As swimsuit season looms, men and women everywhere are recommitting to their physical health. But what about recommitting to mental health?
As more and more television programs (such as HBO’s “Tell Me You Love Me” and Lifetime’s “State of Mind”) feature talk therapy and individual/couples counseling, many people are starting to realize that therapy might be right for them. Thankfully, the stigma that once surrounded therapy is now greatly diminished, as everyone from celebrities to politicians is professing the positive impact counseling has had (and still has) on their lives, careers and relationships.
So how do you know if therapy is right for you?
Signs that you might need individual therapy include: Feeling immobilized, not enjoying things you once loved, significant change in appetite or sleep, issues with anxiety, substance abuse and anger. Furthermore, even if you aren’t currently suffering from any of these issues, you might benefit from therapy if you are in the middle of a big transition, such as changing careers, or in the middle of a crisis involving your love life, body image or low self-esteem.
Signs that you might need couples therapy include: Constant arguing, difficulty resolving issues, moral dilemmas over how to raise the kids, money or religious issues, lack of intimacy, etc. Couples therapy can also be a great way to reconnect and rediscover one another again in a relationship where the sparks have faded. Don’t wait until the issues become irreparable — it is better to seek help before the relationship has been wounded.
Perhaps the biggest misconception people have about therapy is that it is only applicable in the middle of a serious crisis like substance abuse or the diagnosis of a mental disorder. While it is certainly true that therapy is important during this time (research has shown that the prognosis for mood disorders like depression is much greater when medication is combined with talk therapy), therapy can also be important in simply adding to one’s overall happiness and life satisfaction.
Whether you are feeling stuck in a dead-end job, unfulfilled by a romantic relationship, having trouble reaching your children or simply just feeling a little less energetic and positive than usual, therapy can give you a safe, nonjudgmental space to air out your feelings and receive unbiased feedback.
Too often people think of therapy as the last resort, or a sign that people have reached rock-bottom, when in reality it is actually one of the most hopeful and optimistic steps a person can take. People who seek therapy are not weak or lost by any means. Instead, they are telling the universe “I am ready for a change, I believe there is something more that I need in my life.” What could be more renewing and hopeful than that?
A mental makeover doesn’t have to be a commitment to weekly therapy sessions. This doesn’t always fit into everyone’s schedules. Mental makeovers can sometimes be fit into intensive short-term sessions. Many clinics, including mine at the Berman Center, offer intensive retreats for both couples and individuals, which can last for either three or five days. The retreats can be a great way to jump start things in your life or relationship.
Not only can talk therapy improve one’s marriage, statistics also show that talk therapy is successful in helping clients improve their lives across the board. One survey found that 93 percent of people who sought help from marriage and family counselors stated that they were more successful in dealing with problems, 63.4 percent reported improved physical health, 58.4 percent reported improvement in functioning at work and 73.7 percent found an improvement in their child’s behavior.
Many counseling services are now covered by insurance policies, and many therapists also offer clients a sliding scale fee (which means that the cost of therapy is based on one’s individual income). In order to locate an accredited therapist near you, you can visit the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (aamft.org) or the American Psychological Association (apa.org).
Take the first step in improving your well-being. Speak with a therapist and discover a new, happier and more effective you.
Dr. Laura Berman is the director of the Berman Center in Chicago, a specialized health care facility dedicated to helping women and couples find fulfilling sex lives and enriched relationships. She is also an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She has been working as a sex educator, researcher and therapist for 18 years.
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