A lot of people wonder whether they should go see a therapist. I personally think that EVERYONE could benefit from going to see a therapist. It can help you think so much clearer and discard any hurtful baggage that you have been carrying around.
What are some signs that I should go to therapy?
1. You want to die or cease to exist
Suicidal thoughts is obviously the first big red flag. If you feel like your life is unbearably hard and you don’t see any way out of it, going to the therapy is a great first step.
2. You are angry at everyone.
If you are angry at everyone around you, it is probably time to see a therapist. I got to a point like this about a year after my son was diagnosed as autistic. For me, life was unbearable. I was jealous of everyone else who wasn’t as miserable as me. I started blaming everyone else for how I felt. I felt like no one cared about me and that everyone else was having a great time. I felt abandoned.
When I first went to therapy, I was scared. I didn’t know what it would be like. But when I left that first session, I felt SO RELIEVED. I felt like I could think clearly for the first time in months. I even felt quite happy and optimistic.
3. You don’t see any way out of your problems.
When I started going to therapy, I felt like there was no way out of my suffering. I didn’t know how to make any of it better. A therapist has a lot of good ideas for how to better cope with your problems. A therapist will be able to help you find some solutions!
This applies to marital problems as well. It’s best to go to therapy early in your marriage so that problems don’t get too big or too rigid. But it’s never too late! Marital therapy is amazing – it can help you discover what you are actually mad about and how you can connect once again to your spouse!
What happens in therapy?
Therapy is a place where you resolve things. You resolve and process things that have hurt you in the past so that they don’t have any more power over you in the future. In therapy you learn how to stop negative thinking or erroneous thinking that is hurting you. A lot of our thoughts are harmful and just not true, but we don’t realize how our thoughts are hurting us until we let someone see those thoughts and say: “That is so not true. Here is how you could change that.”
A therapist will help you think clearer. They will help you feel more positive emotions in your life. A therapist will help you learn how to deal with negative emotions in healthy ways.
In sum, I think everyone could benefit from going to a few therapy sessions!
What about life coaches?
The biggest difference between a therapist and a life coach is their focus. Therapy often focuses on the past – trying to resolve past issues or explain why you act the way you do. Life Coaches focus on the future – achieving goals, accessing motivation, and overcoming obstacles. Therapists are trained to handle really serious cases. Life Coaches are handle people that are functioning well overall but need some help getting to their next best self.
I definitely recommend looking into life coaches as well as therapists. I have seen both at various times.
How do I get my teenager to go to therapy?
So you feel like your teen should go see a therapist. You feel like their depression or anxiety is too much for you and them to handle. But how do you get them to go?
1. Tell them that you (the parent) will start going to therapy too so that you can be a better parent for them.
When teens understand that the problem isn’t just them, they will feel better about getting help. Make sure to emphasize that they are not to blame. Lots of teens struggle with the same things!
2. Tell them that they only have to go ONE time and then if they don’t like it, they don’t have to go any more.
Usually people feel SO good and SO relieved after the first session, that they will naturally want to go again.
3. Ask around and see if any of your teen’s friends go to therapy.
If so, maybe you can get one of their friends to talk about how great therapy is and encourage your teen to go.
4. Explain how great it will be to talk to an unbiased third party.
Also explain the privacy rules. The therapist won’t be tattle telling to the parent. I know some therapists that even take their clients rock climbing. Therapy can be SUPER fun.
5. Use leverage.
“If you go to therapy, then I will pay for your gas this month…” or whatever you want to give them as motivation.
6. If you have other younger children, make therapy a regular occurrence (like a doctor’s checkup).
You can make therapy a natural part of your family’s life so that future teens will think therapy is normal and a great way to keep your mental and emotional health strong.
And if you still can’t get your teen to go to therapy, here is a really good book that will launch your teen towards better mental habits. It’s called The Self Compassion Workbook for Teens and it is backed by a ton of research (1). This is not a replacement for therapy. But my own therapist recommended it and I have found it to be extremely helpful in dealing with depression and anxiety. I would buy one for your teen and one for you as the parent!
Click here to buy the book for teens: The Self Compassion Workbook for Teens
(1) Neff, K. D. (2012). The science of self-compassion. In C. K. Germer & R. D. Siegel (Eds.), Wisdom and compassion in psychotherapy: Deepening mindfulness in clinical practice (p. 79–92). The Guilford Press.
Neff, K. D., Hseih, Y., & Dejitthirat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and Identity, 4, 263-287.
Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and its link to adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139-154.
Neff, K. D., & McGeehee, P. (2010). Self-compassion and psychological resilience among adolescents and young adults. Self and Identity, 9, 225-240
Neff, K. D., & Vonk, R. (2009). Self-compassion versus global self-esteem: Two different ways of relating to oneself. Journal of Personality, 77, 23-50.
Pauley, G., & McPherson, S. (2010). The experience and meaning of compassion and selfcompassion for individuals with depression or anxiety. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 83, 129–143.