Understanding Mental Health: The “When” of Psychotherapy

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 30 million Americans need professional intervention in dealing with debilitating circumstances beyond their control�marriage problems, family discord, death of a loved one, job loss, depression, stress, and additions. These overwhelming situations often call for the help of a trained, licensed mental health professional.

This is obviously my passion! There is not greater gift to give yourself than an opportunity to work with a therapist outside your family or social circle who can assist you through the tough times so that you can immerse yourself back into life, again, without worrying what you disclosed. You did a beautiful job spelling out some of the main circumstances that more than one-third of us will experience in our adult lives- now let’s look at some of the profound reactions to those circumstances that require professional intervention:The “When” of Mental Health Intervention:

� Overwhelming, prolonged sadness & helplessness (lack of hope)
ââ?¬Â¢ Inability to perform daily tasks (can’t concentrate, poor job performance or hygiene)
� Excessive worry ~ always on edge (expect the worse)
� Harmful actions to self or others (drug/alcohol abuse; aggressive and argumentative)
ââ?¬Â¢ Troubled by another’s emotional difficulties

Research continues to support the fact that emotional and physical health are very closely linked and that therapy can improve a person’s overall health status. Therapy effectively decreases clients’ depression, anxiety, and related symptoms like pain, fatigue, and nausea. It has also been found to increases survival time for heart surgery and cancer patients, as well as have a positive effect on the body’s immune system.

There is convincing evidence that those with emotional struggles who have at least several sessions of psychotherapy are far better off that untreated individuals. One major study showed that 50% of clients noticeably improved after 8 sessions while 75% of individuals ion therapy improved by the end of 6 months.

When it comes to psychotherapy for children, that’s a difficult question for parents to answer, “Does my child need to see a counselor or psychologist?” When it comes to children, it’s important to answer when they should see a school counselor, versus a psychologist versus a medical doctor or psychiatrist.

When to Consult School Counselor:
Failing grades
Unhappy in school
Unwilling to talk
Grieving a loss

When to Consult Professional Counselor:
Threatens to harm self or others

Shows anger/withdraws
Challenges authority/breaks rules
Displays on-going emotional reactions

When to Consult Medical Doctor:
Attempts suicide
Overdoses/misuses drugs
Injures self or others
Reports illness amidst wellness
Displays unusual physical/emotional signs

Psychotherapy is a two-way process. The number one complaint I hear from clients who have seen previous therapists is that the professional didn’t say anything! They just nodded and agreed. Clients want feedback! Therapy is most effective when both client and therapist agree to communicate openly. Both sides have a responsibility to the other to establish and maintain a good working relationship. Be clear with your therapists about your expectations, come prepared with what you want to accomplish during that particular session, and share concerns as they arise. Most importantly, show up! Even when you don’t feel like it! (Especially when you don’t feel like it!)

Therapy is often a life-lab. What I mean by that is that it’s a “repeat and replay” of what is happening in one’s world. If one tends to be easily offended by comments from family and friends, it’s only a matter of time before I, too, as the supposedly safe therapist, becomes yet another offender. If a client can hang in there through the pain and discomfort the greatest healing can take place within the container of therapy through the inevitable transference and countertransference.

After several sessions review with your therapist the goals you’ve established. I often ask a client, “How are we doing here? Are we going the right direction?” The duration of therapy’s determined by your success in reaching your primary goals – it does not need to be long-term.

Expect to go through a wide variety of emotions during psychotherapy. They are a positive sign that you are willing to explore some very painful thoughts and behaviors. While psychotherapy isn’t easy, if you are willing to work hard in close partnership with your therapist, you will find relief from emotional distress and begin to lead a more satisfying and productive life!

Bottom line: It takes hard work to be strong and it takes hard work to be miserable; the effort is the same!