Do these statements sound familiar to you?
“I don’t need counselling.”
“It’s not that serious. I can handle it by myself.”
“I’m fine! It’s my partner who needs therapy.”
Despite what we tend to say aloud, perhaps you’ve secretly wondered to yourself “Do I need counselling?” Unfortunately, unhelpful myths and stigmas about mental health and therapy are rampant, and stop many people from getting the help that they need and deserve.
Almost 45% of the Australian population will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. In the past 12 months alone, 1 in 5 people have struggled with issues affecting their psychological wellbeing.
We all need support in dealing with life’s challenges at one point or another, yet most people try to overcome issues and problems by themselves. If the problems persist, this approach can compound feelings of isolation, confusion and hopelessness when things don’t improve.
If you’re feeling slightly overwhelmed by things, or dissatisfied with where your life and relationships are at, specialist counselling can help you get back on track. You don’t have to go it alone –effective, specialist support is available.
Counselling is an excellent source of support for people experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. But counselling is also the most effective way to deal with the challenges that everyday life presents.
Speaking to a professional counsellor can help you to reduce stress, improve your relationships and reach your personal goals.
Signs you could benefit from counselling
Sometimes the reasons to seek counselling aren’t as obvious as losing a loved one or witnessing a traumatic event. Sometimes, it’s a combination of our everyday experiences and circumstances that signal it’s time to talk to someone.
Below are some signs that indicate it’s time to seek specialist support:
Sign 1: Changes in appetite, sleeping patterns and physical health
Changes to your usual eating habits (either not eating much, or feeling constantly hungry) or regular sleep routine (unable to sleep or always feeling tired) often indicate an underlying issue such as stress or anxiety.
Likewise, research suggests that stress often manifests as physical illness. If you’ve recently experienced a bout of unexplained headaches, digestive issues or skin irritation, stress could be affecting your wellbeing.
Specialist stress reduction counselling can equip you with practical, evidence-based strategies to create and maintain healthy lifestyle choices (such as diet modification and good sleep hygiene).
Mindfulness-based counselling can also help you to eliminate sources of stress in your life using relaxation exercises that induce a sense of calm and keep you grounded in the present moment. Daily practice of mindfulness exercises can also enhance your ability to cope with everyday stressors.
Sign 2: You feel dissatisfied with your life
Been feeling irritable lately? Not getting enjoyment from activities that you usually find rewarding? Perhaps you feel like your career is in limbo, or you and your partner are leading separate lives. These are all signs that it’s time to stop, take stock, and re-focus on what really matters to you.
Reality: Counselling isn’t just for people who are experiencing major upheavals in their mood or life circumstances. Sometimes everything seems fine on the surface – but you just can’t shake that dissatisfied feeling that something is off-kilter.
Talking to a professional can help us clarify what’s important and motivate us to make changes and get moving in the direction of happiness and fulfilment.
Solution-focused counselling is an opportunity to assess where your life, career and relationships are at right now – and figure out where you’d really like to be.
This approach to counselling is highly collaborative. You and your counsellor work together to create a strategy to:
- Overcome everyday challenges
- Define your life, relationship and career needs
- Achieve your personal goals using practical techniques such as flow state, assertiveness training and enhanced communication skills
Relationship counselling isn’t just for couples experiencing major problems, or who are on the verge of separation. In fact, specialist couples counselling can help to strengthen the existing bond between you and your partner.
If you want to improve communication with your partner, deepen intimacy and start working together towards your relationship goals, talking to a counsellor is a step in the right direction. Relationship counselling is an opportunity to make a good relationship even better, and increase the likelihood of long-term commitment and satisfaction.
Sign 3: You’re worried about someone you care for
Often it’s your partner, child, a family member or close friend that needs some support. They may have confided in you about their concerns, or their behaviour might have clued you in to the fact that something is wrong.
The care and concern we feel about our loved ones’ wellness and safety often pre-empts an attempt to have them see a counsellor. Whether it’s stress, anxiety or depression, substance use, angry outbursts or social withdrawal – if you’ve noticed significant mood and behavioural changes in your loved one, it’s time to seek support.
Sometimes they’re open to the possibility, but what happens if they’re resistant or deny there’s a problem?
Specialist support counselling is available to parents, carers, partners and family members. This form of counselling can provide you with some incredibly useful support and guidance, such as:
- An opportunity to discuss your concerns and explore ways to give someone the support they need
- Useful information and current treatment approaches (e.g. anger management techniques)
- Advanced parenting skills
- Family therapy to address ongoing conflict
- Self-care strategies for carers
We can encourage someone we care about to seek help – but ultimately it’s their choice to see a counsellor or not.
Educating ourselves about the issue and identifying helpful approaches to the situation are the best way to provide support. Counselling also ensures that our own care needs are met when we’re looking after a loved one.
Sign 4: Family or friends have suggested counselling to you
This sign often meets with the most resistance. When a family member or friend says they’re worried about you and think you might need some help, it’s natural to feel defensive, upset, or even offended.
Relationships – whether to ourselves or other people – are the foundation of human evolution, and a consistent source of joy, meaning and satisfaction in life.
Reality: If the people around you – people who care deeply about you – have noticed that you’re not your usual self, or that you’re not coping so well at the moment, it’s important to move beyond your first, instinctual reaction of “I don’t need help!” and consider why they’ve mentioned something to you.
Our friends and family know us better than anyone else. Years of living, working and socialising together create deep bonds of interdependence and attachment.
The primary reason someone is likely to suggest counselling isn’t because they think there’s something ‘wrong’ with you. It’s because they love you and want the best possible life for you.
Often it’s simply because they’ve noticed a change in your mood, outlook, behaviour, or personal circumstances, and feel that you could benefit from talking to someone.
You’re not alone in this – you’ve already got the support of your loved ones.
If you’re open to the possibility of counselling but feel nervous about the prospect, many counsellors and psychologists allow you to bring a support person to the first appointment. You might bring your support person into the session with you, or ask them to wait for you nearby or in the clinic’s reception area.
Even if your concerns simply feel like the stressors of everyday life, it’s worth considering the benefits of counselling. It’s a chance to unpack your concerns, clarify your choices, and take advantage of specialist therapeutic tools designed to create positive change in all areas of life.
Counselling benefits research resources
Cohen, S., Gianaros, P. J., & Manuck, S. B. (2016). A stage model of stress and disease. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(4), 456-463.
Cozolino, L. J., & Santos, E. N. (2014). Why we need therapy—and why it works: a neuroscientific perspective. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 84(2-3), 157-177.
Kristén, L., Ivarsson, A., Parker, J., & Ziegert, K. (2015). Future challenges for intervention research in health and lifestyle research-A systematic meta-literature review. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Wellbeing, 10.
Mackenzie, C. S., Erickson, J., Deane, F. P., & Wright, M. (2014). Changes in attitudes toward seeking mental health services: A 40-year cross-temporal meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(2), 99-106.
Cozolino, L. (2014). The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.
Pearson, M. R., & Bulsara, C. (2016). Therapists’ experiences of alliance formation in short-term counselling. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 18(1), 75-92.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.