ABCs of Mental Health Care

Seeking Help

print Do I Need Therapy?

Psychotherapy can be of benefit to people with a wide range of problems, from depression to marital strife to simple phobias (e.g., fear of flying). A list of common reasons for seeking therapy is listed below:

Significant or chronic emotional distress

The most common reason people seek therapy (or any professional treatment, for that matter) is pain or distress. All of us experience emotional pain in our lives. it is part of being human. But sometimes this distress is severe or long-standing, and impairs our daily lives. If you feel emotional distress (e.g., sadness, anxiety, grief) that is persistent and troubling, then therapy might be appropriate for you.

Relationship problems

Often, our emotional distress comes from difficulty in relationships with others. Troubled relationships may be with a spouse, parent, child, coworker or significant other. Therapy can be valuable in helping you understand the root of the problem and provide you with the tools you need to correct it.

Skills acquisition

Some emotional distress or relationship problems are associated with the lack of a particular skill. Such problems can include excessive shyness, poor communication, and lack of assertiveness or poor anger control. Many types of psychotherapy enable people to acquire or improve these skills. In these cases, the treatment focuses on teaching the person to be able to do what he needs to feel better.

Sexual problems

Sexual dissatisfaction and dysfunction are common problems that can be embarrassing to talk about. Over the last several decades, therapists have made substantial progress in helping people obtain the most enjoyment out of their sexual functioning.

Recent loss

One of the things that make us uniquely human is the power of our attachments to others. Experiencing a break in these attachments through death or separation can result in great emotional pain. Psychotherapy can be useful in coping with the loss.

Victim of trauma or abuse

Being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, or another form of violence (e.g., being in an automobile accident) can overwhelm one's ability to cope and leave a scar that impairs the ability to live a normal life. Psychotherapy can provide a confidential arena for discussing these issues with a caring, supportive person. The emphasis is on healing the wound caused by the trauma and moving forward with your life.

A clinical disorder or condition

Persons with certain disorders or conditions can benefit from an overall treatment plan, which includes psychotherapy and other forms of treatment, such as medication. For example, research shows that individuals with conditions such as major depression or bipolar disorder benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and medication. One type of treatment without the other might produce inferior results.

Personal growth

Although you might not have a clinical condition or symptoms, psychotherapy can help you learn more about yourself and others and control your life more effectively. It can help you overcome obstacles that have kept you from reaching your goals and becoming the person you want to be.

Michael Herkov, PhD
© 2000 by University of Florida Brain Institute


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