Are My Problems Big Enough to Seek a Therapist?

If you've never been to therapy before, you may have questions about the therapy process and how it works. Maybe you've wondered whether someone can even benefit from seeing a therapist if they don't have a mental health disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD).

Key takeaways:
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    While it’s common to think that someone needs to have a big problem to start therapy, the reality is that almost anyone can benefit from working with a therapist.
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    It’s okay to ask for help and seek the support of a therapist, even if you don’t have a mental health condition.
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    Many people go to therapy for other reasons, such as improving their relationships, reducing stress, or just having a space to process complex emotions.

Although many psychologists and therapists specialize in working with clients who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, many people go to therapy for other reasons, such as improving their relationships, reducing stress, or just having a space to process complex emotions.

In this article, we've outlined everything you should consider before seeking therapy, including several common reasons people might see a psychologist even if they do not have a mental health disorder.

Changing perspectives about therapy

While it’s common to think that someone needs to have a big problem to start therapy, the reality is that almost anyone can benefit from working with a therapist. Many mental health experts recommend going to a therapist just like you might go to a physician or dentist for a yearly check-up. This can help you be in tune with your mental and emotional health, in addition to your physical health.

Another perspective is to think of a therapist as similar to a personal trainer. When you seek a personal trainer, it’s not because something is wrong but because you want external support and expertise to improve something about yourself. A therapist can provide that same kind of support, only for your mind instead of your body.

Reasons why someone might see a psychologist

There are many reasons that someone might decide to see a psychologist when they don’t have a mental health condition.

Stress

Many people come to therapy because they want additional support in coping with their stress. We all experience stress, whether because of a stressful job, family circumstances, stressful life transitions, or just generally feeling like there's too much on your plate. Sometimes you might feel like your stress is manageable or gives you energy; other times, stress levels become too high, and we might seek out unhelpful coping mechanisms, like avoidance. Working with a therapist can help reduce your stress levels and find new and productive ways to cope with stress.

Sleep

Sleep is a foundational aspect of human health and well-being. When our sleep becomes disrupted, it can have a chain reaction effect and throw our minds and bodies into disarray. If your sleep is disrupted, you might work with a physician to see if an underlying medical issue is to blame. You can also work with a therapist to develop good sleep hygiene habits and identify other stressors that might impact your sleep.

Family and relationships

Many people seek therapy to improve something in their relationships with their loved ones. A therapist can provide additional insight and support to these close relationships. For instance, a parent might work with a therapist to develop strategies for better communicating with their teenager. In other cases, a couple might start working with a couple’s therapist to support them in having challenging conversations or for pre-marital counseling.

Transition support

Significant life transitions - such as moving, getting married, having children, changing jobs, and retiring - can impact a person’s day-to-day life. Transitions also increase stress and can create changes in our existing support systems. Working with a therapist is one way to get an added layer of support during transitions.

Skill building

Whether you want to improve your communication skills, increase your self-esteem, or just get more comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, working with a therapist can help you build these skills. Many therapists are trained to support clients in building these kinds of skills through both in-session exercises and real-world practice.

Grief

Losing a loved one can be incredibly challenging. Whether you’ve lost a parent, sibling, friend, grandparent, or even a pet, it’s completely normal to want extra support in coping with your grief. A therapist can help you work through your grief and develop healthy coping mechanisms for your emotions.

Safe space

Your relationship with your therapist is unlike any other relationship in your life. By design, the therapy relationship is entirely one-sided and focuses on you and your needs alone. Many people don’t have another space like this where they can freely process complex thoughts and emotions without judgment. Therapy can be an incredible source of support unlike any other in your life.

Additional factors to consider

If you decide to explore therapy despite not having a mental health condition, there are some things that you will want to consider:

Insurance: In the United States, while many insurance plans include coverage for mental health treatment, insurers also typically require the provider to make a formal diagnosis. Without a diagnosable mental health condition, you might have a more challenging time getting therapy covered by insurance and may have to pay for sessions out-of-pocket.

Setting Goals: Regardless of why you’re seeking therapy, it’s always important to identify clear goals with your therapist. This helps ensure you’re on the same page and allows you to measure progress. For someone with depression or anxiety, a common goal might be to reduce these symptoms, but therapy goals might be less obvious for someone without a mental health condition. Consider what you hope to achieve by seeking therapy and work with your therapist to articulate those goals.

You don’t need to be suffering or at your wit’s end before you decide to go to therapy. You might have thoughts like “I can handle this on my own” or “Other people probably need help more than me.” Instead of carrying on as is and struggling on your own, push yourself to consider how therapy might help make things easier. It’s okay to ask for help and seek the support of a therapist, even if you don’t have a mental health condition.

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