Should I start therapy and will it help me?
Dr Sheri Jacobson, the creator of therapy booking platform harleytherapy.com and presenter of podcast Therapy Lab, provides her expert tips and advice if you’re thinking about starting therapy.
Talking therapy has begun to shed its stigma, as more and more people engage in conversation about how therapy has helped them. There isn’t an exact list of issues that need to be ticked in order to seek support; there are many relevant reasons to find a therapist, all equally valid and important.
However, often the myth that you have to feel terrible and reach crisis point in order to benefit from therapy still persists. Unfortunately, this means that many of us miss out on the help we could use to transform our lives for the better. Studies have shown that many of us only get treatment for our mental health when at crisis point. In the same way that treating cancer early is more effective, finding the help you need quickly is crucially important to effectively treat mental health issues before they become more serious.
So how can you work out if you should start therapy? You might want to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like myself lately? Or is it harder to manage daily life and enjoy the activities I used to?
Perhaps you notice that life feels challenging in many areas. This might be finding it more difficult to get out of bed in the morning or taking part in the daily activities you used to. Maybe you feel tired all of the time or have lost the energy or impetus to contact your friends or family. Losing interest in activities we enjoy and feeling consistently in a low mood are just a few of the signs associated with depression.
If you have checked that your symptoms are not due to physical issues with your GP, it might be time to look for psychological support, such as finding a therapist. Therapy gives you the tools to manage better before reaching a crisis point.
- Do I feel that I am being the person I am supposed to be, instead of who I truly am?
Maybe you feel that you are not doing what you want to do, or that you are pretending to be somebody you are not. Feeling authentic and being one’s true self can be difficult in this day and age, as we feel external pressure to think, behave or act in a certain way to be happy. Therapy can help us to connect with our true selves, to understand what we really want and to live more easily on our own terms.
- Do I have someone trustworthy and impartial I can talk to?
Sometimes it is difficult to talk to people close to us about how we are feeling, simply because those that care about us are emotionally invested in our decisions, too. Perhaps you feel you need more support at this time in your life. Maybe it seems like those close to you want you to remain a certain way, but you feel you need to grow and change.
A therapist provides a safe, non-biased space for you to share and help you to find answers that work for you.
- Is there a big decision I am struggling to make?
If it is hard to make an important decision in life, be it about your relationships, career or family, seeing a therapist can be very helpful. By listening carefully and impartially, therapists can help you to see your challenges from a new perspective so that you can more easily decide what is best for you.
- Am I worrying more?
If you find that you are worrying more about life events than usual and this is making daily life more difficult or that your worries seem less logical, this could be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety is very treatable and is best treated as soon as possible, to lower the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
- Do I have a habit or addiction that causes me feeling of shame or interferes negatively with my daily life or relationships?
Whether you find that you are overeating, overworking, overspending or you are worried about your relationship with alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex, there are many activities that can become forms of addiction, affecting your life and self-esteem negatively. If you are suffering from an addition of any sort, seek help as soon as possible.
- Do I feel worthless or lack self-esteem?
Low self-esteem is a major cause of suffering and feeling worthless can impact your life in many ways. Therapy helps to improve self-esteem and to improve your feelings about yourself so that you can find more contentment in life.
- Do I feel that my relationships could be better?
Often issues surface within the context of relationships. It certainly doesn’t have to be just your romantic life that brings you to therapy. A therapist can also help you understand why you might be choosing friendships that don’t make you happy or why you can’t connect with your family or children as you would like to.
If your social life seems fine but you just are struggling to maintain a romantic relationship long term, a therapist can help you to identify and understand your blocks to intimacy.
- Do I keep making choices that are self-defeating?
Have you ever felt that no matter how many times you tell yourself that ‘I won’t do that again’, when it comes to a certain damaging behaviour, you seem to keep doing it? There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you have made similar choices in the past and sworn against making these again, only to find that you are unable to stop.
Damaging behaviours are often connected to deep-seated beliefs we have about ourselves that are secretly running the show. Therapy helps you not only recognise these core beliefs but find ways to change them so that you are freer to make better decisions.
- Do I feel like I am stuck in a rut?
You might be feeling trapped or stuck and frustrated. Perhaps you can’t seem to find satisfaction and enjoyment in life. Therapy can help to get to the root of the causes of these issues. It can also help you know yourself better so that you can better know what you want next.
- Are my emotions becoming more out of control?
If you are finding that your emotional responses to certain situations seem out of proportion to what has caused them, this might indicate that there are deeper emotions being triggered. These emotions might be the residue of experiences you have had in your past that you have not examined or healed. A therapist creates a safe environment and a support system for you to begin to unpack and finally deal with repressed emotions and experiences.
- Do I want to truly understand why I think, act and feel the way I do?
Sometimes, while it might seem easy to understand others, being able to objectively reflect and understand ourselves is more difficult. We might not be admitting to the weaknesses we feel we have, and we might not be acknowledging our strengths either. Perhaps we have ‘blind spots’ that aren’t obvious to ourselves. A therapist can help us to reflect on and understand ourselves in an entirely new way, which makes therapy an incomparable opportunity to get to know yourself.
I recognise a few of these issues, but will therapy really help me?
Therapists are trained to work with non-judgmentally with a variety of people and issues. If you feel that you would like to find a specialist for certain issues, you can use a website like harleytherapy.com to filter therapists by the issues they specialise in working with.
Most people feel some relief from their issues having spoken to a therapist. Long term, some individuals find that after therapy that their lives feel transformed and their relationships have changed for the better. By getting to know our internal worlds in this way can help us to improve our relationships and meet our potential.
Sometimes, whether therapy will help may depend on our expectations. It is impossible to be happy all of the time, but therapy can be beneficial to boost one’s resilience and sense of wellbeing in the face of the challenges and ups and downs that are inevitable in life. You can watch my video on how therapy helps here.
To book a session with a qualified therapist, psychologist or counsellor from as little as £25, you can find a therapist to talk to online or in person near you at harleytherapy.com today.
About Dr Sheri Jacobson
Sheri worked as a psychotherapist within charities and the NHS for a number of years before starting London’s largest group of psychotherapy clinics, Harley Therapy, in 2005. Sheri started the therapy booking platform harleytherapy.com to make finding and booking counselling with a qualified therapist simple and straightforward, anywhere in the UK and online via video chat. Described as the Air BnB for mental health support, the site has won multiple awards, including Best Health Care Website 2018. Sheri presents the podcast TherapyLab, in which she explores inspirational individual’s insights into therapy, mental health and wellbeing.
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