When to Visit a Psychologist
There was a time when a visit to a psychologist was considered a taboo subject – one that was spoken in hush-hush voices. There was a stigma attached to mental illness (some people may say there still is) and no one would willingly come out and say that they have a problem. We have come quite a long way since. We have become comfortable with the idea of counselling and psychotherapy. People have started acknowledging that they need not have a mental “disorder” to visit a psychologist.
Nonetheless, there are still a lot of questions that people have. Like: “How can counselling help?” “When to come for therapy?” “How do I know if I need help?” “I have a friend who was bereaved recently… How can I persuade her to visit a psychologist?” And so on… I will try to answer some of them here.
Why should a Person Seek Help?
Any person who has been feeling frustrated or depressed all the time needs help from a psychologist, because he or she is unable to cope with the problem alone.
Psychologists generally provide counselling and psychotherapy for stress, anxiety, depression, mania, trauma, PTSD, sexual, physical and emotional abuse; neglect and domestic violence; health issues, family problems, relationship or interpersonal problems, body-image, addiction (substance abuse and withdrawal), eating disorders, anger management, pain management, bullying, behaviour problems, personality disorders, and so on.
The person may not have serious mental problems; however, he or she may require a little help to sort out emotional issues. Emotions can blind a person from seeing the larger picture and he or she is therefore unable to find an effective solution. A psychologist can appraise the situation objectively. Furthermore, the psychologist is also trained in effective techniques for understanding the physiological, cognitive, and emotional aspects behind the symptoms and therefore can help to resolve the maladaptive emotions and achieve transformation.
Today, we lead a stressful life in a world where there is an emphasis on materialism and instant gratification. Many people get disenchanted by their superficial existence and want to come out of these issues and get a second chance to a healthy, spiritual, and meaningful life. In this pursuit, they may try to get rid of their unhappiness by diving head-first into work, entertainment, or addictions; but all these indulgences only serve to increase their disenchantment. Counselling and psychotherapy can help to zero in on the root cause of the unhappiness and thereby provide an effective solution.
How to Recognize if You Need Professional Help?
Most people have what is called an “internal thermometer” that tells them something is wrong. For others, family and friends can generally discern that their loved one is having some problem. Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself to identify if you have a situation that needs professional attention.
– Am I sad most of the time?
– Am I having difficulty dealing with past troubles or memories?
– Am I having trouble sleeping or eating?
– Is there a problem that preys on my mind so much that I think about it all the time?
– Is this situation affecting my studies, work, or relationships?
– Do I often get irritated with the people I am close to?
– Do I lose my temper frequently?
– Have I lost interest in things that I previously enjoyed?
– Have I been drinking a lot lately?
– Have I started using drugs?
– Do I sometimes think suicide is an option?
– Do I have disturbing thoughts that I can’t control?
– Am I hallucinating?
If you answer “YES” to one or more of the above questions, then you should consider visiting a psychologist.
Why People May Refuse Psychotherapy
“I have been moody lately, so what? Nothing I can’t handle!” – So, you have been suggesting to your friend or partner to visit a psychologist, but you were rebuffed saying it is nothing to get worried about. Your loved one may be having difficulty accepting that he or she has a problem in the first place. Unfortunately, putting off getting professional help could worsen the existing psychological condition. Consequently, this state of denial could prolong the treatment when the person eventually decides to get help.
A person may avoid seeking psychological help for many reasons:
– On top of the list is the fear of being labelled “mad”. Despite growing awareness among people that there is no stigma to seeking psychological help, many still shy away from treatment.
– In many instances, people refrain from acknowledging their troubled state of mind until it gets out of hand. Every person is afraid to face the truth about the ‘dark side’ of their personality which they may have to encounter.
– The person could also be afraid of what their family or friends would say if they found out that he or she is undertaking counselling and psychotherapy from a psychologist.
– Many are ashamed of talking about their problem to a psychologist. They feel vulnerable and are reluctant to open up to a stranger. Some even wonder if the psychologist would keep their secrets. Others may think that no one – not even the psychologist – can really help them. Still others may have fears about becoming dependent on the psychologist.
A troubled person fears being alienated. Hence, it is vital for friends and family to provide the necessary emotional support in order that the person is able to acknowledge that he or she needs psychological help. Moving out of denial and acknowledging the problem is the first step in therapy. With reassurances and encouragement from loved ones, the person will surely agree to consider psychotherapy.
Whom to Go for a Psychotherapy Consultation?
Some of my clients have told me that they were confused as to whom to approach for their problem: a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Both treat a wide range of psychological problems and both can practice psychotherapy. So, what is the difference?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who after getting his/her MD goes on to specialize in mental health. As medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
A psychologist, on the other hand is an academic who has a PhD in Psychology. More than psychiatrists, psychologists tend to use a variety of personality tests as well as psychological and neuropsychological (assessing the brain for damage) tests to understand a client’s problem thoroughly. A psychologist, should the need arise, can refer the client to a psychiatrist for prescribing medication.
Each is good at what he or she does. So, how to decide? When you are looking for a therapist, ask for the kind of training and experience the practitioner has. This will help you make the right choice.
At the Centre for Emotion Focused Practice, we have a team of psychologists, counsellors, and social workers (yes – another type of therapist – one who has a master’s in social work and can practice psychotherapy) who all work together to give their best for their patients. When a person comes for an initial consult, it is determined which psychologist or therapist is best suited for the client’s needs.