As a practicing Psychologist, this is the most common question I am asked by friends, family and by my Instagram community. While there is never a right/ wrong or one size fits all answer to this subjective question, to make it simpler and more objective, the below scenarios may help to understand the difference between “needing” therapy and “wanting” therapy:
- Equate needing psychotherapy/ counseling to needing medical treatment for physical illness
(an immediate/ acute need)
You do not “need” to be treated for something unless you are struggling/ in pain or are diagnosed. If your daily functioning is hard/ impaired, if you do not feel motivated for basic executive tasks, if you are constantly aloof, your relationships are unhealthy, your work exhausts you all the time, you obsessively worry, you abuse substances, if you feel constantly sad/ anxious / angry or have experienced trauma that makes it hard to live a full life- therapy becomes a “need”. If you are struggling with a mental illness like anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, a mood disorder, a personality disorder- therapy becomes a “need”.
- Equate wanting therapy to living a healthy lifestyle
(a long term/ chronic need)
Living healthy includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising your body, staying hydrated, socializing (and going to therapy when you want to) among others. These are all measures to prevent diseases and take better care of yourself. Even if you do not participate in these activities, you will continue to live and survive, just not at your best capacity, or not at your body’s peak efficiency. Research shows that unhealthy lifestyles also lead to shorter life expectancy. In the world of psychology and mental health, healthy choices would include- increasing self awareness, building healthy relationships, permitting yourself to follow your passion, make time for trusted loved ones, manage your anxiety/ anger/ sadness better, having personalized coping mechanisms, have some alone time etc. These are not always “needed”, but are “always” beneficial and add on to an authentic life.
Hence, your way into therapy can be either of the two:
- Curative/ treatment oriented:
You are dealing with anxiety, depression, a personality or mood disorder or stressor(s) which impact your daily life. If you find it hard to work, rest or build/ maintain healthy relationships with yourself and/or others, therapy is a good idea.
- Preventive/ insight oriented:
You want to know yourself better. You feel curious about who you are, why you think/ feel or behave the way you do or you are looking to grow, build healthy relationships, excel in life and be a better version of yourself.
The best part about therapy is that it is for everyone. There is no eligibility criteria for someone wanting to see a Psychologist. If the question comes to your mind, it is usually a good time!
P.S. If you are in India, your Psychologist must have earned a minimum of a masters degree (MA/ MS) in Psychology (a counselling/ clinical specialisation).
I am always open to knowing what you are struggling with and would love to share tips that can help you. Feel free to drop a message.
Until next time 🙂