Not only is the stigma around therapy still very much alive, we also impose strict guidelines on ourselves about when we are allowed to ask for help. Our self-imposed rules about seeking individual or couples counseling have one thing in common and that is that we are unlikely to see therapy as a preventative measure for our own wellbeing or the wellbeing of our relationships. And even when in counseling, people tend to be embarrassed that they’re in therapy and don’t publicly share.
Individuals believe they should be happy, but feel guilty that they don’t. When asked, “What brings you in?” individual clients may respond with self-judgment about seeking out therapy. Couples, on the other hand, are afraid that talking about what’s “wrong” in counseling does more harm than good to the relationship.
Moreover, couples wait too long to come in and small repairable bumps turn into large potholes of resentment and disappointment.
We sometimes hear, “We’re not married, we shouldn’t need couples counseling?” Or “We tried to work it out on our own; we didn’t think it would get this bad.” As a couple, we feel that any time we decide to seek out a therapist it suggests that our relationship is faulty and that choosing therapy implies we are in the wrong relationship. Overall, we believe times have to be very tough to legitimize therapy.
Societal stigma continues to direct how we feel about counseling today. The belief that therapy is for people who are weak and can’t fix their own problems is outdated. Counseling is hard work and takes strength, courage, vulnerability, and stepping outside of your comfort zone for the betterment of yourself and your relationships. It’s time to remove the shame around wanting to improve your happiness with your life and relationships and stop the notion that if you have good friends that you shouldn’t need therapy. While support from loved ones is important, counselors are highly trained and well versed in treating cognitive, emotional, relational, behavioral and existential issues.
Our thoughts continue to be influenced by the arbitrary belief that happiness equals the absence of issues and that problems should only be addressed when they have become so destructive that they are visible to the world around us.
As people and a society, we are so focused on fixing things and finding quick solutions to problems that we tend to forget that issues and problems usually evolve over time. Problems build up. We are quick to forget that we have the power to take preventive steps before going to war with others and ourselves. After all, we don’t think twice to dissolve our daily dosage of Vitamin C before the first sneeze, but we make ourselves wait until we are mentally exhausted to consider taking the first step to addressing our mental health needs.
Best time to start therapy
For that reason, the best time to start therapy is not when we are in the midst of a crisis but when we’re in a state that can foster self-awareness and insight. Why not seek counseling and course correct smaller issues that will help you be happier and more content before they get worse for yourself or the relationship? It is time we consider therapy as a tool that has the possibility to prevent us from reacting harmfully during a crisis, that teaches us how to build healthy and lasting interpersonal relationships, and that introduces us to skills that can help us when life is hard.
However, it suggests that we consider therapy more as crisis prevention than crisis intervention.
Most of us will benefit from exploring and processing our emotions and thoughts within a space that is designed to be reflective, validating, non-judgmental, explorative and empathetic. Most of us will discover hidden struggles and others will simply have the benefit of hearing an unbiased professional perspective to help inform their coping and decision-making. In any case, it is the hope that you consider and allow yourself to seek out therapy without having reached your breaking point or feel you are in the wrong relationship–indulge in the benefits of a good therapeutic relationship through good and bad times.
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