Updated: Feb 21, 2021
Therapy can help with many difficult life problems and in many cases, people find it easier to confide in a stranger, as opposed to a family member or friend. During talking therapy, a trained counsellor or therapist listens to you and helps you find your own answers to problems, without judging you or imposing their own opinions.
There are some situations in which you should definitely consider therapy: When your mental wellbeing has the possibility of causing physical harm to yourself or others (e.g. if you are suicidal, self-harming, in danger of harming others)
When your thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours are holding you back from engaging in your day-to-day life the way you usually would (e.g. problems sleeping, intrusive thoughts, overwhelming grief, avoidance)
When you are going through a particularly difficult life event (e.g. bereavement, separation)
Below are ten ways in which therapy can help you.
1. Therapy can encourage self-awareness and reflection
A good therapist will look for patterns in your way of thinking, working and relating with others. Your therapist will facilitate a deeper exploration of your thoughts and feelings, beyond surface level, which will help you get to know yourself. Through therapy, you’ll be able to learn to do this for yourself and will become more aware of how you function in future encounters. Your ability to observe your thoughts, feelings, decisions, relationships, roles, beliefs and desires in counselling will help you to build self-awareness.
2. Therapy helps us gain perspective on other people
Therapy can help us realise our unconscious assumptions about other people so that it becomes easier to understand other people's intentions and motivations.
3. Therapy can help us learn assertiveness
A lot of people come to therapy with confidence or self-esteem issues. Therapy can help to build our self-esteem and self-belief, which in turn gives us the confidence to be assertive. Therapy can help identify beliefs and attitudes that may lead us to feel unable to be assertive about our own needs. Do you end up saying 'yes' to everybody but yourself, then feel guilty, tired or resentful afterwards? You can learn how to express your needs without being passive, passive-aggressive or aggressive. Therapy can also provide you with a safe space to practice being assertive, and help you to realise its not selfish to take account of your own needs.
4. Therapy can help us deal with life’s curve-balls
Therapy is not just for people in crisis, but can also be preventative. Therapy can help us to prepare for future problems and build positive habits to cultivate our emotional wellbeing. helps us learn healthy and effective ways of managing problems and conflicts with others.
5. Therapy can help us manage our feelings
It might be a cliché, but yes, therapy does involve talking about your thoughts and feelings.And yes, it does help to talk! It can be very healing to voice your worries and fears out loud, to someone who has probably heard it all before, and who has the professional training and skills to help. You don't have to be positive all the time, or 'keep calm and carry on'. Repressed emotions can linger and fester. Bottling things up can lead to stress, anxiety, insomnia as well as physical health problems too, such as muscle pain, tension, digestive problems and nausea. Instead, try to acknowledge the emotion, confront its cause then own your response. Therapists are professionally trained experts who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. Therapy helps us become aware of our feelings which helps unto manage them, take action or put them to rest.
6. Therapy can help identify and modify negative thought patterns
When we hold negative thoughts in without processing them, they become ingrained so that we see the world through that lens – and we make lots of assumptions that may or may not be true. If you do something wrong, does it make you think you're a bad person (as opposed to thinking 'I've done something bad'?) If a friend doesn't reply to a message, do you worry that you've done something wrong and they are upset with you and don't want to speak with you? This is called 'catastrophising'. Therapy provides an opportunity to look at things in a different way. It can help you identify any recurrent triggers and can teach you how to catch unhelpful thoughts and challenge them.
7. Therapy can help rewire your brain
Therapy doesn't just help us emotionally, but it also helps us cognitively. With brain imaging methods, trauma can the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. This means that trauma can impact our threat/detection response (commonly known as 'fight', 'flight' or 'freeze') and in emotional regulation.This is what leads to common symptoms of PTSD, such as hyper vigilance, decreased positive emotionality, increased anger and increased reactive anger and impulsivity. These affects on your brain functioning don't mean that you are stuck with these symptoms forever. Rather, it'll hopefully show you that what you're experiencing isn't your fault.
The good news also is that counselling has been shown to alter activity in the areas of the brain that are responsible for our emotion, fear, executive control and self-referential thoughts (i.e. our “me”-centered worry thoughts), executive control, emotion, and fear. (e.g. the hippocampus, the amygdala, the medial prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex).
You can see more current research on therapy and brain functioning below:
8. Therapy can help our relationships
Therapy can help our relationships by helping us figure out how to relate to one another. It can help us get more in touch with our feelings, and our wants and needs. It can help us with communication, assertiveness and boundaries - all aspects of healthy relationships.
Therapy can also help us understand our childhood family dynamics - the roles we played, or were cast in, in our families and our relationships with our parents. These can all unconsciously impact our patterns of relating and consequently our current relationships.
It's a myth that couples or families have to be in crisis to attend therapy. Therapy can help us understand one another better, and help prevent conflicts before they develop.
9. Therapy can help our families
Going to therapy is something that should be celebrated. It helps us to become more open to our feelings. By modelling our willingness to talk about and process our feelings, we can help our children to learn that it’s okay to talk.
Intergenerational trauma refers to trauma that may have happened generations ago, but continues to have a ripple effect on the family today. For example, someone who may have had an alcoholic or abusive parent who has not processed their trauma may unintentionally end up repeated the pattern, as does their children, and so on. Intergenerational trauma can lead to unhealthy coping behaviour, poor parent-child relationships and other emotional attachments, addiction and/or poor mental health and negative repeated patterns of behaviour. Therapy can help process and overcome intergenerational trauma.
Did you have difficult relationships with your parents, and are you worried about passing this pattern down to your kids? Are you worried that because your parents' marriage didn't last, that yours won't? Therapy can help you process your childhood experiences and past relationships, and encourage you to see that history is not destined to repeat itself.
10. Therapy can help us cope with stress and other difficulties
At times, we are faced with particular difficulties that may feel too overwhelming or difficult to handle on our own. It may disrupt our day to day life, by preventing us from concentrating, or socialising or sleeping (to name but a few). This is when it can be helpful to consider seeking professional help. Therapy can provide psychoeducation, to allow understanding of our problems (e.g. anxiety) and helps us to tools for managing our stress and other difficulties we may face. Do you find that you're constantly overcome by anxious thoughts that are stopping you from living? Therapy can help you meet these thoughts, explore them and ultimately, manage and overcome them.
Therapy can be difficult, but rewarding
While therapy won’t necessarily make your problems go away, therapy can help you to cope with your problems and improve your quality of life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware.