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When should I see a Psychologist or Counselor?

Why now?

One of the first questions I ask people who come to see me at their first appointment, is “why now?”. Often people struggle for a long time before they seek professional support. And sometimes there is a clear event that leads people to make an appointment. But one thing is pretty constant – there is usually a trigger. 

I’m always interested to know what it is that drives a person to see a psychologist or counselor now. This helps me think about the person’s motivation and the extent to which the issues are impacting on the person in front of me and their family. It also helps me to know what’s stopped people seeking professional support thus far.

Other people.

Sometimes the trigger is a friend or loved one having a serious word with us, making us aware of what we already knew – that we’re not ourselves, or not our best selves anyway. Perhaps your struggles have been impacting on your family as well as yourself and one of your most treasured people lets you know that this is the case. This can be hard to hear and often helps people decide to see a professional.

Rock bottom.

Sometimes things need to get to rock bottom to prompt people to take action. This seems a shame. It’s good that this low point then served as a catalyst for change, but a shame that things had to get so bad before they felt able to make that appointment.

Usual strategies aren’t working.

Perhaps you’ve made some good changes yourself, putting your usual coping mechanisms back in place and you’ve got as far as you can on your own and there is further progress to be made. 

But when should people see a psychologist or counselor?

I always say people should see someone when they notice that things aren’t quite right. 

Early indications that things aren’t quite right include:

  • Perhaps you haven’t been able to enjoy things as much as usual, or you notice your mood has been consistently low for a couple of weeks.
  • Increased worries that are difficult to control.
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficult getting to sleep or staying asleep, or sleeping more than usual
  • Increased irritability
  • Troublesome thoughts or images that repeatedly come into your mind.

You know yourself.

If you haven’t been yourself for a couple of weeks, I would recommend seeing someone straight away. If problems haven’t resolved themselves within a couple of weeks, it is likely that professional support is necessary. It may be the case that your psychologist or counselor points you in the direction of some self-help material, which may be perfectly sufficient to help you get things back on track. And it may be that a course of therapy might be necessary. Whichever course of action you take, take it sooner rather than later.

Sooner the better but it’s never too late.

The sooner you see a psychologist or counselor, the quicker it is for us to help you resolve your problems. That said, it’s never too late. I see people who have been struggling for 50 years with issues and seeing them reach a healthy resolution is one of the many things I love about what I do. But why wait?

You don’t have to know what’s wrong – that’s my job. All you need to know is that something isn’t right.

 

Dr. Marie Thompson, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director, Vivamus.

 

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