Self-help groups and coaches can be very effective in supporting the changes you need to make in your life. However sometimes even that doesn’t seem to be enough. It may be difficult to reach out for additional help because of the lifelong position of “I can take care of it by myself.” You may believe that no one out there could help or understand anyhow. Sometimes a therapist can help.

After 2 years in a 12-Step group, Martin realized that every time he had a promising relationship with a woman he would find some way to end it before it could turn into the type of close and committed relationship he said he was looking for. The more likely any woman was to be loving and supportive, the more quickly Martin would choose to end the relationship.

Finally other members of his support group suggested therapy. Martin resisted at first, asking:

  • Can therapy really help?
  • Isn’t seeking therapy a sign of failure?
  • How can I find a competent therapist?

When he decided to research the problem, he discovered that there are several important times to see a therapist. One is when you, like Martin, are stuck in the same problem over and over again and can’t seem to find a way out. This indicates that the problem may be a symptom of something else that a therapist can help to discover. Another is when you feel overwhelmed by an external event such as the death of a loved one or major life change.

Even though you might be able to work through this on your own or with a support group, this process can be long and painful. A therapist who has helped many people over the same path can provide a road map and support along the way, making the process much easier.

Another reason to seek therapy is when you know you need to do some inner child work and the memories are too painful for you to deal with alone. A therapist can help you access those memories and provide needed protection for your child self to explore and work through them.

A therapist can also be helpful if you’re trying over and over again to solve a problem and your methodology just isn’t working.

Some people are predominately thinkers and attack problems by thinking them through. Others are predominately feelers or doers and address problems through those modalities. Sometimes the problem itself is an imbalance between your own attention to thinking, feeling and doing.

Healthy people can apply the appropriate technique to whatever problem comes up. Others may have learned just one approach because of its survival value in their family. They lack information about how to manage the others.

Logical thinking people may need to access emotions. Emotional people may need to learn to think something through in order to solve the problems. “Human Doings” may need to learn to stop to think and/or feel.

Some therapists and therapy methodologies focus predominantly on thinking, others on feeling, or doing. It is wise to choose a therapist who can help you develop those areas in which you are less skilled. It’s also important to choose a therapist who can provide the appropriate protection for the work you need to do. Your child self needs to feel safe and comfortable to deal with some of the trauma of the past.

Trusted friends, fellow support group members or professionals can help refer you to an appropriate therapist. The therapist’s credentials (social worker, psychologist, drug and alcohol counselor, psychiatrist) are less important than your feeling of support and comfort with the particular person you choose.

Therapy itself is often an uncomfortable process because by its very nature it helps you examine the parts of your self and your life that you’ve been avoiding. Your own sense of relief, acceptance and growth will let you know when you’re working with someone who’s right for you.

When Martin found a therapist he felt safe with he discovered that he needed to let himself feel the terrible panic and loss he’d experienced when his alcoholic mother was not available to take care of him. As he gradually worked through this problem over many months he began tentatively to risk a closer relationship with a woman.

[tags]self help, self-improvement, personal growth, psychotherapy, emotional problems [/tags]