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7 Times It Might Be Helpful to Have a Therapist


March 18, 2024

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Photography by Tatsiana Volkava/Getty Images

Photography by Tatsiana Volkava/Getty Images

by Elizabeth Drucker


Medically Reviewed by:

Bethany Juby, PsyD


by Elizabeth Drucker


Medically Reviewed by:

Bethany Juby, PsyD


It can be hard to know when to see a therapist. To help you decide, here are some situations where therapy has made a difference for me.

Throughout my life, off and on, I’ve been in therapy. It started at age 8, when I was coping with the near-death illness of my mother.

I was a frequent flyer in the guidance counselor’s office and terrified out of my mind that my mom was going to be hospitalized again or sometime in the near future.

Then there was stuff with my father: his mood disorder and contributing factors to my parents’ divorce.

My mother is a licensed clinical social worker, so she believes in the power of psychotherapy to help people cope with a variety of painful events and situations.

But before I start talking about all the reasons someone might benefit from starting therapy, I want to be sure to make one thing clear: everyone is different.

My experience of therapy might look entirely different from yours. I recommend you remain mindful about the therapy experience and what you hope to get from it.

Then, make sure that you’re meeting your therapeutic expectations. It’s easy to keep going to one therapy session after another without evaluating whether they’re helpful. 

Here are some examples of times you might benefit from therapy.

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1. When you’re coping with loss

Another reason I started seeing a therapist was because I was having trouble coping with the death of my father in my 20s.

When he died, I couldn’t get through the days anymore. This was a very painful time in my life, and I was so angry with him for leaving me when I needed him so badly to guide me through life.

His passing was entirely unexpected, and I was worried that I’d lose other people who were also close to me. I found myself thinking of him when I was doing everyday things around the house, like the dishes or washing my clothes.

I didn’t know how to live my life anymore because the sadness was so intense.

Going to therapy helped me a lot. Just talking about my father helped me a lot. I wanted to talk about the times he took me for blueberry pancakes on Sunday mornings and how we watched “The Simpsons” together every week when I was a little girl.

He died from an overdose, so I also needed a therapist to help me cope with the unique difficulties that came with that: it wasn’t my fault that my father died, and he did love me after all.

My mom couldn’t talk with me about my dad because she had her own issues about him. I needed someone who was nonjudgmental — someone who didn’t know him but could still reassure me in the end that my father loved me.

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2. When you’re under excessive stress or pressure

I’ve returned to therapy when I find myself in stressful situations, like starting a new job. If I’m not already seeing a therapist, I always get into therapy whenever things shake up a little bit.

For example, I moved to a different state to start a new job a few years ago. I knew that it would be a very stressful role and that I’d need someone to talk with about the decisions I was making and my relationships with people at work.

Additionally, when I started another new job last winter, I started therapy again. And in the past, I’ve sought out therapy when I was moving to a new college or university for school.

When I started a new graduate program, I knew I’d need support to help me adjust to the new campus, my professors, and the expectations I’d be facing in the program.

You are your own person, of course, but I can tell you that it’s been significantly helpful to have someone to talk with about difficult professors and other situations.

For example, in graduate school, there were several times I felt like my professors weren’t treating me fairly. Having a therapist to vent to helped immeasurably.

3. When you’re trying to understand yourself better

When I need to understand myself better, talking through things in therapy has proved helpful.

For example, when I can’t separate what I want from what my mother wants for me, it helps to talk with my therapist.

A few years ago, I was contemplating enrolling in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in creative writing. My mom was entirely against it because she didn’t think writers could make a living.

I talked to my therapist about this decision I was trying to make and she helped to empower me to make the best decision for myself. This decision has proved to be a wise one and I’ve enjoyed my graduate program immensely — and would never turn back.

Talking with a therapist can help you solidify your goals: educational, career-wise, relationships, etc.

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4. When you’re looking for new coping skills

As mentioned earlier, therapists can help you talk and sort through your feelings. They can also help you by offering psychological tools for difficult moments.

For example, in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), therapists can teach you how to manage your distress, difficult emotions, and interpersonal relationships.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) also have helpful tools that you can use in stressful moments when you feel overwhelmed.

Over the years, I’ve learned many of these techniques through spending time in Partial Hospital Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). Once you’ve learned these skills, you can use them for the rest of your life when the moment strikes.

I think that therapy can even feel like an investment in your future.

If you feel like you need some new skills to manage your depression and the ways you cope with overwhelming feelings, you might want to look into treatment options where you’ll learn new coping strategies.

5. When you’re working through difficult relationships

Couples and family relationship problems are common reasons why people decide to enter therapy. The therapist can help by providing nonjudgmental insights and mediating the relationships.

Individual therapy can also be a good place for you to talk about and better understand certain dynamics in your life.

You would likely see a different therapist for couples/family therapy than you do for individual therapy to ensure that the therapy remains unbiased.

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6. When you need support in breaking bad habits

This can be for substances like alcohol, drugs, and nicotine or even behavioral habits like gambling, shopping, or compulsive eating. Therapy can help you navigate and overcome any unhealthy habit.

If you feel like you need help to break a problem habit, then a therapist is a great option.

If you’re living with addiction, you can also find a therapist who specializes in this. Therapists can be a great source of support if you feel stuck or alone.

7. When you’re looking for an alternative to medication

Finally, on my own road to wellness, I always wanted to try therapy before medications. Of course, it’s important to find the treatment plan that’s right for you, and therapy helped me figure this out.

Therapy may seem less invasive than medication and may even lead to lasting change.

A lot of experts suggest that trying a combination of therapy and medication is the most optimal treatment for mental health conditions. Of course, this will also depend on your diagnosis and how severe it is.

My parents chose to put me in therapy before getting a prescription for antidepressants.

In the end, that particular therapist didn’t really know how to help me, and the medications weren’t the quick fix I needed either. Eventually, I found myself on a combination of medication and therapy and gradually found my way back to myself. 

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Some other important notes

If you do decide to start therapy, I’d recommend that you go into it with an open mind and avoid judging it on the first attempt.

Additionally, the success of therapy is largely dependent on the relationship between the therapist and the client. One therapist may receive raving reviews from one client while not being able to help or connect with another.

You also don’t have to stay in treatment with a therapist that you don’t like. Explore different therapists in your area. Many of them offer a free consultation, so you can chat for a few minutes to see if it’s a good fit.

And, if it’s not a good fit, that’s OK too! Keep trying. The right therapist is out there for you.

And if you’re with someone you don’t like, try again! There’s always another choice.

The takeaway

I want to remind you that everyone goes into therapy for different reasons. Therapy can be so helpful, but it really works best if you work with it.

In this piece, I’m hoping to show you all the ways therapy has helped me over the years.

If any of these reasons resonate with you, I recommend giving therapy a go. It’s been an instrumental part of my mental health journey.

Medically reviewed on March 18, 2024

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