Why Go To Therapy?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have a mental health disorder to benefit from therapy. Additionally, if you are in therapy, it does not mean you are “crazy.” What it does mean, is that you may be struggling in some way to feel comfortable with who you are, in a specific relationship, or within your life circumstances. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one and not receiving the support you deserve as you go through this process. You may be struggling to feel close to someone you care deeply about. You may have had a particularly frightening or life-threatening experience that you are coping with in new or confusing ways. You may be having difficulty sleeping, eating, getting out of bed to start your day, or worrying about all the bad things that could happen. You may be acting out in ways you don’t recall ever choosing to do intentionally, that end up hurting you or those you care about. You may even be questioning who you are or what all your feelings mean about you. All of these experiences are a normal part of being human. Yet we often have difficulty making sense of why we feel this way, or how our lived experience contributes to a discrepancy between who we are and who we would like to be.
Typically, if we ignore or minimize how we feel at any given time, our suffering ends up becoming bigger and more difficult to address. If you are reading this, you are probably feeling ready to face whatever is bothering you, and that takes great courage! You may have sought help in the form of advice from a friend or loved one, medication to relieve severe symptoms, or increased your efforts to avoid your pain with substances or screens. These strategies are typically helpful for immediate relief, but may not always provide with long-lasting resolution of your problematic symptoms. If you are interested in discovering more about what may be underlying your specific form of suffering, I am here to guide you.
See the list of 30 things people frequently work on in therapy below. You may recognize just one thing you would like some extra support with working on, or you may notice several that show up in your life. No matter what, I would like to offer my support in your healing process, and give you the tools you need to make adjustments so you can experience your life more fully, and hopefully with less distress.
Anger is a very helpful emotion to have. We need it to advocate for our needs and recognize when others are violating our dignity. However, it can sometimes feel like an over-reaction when past injuries go unresolved and small triggers lead to excessive anger. Learn to recognize what is fueling your anger, develop coping resources, increase self-understanding, and respond to others in more constructive ways.
An intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations, often accompanied by a fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired. There are several types, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Learn to recognize and regulate your symptoms so you can return to focusing on life goals.
People often learn that in order to get their needs met they have to work very hard act in certain “acceptable” ways in the eyes of others. Alternatively, some are provided with everything automatically and do not get opportunities to practice identifying and asking for what they need. Learn what your needs are and how to get them met effectively, without disrespecting yourself or others.
Attachment represents how we connect on an emotional level with others. It is strongly influenced by early caregiver interactions and other significant relationships. There are many ways we learn to feel safe or threatened in the company of others, and we typically respond by behaving in ways to increase the chances of feeling acceptable in their eyes. Learn how to navigate closeness with others when you have previously felt safer maintaining distance to protect against getting hurt.
Sometimes early caregivers are particularly cruel, judgmental, or neglectful of children because they suffered attachment trauma themselves or have limited capacity for vulnerability and compassion. You can engage in a corrective emotional experience in therapy to help process and heal from early childhood disruptions in caregiver relationships and develop safety and trust in current or future relationships.
Your boundaries are what you feel comfortable with personally, and are learned through past experiences of respect or violation. Learn to respect your own and other’s dignity at the same time, recognize your limits of how others can treat you, and advocate for your needs without pushing others away or disrespecting them back.
Learning how to recognize anger, regulate this anger, and understand that another person has a different, yet just-as-valid experience as you can be quite difficult to do in the moment. Learn to work through conflict and navigate disagreements with others through skills such as emotion regulation, perspective taking, recognition of underlying needs or wounds, and assertive communication.
Do you get upset if things don’t go just the way you want? Has anyone in your life complained that you are too controlling? Your anxiety is actually worsened through an excessive need for predictability and power. Learn to recognize what is within your power to influence and let go of the illusion you can control other people or circumstances.
When emotions are at their most powerful it can be hard to remember what it was like to feel safe and connected to others. Our instinctual fight-flight-freeze system is designed to keep us safe and learn to steer clear of threatening situations. In this modern day, triggers of danger are often socially oriented, and paired with judgments about our expressed emotions learned while growing up. We often need extra support in learning how to regulate our bodies and reconnect with personal values, desires, and logical reasoning that can help us make healthier decisions.
Wjile individual therapy can be wonderful in making adjustments to how you treat yourself and others, sometimes having a professional present to help mediate emotionally-charged conversations can provide safety and structure when learning to have deeper interactions. Learn effective communication skills such as active listening and compassion, and reconnect with your partner while developing trust in one another.
Excessive and prolonged sadness & reduced energy/motivation/interest in activities. Engage in a process in which you can increase understanding of your symptoms, heal wounds from your past, engage in self-care, reduce self-judgment and destructive behavior, address anxiety, & develop emotionally healthy relationships.
Learn about yourself, your needs, preferences, concerns, and boundaries, while in the process of searching for a romantic companion. Additionally, recognize your communication habits, and learn to assertively share your needs while remaining compassionate towards yourself and others.
The end of a marriage can be particularly difficult. There are many factors at play, such as felt grief and sadness over this loss, disappointment that your fantasy of the relationship did not come true, rediscovering your identity as an individual, and/or developing healthy co-parenting skills (if applicable). Learn to adjust and thrive in new directions.
The forces or properties which stimulate growth, development, or change within a system, relationship, or process. Learn to understand how you contribute to the dynamics in your life and with those around you. Once you recognize your part in the cycle, you can work to shift them if you want to.
Grief & Loss
Processing and engaging in a healing journey after a difficult loss. A loss can be felt in experiences such as the death of a loved one or pet, the end of a romantic or familial relationship, being fired from a job, choosing to change careers, reduction in financial security, or a choice to give up substances.
A felt sense or belief of being alone, unsupported, misunderstood, disliked, not belonging/fitting in, the only one experiencing specific symptoms, etc. Learn to recognize imperfections as part of the shared human experience, and feel more connected to others though our felt sense of common humanity.
In the moment awareness – observe thoughts and feelings without judgment. We often get stuck thinking about the past, which we can’t change, or the future, which we can’t predict. Focusing on the moment can help us get unstuck and begin to enjoy more of the little things that move us along our unique timelines.
Defined as a desire/willingness/purpose/reason for doing something. Motivation often gets stifled when our self-esteem is compromised, when we struggle with excessive anxiety or depression, or when people in our life don’t believe in us or treat us poorly.
As in many other challenges in life, parenting can be overwhelming, especially when we make mistakes, and we often don’t want to follow our own parent’s example. Learn to treat your children with dignity and respect so they can develop the sills and confidence they need to become a responsible adult.
Develop the flexibility to compassionately respond to mistakes as the wonderful learning opportunities that they are. Learn to recognize your strengths and limitations in more realistic ways, and set goals that are in line with your personal values rather than externally imposed expectations.
Learn to cope with an unpleasant/intimidating task rather than avoid it. Being harder on yourself is not going to make you get on with the task, it is going to make you avoid it more, so make the task more approachable through self-compassion. Guilt/shame inhibits learning.
You have a relationship with many people (and activities) that impact how you experience life. These can feel soothing, nurturing, supportive, helpful, distracting, rejecting, frightening, destructive, or some combination of these and other factors. Learn to navigate inter- & intra-personal dynamics with people you care about (friends, family, romantic partners, roommates, coworkers, yourself, substances, social media, Netflix, etc.)
We are all creatures of habit and prefer to engage in behaviors that feel familiar to us. However, some of these habits are helpful, and some may bring us suffering or keep us stuck. We learn to act in ways that served to protect us at some point in our life. Now, you can learn to recognize and modify coping/thinking/social actions that are no longer helpful to you.
Engaging in self-compassion can help to alleviate negative feelings we are suffering from and can be applied to any situation of emotional distress. It is a skill learned through relationships in which we are free to make mistakes and respect resilience over perfection.
Being hard on yourself frequently reduces motivation, confidence, and capacity for learning. So learn to know yourself more deeply and develop compassion for who you are, how you came to be this way, and work towards who you would like to become.
Coping strategy involving repairing damage done to of yourself to resolve guilt, shame, disappointment etc., when you see a discrepancy between what you believe in and something you’ve done. Separate out actions we regret from our core self/being – find ways to move forward.
In a culture that can be overtly critical and judgmental of imperfections, it can be hard not to treat ourselves the same way. Instead of berating or fixing - acknowledge the inevitability of imperfection and become more caring and gentle with yourself in order to increase motivation and strive to reach your goals more satisfactorily.
A belief that you are not enough as you are. Learn to recognize you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, even by yourself. (Guilt can feel similar to shame, but is a direct result of hurting someone or something and can be resolved more easily because it is not tied to your identity as a whole).
Trauma / PTSD
Learn to regulate through flashbacks and process traumatic experiences in order to shift in-the-moment emotional reactivity into traditional memories, and work to rebuild trust in yourself and others.
Trust is learning to develop faith, hope, and confidence/firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Did your earliest caregivers respect or ignore your needs when you were a child? Have you experienced betrayal by a loved one? Process these experiences in an organized way while developing a trusting relationship with your therapist.