I keep hearing a similar story too often. Someone goes to repeated appointments, has multiple tests, sees different doctors until finally someone talks with them about their mental and emotional health. Culturally, we forget or discount that our mental and emotional health impacts our physical health. If you feel sick to your stomach then the problem is in your stomach, right? It’s worth reiterating about what mental health problems feel like physically.
- constantly tired
- no energy
- trouble sleeping
- trouble staying asleep
- physical pain or soreness
- lack of sexual desire, decrease in sexual performance
- weight changes, changes in eating habits
- trouble focusing, poor concentration
- nausea/stomach pain (upset stomach in children)
- IBS symptoms
- sore muscles, back or neck pain
- weight changes, changes in eating habits
- jaw pain, grinding teeth
- heart palpitations, feel like you are having a heart attack
- feel like you are going to die
- light-headed/dizzy, fainting
- can’t catch your breath
It’s important to note that you are not making up your physical symptoms or just not being ‘tough enough’. For example, most people genuinely thought they were having a heart attack or are dying when they have their first panic attack. Physically, your heart is racing, you can’t catch your breath, and you are about to pass out. You aren’t making that up and simply calming down isn’t an option. Mental health issues are medical problems because it effects the whole body.
Certainty these symptoms can have purely physical origins. If the root is emotional or mental though, medications will only treat the symptoms and will not change the underlying condition. Therapy is needed to ultimately resolve these symptoms. Hopefully, we will all get better at recognizing and treating the actual problem.
With new year in full force, you might have considered whether counseling should be part of your new year’s resolutions. Many people question whether they should go or if therapy will help.
Here are some questions to hep you decide what is right for you:
- How long have you been trying to stop, change or struggle with the issue?
- If its been longer than a few months, then you have likely tried all that you know to do to solve it and counseling could likely help.
- How many times have you tried to stop or change what is happening with limited to no success?
- More than 2 previous attempts might indicate outside help is needed.
- Have other people mentioned that you should get counseling?
- As much as we don’t want to admit it, sometimes others can see issues in our life better than we can.
- Have you thought that you should go and then talked yourself out of it?
- Call and make an appointment before the change your mind again.
- What will this year be like if things don’t change?
- Don’t risk things getting worse!
- How often is this problem an issue and how severe is it when it is?
- If it is a weekly problem or if it totally disrupts your life and your day when it happens, counseling is likely indicated.
- Have you thought that you should go?
In short, if you are questioning whether to go or not I would recommend going. If you are unsure, commit to yourself to go for about 4 sessions to see if it helps. If people come in early, often they can experience a lot of relief in just a few sessions. Usually, the longer you wait the worse the problem gets and more intensive work will be needed (although its never too late).
2014 is a great year make changes.
Finding the Right Therapist for You
You decided its time to talk to someone and now you have to find that person. You might start with googling “therapist okc”, asking some friends, or getting names from you insurance company. But how do you choose?
In my first phone conversation with people, they often say that they don’t know what to do or what to ask. If I were looking for a therapist or helping someone find a therapist, here are some things that I would do.
First, know that not all therapists work the same. If you need a doctor for a sinus infection, your treatment should be pretty standard no matter what doctor you chose. If you need a therapist for anxiety, your treatment could be very different depending on whom you chose.
Generally, your mental health providers include:
- psychiatrists – medical doctors who prescribe medication and most likely not do talk-therapy
- psychologists – PhDs who focus on assessment and diagnosis of mental health issues and may provide some direct treatment or more likely will refer you to different treatment options
- therapists/counselors – master’s level clinicians with differing areas of training and treatment approaches
- LMFT – licensed marriage and family therapist
- LPC – licensed professional counselor
- LCSW – licensed clinician social worker
- LADC – licensed drug and alcohol counselor
Now some questions to ask a potential therapist on the phone or in your first session:
- Do you have experience treating this issue?
- What is your typical approach to this problem?
- How long would you estimate treatment to last?
- Are you comfortable working with specific issues of my faith, culture, etc.?
- Ask any question that you think may be important.
These answers will hopefully help you start to determine if a therapist is a good fit for you. If on the phone or after one or two sessions, you are not feeling comfortable or something isn’t working well, raise the issue with your therapist. A good therapist will be very open to hearing your concerns and work to correct the issue. If the problem isn’t remedied, don’t stop therapy all together but feel free to find another therapist.
Research on therapy has repeatedly shown that one of the biggest factors to positive change is the client-therapist relationship. How well you fit with your therapist is critical. When it works, you feel comfortable, you believe that your therapist understands and knows how to help, and you can see positive changes happening or on the horizon. Don’t settle for anything less.
**Side note for parents**.
For teenagers: Often parents are in the situation of “dragging” a teenager to counseling. This is fine initially. Talk with your therapist about their approach to this situation. Often teens don’t want to come initially but can buy in after a few sessions. If the struggle continues, you might consider if it is a good fit or if there is more productive work you can do with the therapist to help your teen.
For children. Therapy with children is very different from working with adults. To ensure that your child has a good experience with therapy choose someone who utilizes play approaches (i.e. child-centered play, story telling, games, puppets, drawing) as the main mode of treatment instead of just sitting and talking.