When should I go see a counselor?

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “should I see a counselor for this?” People often worry that their problems are “too small” or “not a big enough deal” to warrant seeing a counselor and getting some professional help. This is what I tell all my clients, “Everyone can benefit from seeing a counselor.”

I liken it to seeing a doctor. If my leg was broken would it require medical attention? Absolutely! I’d hope that I would make a beeline for the nearest emergency room. And yet would anyone begrudge me seeing my primary care doctor when I’ve been experiencing a sore throat, cough, congestion, and fever? Gosh, I would hope not. Though these symptoms do not equate to a medical emergency, it certainly makes sense for one to seek a professional opinion. In the medical world, this is referred to as different levels of treatment care.

Here’s a concrete example to help illustrate the varying levels of care:

Stroke = Inpatient hospital

Broken bone = Emergency Room

Sprain ankle = Urgent Care

Sore throat/Fever = Primary Care Doctor

deciding if counseling is for me


The same model can be used for thinking about when and how to see a counselor:

If you’re facing a mental health emergency, like active thoughts of suicide seeking treatment at an inpatient psychiatric hospital is warranted. Though for the majority of us dealing with the sore throats and fevers of mental health: like big life changes, stress, and anxiety, seeing a counselor in an outpatient office makes the most sense.

Just as there are people living with chronic physical health challenges, such as diabetes, migraines, and heart disease; so there are people living with chronic mental health challenges such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

We would expect people living with diabetes, migraines, and heart disease to need a higher level of care: seeing specialists on a regular basis, taking medication. Likewise, we should expect people living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder to also need a higher level of care: seeing mental health specialists regularly, follow-ups with psychiatrists, participating in group therapy, having service coordination support, taking medication.

Now admittedly, I’m biased. I’m a counselor after all. Of course, I think that counseling can benefit anyone and everyone. However, I challenge anyone out there to make a case otherwise. After all, how could taking time out of your busy schedule every week or so, removed from external distractions, surrounded in a tranquil and relaxing setting, examining your own thoughts, actions, and goals not lead to improved overall health and wellness?

In fact, it’s not unusual for clients to decide to continue working with me even after their goals have been met. Why? It’s because they start viewing counseling as an important part of their self-care routine, an essential factor that helps them continue to do well even when they’re already thriving.

If you’re still uncertain whether you’re dealing with a little stressor or a big stressor no worries. My point is it doesn’t matter, counseling can greatly benefit you either way. Do yourself a favor and pick up the phone and call today. We’re always here to help.


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