Should I get counseling or psychotherapy?

If you are stuck and unhappy in your life, or in some area of your life, the simple answer is “yes.” Just a few sessions with a well-trained, skilled and kind professional might be all you need to get “unstuck” and move on with your life.

“But I like to work things out for myself. How could a stranger possibly help me?”

Of course it would be great to be able to work things out for yourself – most people feel the way you do about that. But, I’m assuming that you have already tried to do it on your own. It is not a failure for you if you haven’t been able to do it yet (see below).

A stranger who is also a skilled mental health professional brings an important set of “tools” with which to help you:

  1. Objectivity – Your psychologist can see your problem more clearly than you can, because she is not involved in the situation herself. Clients in counseling often get helpful new insights right away just by hearing an outsider’s perspective. Psychologists often hear, “I never thought of it that way before!”
  2. Knowledge – Psychologists (and other mental health professionals) know about normal human development, about how healthy babies grow into healthy children, adolescents, adults and seniors. They know what has to happen for a person to grow and change and be successful in life. They also know the many things than can go wrong, often with the best of intentions on the part of parents, and how these negative situations can cause pain and problems later in life. Psychologists also know what kinds of feelings, thoughts and behaviors lead to all kinds of good relationships – parent/child, spouses and lovers, friendships, extended family, and work relationships. It is usually easy for a psychologist to see what is going on that may have lead to trouble.
  3. Compassion – All human beings share many of the same hopes, fears, desires and other feelings. Most of us are doing the best we can in our situations. A good mental health clinician will start with kind and positive expectations of you, and, because of his own life experience, including troubles of various kinds, will likely have an ongoing underlying compassion for you and want to help you, even if you don’t see yourself as a friendly or likable person. Most capable mental health professionals view all human beings as inherently precious and valuable.

So, the longer answer to, “Should I get counseling or psychotherapy?” is “Yes, if you want the best chance possible of changing your life for the better as soon as you can.”

Dr. Alaire Lowry

Dr. Alaire Lowry

A board-certified psychologist providing individual, couple and group therapy for adults. She also works with adolescents and families.

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