This is not always an easy question to answer. Sometime things are going well, but there certan areas of our lives that seem to need attention. Other times, we believe we need to speak to a professional and take action to do so, but then life seems to feel better and we change our minds. Here are some general questions and guidelines to keep in mind when deciding to seek the services of a professional therapist.
1) Am I feeling sad, anxious or angry more often than not? Everyone has bad days or even low moods that go on for more than a few days. This is part of life and part of being human. The question here is whether your mood is low a majority of the time, and you are not able to figure out why or you cannot seem to help yourself feel better. You feel stuck in tryng to manage your negative emotions.
2) Am I feeling angry a majority of the time? Again, feelngs of anger are normal and expected due to life's frustrations, stressors or disappointments. Is your anger interfering with your career, relationships or personal goals? Do you find yourself gettng angry very easily and over things that previously would not have upset you?
3) Am I making poor decisions in life? Are my choices currently self-defeating or causing me problems? Am I making impulsive decisions, or decisions I regret due to their consequences?
4) Am I self medicating away anxiety or depression with alcohol or drugs? This is an indication that you are not using healthy coping mechanisms.
5) Am I involved with a person who is addicted? Addiction takes many forms, but common addictions include drugs, alcohol, gambling, or pornography. The question here is whether or not YOUR behavior and reactions are beginning to revolve around the addicted person. For instance, I am spending a lot of time trying to get my significant other to stop drinking, or the drinking is starting to impact my own life in a negative way. Am I 'enabling' the addict? Enabling behaviors might include examples such as making excuses for the addict's behaviors or calling him/her in sick to work when they are really experiencing after effects of drinking or drugs.
6) Do I have poor boundaries with others? Am I unable to say 'no' to the point where I am being taken advantage of? Do other people violate my rights? Is there a general lack of assertiveness in my life with other people?
7) Have I experienced a personal loss of some sort? Death of a loved one, loss of a job, relocation, loss of health, and aging are some examples of personal loss. Grieving after a personal loss is a normal, healthy reaction to life's changes, but are you having difficulty navigating these changes?
8) Am I a parent whose child is having difficulty with behavior at home or at school? Am I having a hard time with discipline? Is my child anxious or withdrawn? If you are having trouble in resolving some of these issues on your own, some professional guidance might be helpful.
9) Am I having difficulty in my relationship with my spouse or significant other? Are we arguing too much or unable to resolve conflicts or compromise effectively? Have we fallen into patterns of not speaking, or living disconnected lives? Are we considering ending the relationship? While this is sometimes the best choice for couples, it might be worth exploring with a counselor whether or not you have reached that point in your lives. If we are ending our relationship, how do we do this in the best possible way for our children to move forward?
10) Am I struggling with a major decision in life that is causing me confusion or anxiety? Do I feel like I keep putting off making decisions for fear that I will make the wrong one? Have I been struggling wtih this for a long time?
11) Have I experienced a traumatic event in my life that is still impacting me? Do I have nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts about the event? Are memories of the event interferring with my daily life?
12. Am I experiencing anxiety or panic attacks? Some symptoms include feelings of fear, shaking, nausea, racing mind, feeling a need to escape the situation, fear of dying of having a heart attack, and feelngs of bewilderment. There are other symptoms of anxiety attacks besides these, but this list includes some of the major ones. Sometimes people having an anxiety attack will visit their physician only to be told their symptoms are stress related. In these cases, it is a good idea to visit a counselor for a consultation.