can improve your outlook and help you on the road to wellness.
What can therapy do?
Therapy can help you:
- Identify problems in your life and understand how to solve or cope with them
- Get an objective assessment of your life challenges, some of which you may not even be aware
- Challenge negative or distorted thinking that makes you feel bad about yourself
- Provide various coping skills to use when under stress in life
- Express emotions without being judged
- Learn how to better interact with the people in your life
- Regain a sense of control over your life
What are some options?
Many different types of professionals provide talk therapy. Psychologists, licensed counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, nurses and other behavioral health professionals may all have different training and degrees. You might want to look for a therapist who is experienced with your issue.
Pay attention to how comfortable you feel with the person and how well the person listens to you and understands you. You may find that you may work with a team of therapists. Some of the professionals will provide individual therapy, some will provide marital or family therapy and others will prescribe and follow your progress on medication.
How can I find a therapist?
The best place to start is with your family doctor. Sometimes medical problems can cause symptoms like those of depression or other mental health issues. Your doctor can do a physical exam and ask about your health history. This could rule out other causes and she or he can refer you to a mental health professional for counseling.
Some employers have employee assistance programs (EAP) that offer counseling services. In many cases, a number of visits are free and confidential. Check with your human resources office to find out if your company has an EAP and how to access it.
Other places you can get referrals:
- Check out your insurance company to find which mental health professionals are covered or in your network.
- Professional groups such as the American Psychological Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) can be helpful. The American Psychiatric Association is another good resource.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a federal agency that offers a 24-hour telephone helpline for mental health referrals. It also provides a resource locator for facilities and programs. It does not provide counseling services.
- Your community or state mental health department may have referrals.
- Talk to family or friends. While getting a referral from family or friends may be a good start, evaluate the professional from your own perspective. A therapist that may work well with one person won't necessarily be a good fit with another. You may want to set up interviews with several therapists to choose the one that will work best for you.
Discussing what's troubling you can be an important step on the road to mental wellness. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you just can't seem to feel better on your own.
Note: If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call your health care professional, 911 or a suicide hotline such as 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or have someone drive you to your nearest emergency department.
Created on 09/21/2004
Updated on 09/10/2013
- National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. What is depression?
- American Psychological Association. Understanding psychotherapy and how it works.
- Helpguide.org. Depression help guide.