There is no simple set of rules or signs to dictate when a person needs therapy. Some people prefer solving issues alone, while others prefer seeking help. Either way, talking is good, and if a person feels as though they are struggling with their mental health, therapy could be worth exploring.
Everyone faces mental challenges in their lives. There are many possible causes, including stress at work, financial worries, grief, relationship problems, and various other pressures from a combination of personal and societal factors.
Sometimes, individuals can manage these issues on their own or with help from their existing support networks. However, there are times when a person may find it really useful to speak to someone outside of their “usual circle.”
People who feel as though they need more support or professional support — whether it is to help them deal with immense trauma or simply make their day-to-day existence feel more manageable — can often find this through therapy. Asking themselves whether they need therapy is neither something to be ashamed of nor a sign of “giving in.”
However, it is a sign that a person should take action. Just because life is not easy does not mean that people need to face its hardships alone.
Keep reading to learn more about signs that may indicate that a person could benefit from therapy.
Many people can benefit from therapy. A person does not have to be hearing voices or considering suicide to seek help.
In fact, it is better to start therapy before things begin to feel unmanageable.
For a person to determine whether they might need therapy, the American Psychological Association (APA) suggest considering these questions:
- Is the issue interfering with quality of life?
- Have changes in daily activities been necessary to cope with the issue?
- Has the issue had adverse effects on relationships, work, or school?
- changes in sleep habits
- an overpowering sadness that does not go away
- excessive, nonstop worrying
- difficulty focusing
- self-harm behaviors, such as drinking too much
That said, even if a person just has internal struggles that they want to discuss and does not feel comfortable opening up about them to friends and family, seeking therapy could be a great option.
There are many different forms of therapy. Depending on a person’s issues, concerns, and personal tastes, they may respond better to one form than another. The coverage limitations of a person’s insurance policy may also affect their choice of treatment.
Common approaches include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Research has shown this form of treatment to be effective for people with depression, anxiety, and other conditions with varying degrees of impact on an individual’s life. CBT focuses on identifying and changing counterproductive ways of thinking.
This therapy, which providers typically use to help people experiencing depression, focuses on helping individuals understand and improve how they interact with other people.
Learn more about various types of therapy, including interpersonal therapy.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
EMDR pairs back-and-forth eye movements with the recall of traumatic experiences to help individuals change how they respond to painful memories. It can be helpful for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Learn more about EMDR therapy here.
Therapists commonly use this approach for people with phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and PTSD, as it can help them identify their triggers. They also learn to develop strategies for dealing with these triggers, which they practice using in a controlled environment.
Learn more about exposure therapy here.
In this form of talk therapy, which can help people with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and other mental illnesses, a therapist helps the individual see how their unresolved past experiences relate to their current negative behaviors and thought patterns. This understanding can prompt and support positive change.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
This practice is suitable for younger children, including those with autism spectrum disorder. It aims to reinforce effective social behavior using a reward system.
There are numerous other forms of therapy that people may also wish to try, including art therapy, group therapy, and animal therapy.
Mental health issues are very common, affecting nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States.
Seeking help for problems that affect so many should not be stigmatized, and the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) make several recommendations to reduce stigma:
- Be open about mental health problems and do so respectfully by using words carefully.
- Learn as much as possible about mental health issues and share the knowledge.
- Treat people with mental illness with compassion.
- Speak openly about seeking and receiving treatment.
Naturally, this is easier said than done, but the stigma around mental health has vastly decreased in recent years, and it will hopefully continue to do so.
People who need help from a mental health professional sometimes need encouragement from a friend or family member to seek it. NAMI suggest:
- being clear about being on the person’s side
- having the conversation at a time and in a place where the individual feels comfortable and not exposed
- being ready to press the point and give specific reasons why therapy is necessary
- offering support in practical ways, such as by volunteering to look for therapists or going with them to appointments
People with mental health issues do not need to choose between medication and therapy. Many people use both treatments to address their mental health condition.
Medications treat symptoms, while therapy aims to help people learn new ways of dealing with situations or engaging with others. What is best for a particular person will depend on:
- the particular condition — for example, depression vs. schizophrenia
- their age
- their personal preferences and willingness to stick with whatever treatment they choose
The APA note some general recommendations for specific conditions:
- Depression: The combination of therapy and medication may be more effective than either alone.
- Anxiety: Therapy may be more effective than medication, although both can work.
- Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia: Medication is typically required.
- Social, relationship, and parenting issues: Therapy is often the first recommendation, ahead of medication.
The Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology note that CBT can help children and young people with a range of issues, including more mild forms of OCD and depression. However, they say that medication may work more quickly and be a better option for more severe illnesses.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Mental health problems are common and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
There is no simple answer to the question, “Do I need therapy?” If a person who is struggling mentally, whatever the circumstances, feels as though talking to someone may help, trying therapy could be a great step toward improving their mental health.
Treatment can help, but that does not mean that taking the step to see a therapist is always easy. Individuals may need to address their own reluctance, as well as concerns about the stigma of seeing a therapist.
It is important that people select the style of therapy that is best for them and their condition. Support from family and friends can help individuals get the help that they need.