How to take the pressure off your decision to seek help.
We all have those wonderful friends. You know, the ones you won’t see for weeks or months, but still make you feel like not a day has passed since your last reunion? Several months ago, a college friend and I finally nailed down a specific date and time to meet. It was a miracle with our hectic lives. As if on the brink of bursting, we collapsed in our café chairs and immediately fell into a familiar routine of chatter.
As we reminisced and chatted, she disclosed several life changes, from a new, less-than-ideal boss to a series of failed, underwhelming dates. She sighed, gazed into her empty tea mug as if its mucky leaves would reveal some mysterious answers, and said, “I’m just really … down.” She sighed again, this time with a laugh and a dismissive shrug. “It’s not so bad most of the time. It’d be nice to talk to someone, I guess, but it’s not like I need therapy. I didn’t get a divorce. I didn’t lose someone close to me. I think I just need to get over it.”
Megha Pulianda is a Ph.D. student in counseling psychology at Texas Woman’s University and a licensed professional counselor intern at The Montfort Group in Plano, Texas. She works with a variety of populations in private practice and has a particular interest in helping young adults in the throes of transition. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Texas, Austin, and a Master's in Counseling from Southern Methodist University.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
My friend felt stuck, and for her, stuck did not warrant therapeutic intervention the way depression or grief would. When did we decide that you’re only allowed to ask for help when you meet a certain criteria? Why can’t we just give ourselves permission to need a helping hand without proving its necessity or apologizing for it?
I want to challenge the unhelpful notion that the perfect time for therapy is when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan and instead posit that therapy is most effective when you’re ready to accept it, however that time may look for you. It might be the moment you start to feel off, and it might be the moment the dust begins to settle. Therapy is not merely a process of releasing, but a productive exchange. We envision old-school free-association, but modern-day therapy does not involve a couch and an old, white-haired man taking notes across the room.
It’s an active, deep, and ongoing conversation requiring a level of insight and balance to adequately reap its benefits. The clarity and emotion regulation you have at this very moment might actually put you in the perfect position for therapy intervention.
Additionally, I want to challenge the idea that a specific event or problem has to bring you into therapy. It could be a recurring theme in your life. It could be a relationship pattern that appears over and over. It could be a funny feeling that just won’t go away. Your therapy process belongs to you, and the best part is that it is a person-to-person exchange happening in real time. So if you find yourself feeling unassertive with your friends, at work, and in your relationship, you can try on a new, assertive approach to interacting with others in a safe space. In other words, therapy can be the perfect laboratory for your own emotional, interpersonal experimentation.