When Should Someone Seek Counseling?
- Grief Counseling
Life is rarely easy. Every human being will experience normal ups and down and after twenty-five years of providing therapy, I can say that we all go through really tough times in our lives. But when do we know when our usual coping skills (including exercise, meditation, intimate connections and socialization, time alone, humor, hobbies, religious and other spiritual activities) are not enough? When should we seek counseling for our mental health problems? Or when does our grieving require professional help from a grief counselor?
The answer is not simple nor the same for everyone. Here are some thoughtful suggestions on when to seek counseling, based on professional experience and research from the field:
- If your grief, or other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or PTSD, is impairing your ability to function in your daily life for more than six months (or sooner in my opinion), then it’s time to seek professional help. Impairments in daily functioning can include:
- Poor sleep (too much, too little, nightmares, broken sleep, sleeping enough, but not waking rested)
- Poor focus/concentration
- Irritability/restlessness panic attacks
- Crying spells
- Poor work or school attendance
- Mental issues causing physical health problems
- Increased conflicts with family, friends, or coworkers
- Poor executive functioning (cannot organize and accomplish life tasks like you usually can)
- Increased or out of control use of alcohol and/or drugs for any length of time
- Suicidal or homicidal thinking for any length of time
- For children and adolescents – regression/loss of developmental milestones and out of control behaviors.
- Anytime you or your children have experienced a trauma, no matter how minor you think it may be, you should at least consult a mental health care professional for an assessment. Research clearly shows that the sooner a person seeks therapy to psychologically process a traumatic experience and our brain/body’s “fight/flight” response to it, the sooner our brain/body will resolve the psychology conflict about that trauma.Thanks to new evidence-based therapies, such as EMDR, we can treat PTSD relatively quickly and effectively. As an EMDR practitioner myself, I am always glad when someone seeks services within 30 days after a trauma because I know I can help them “shake the PTSD” usually within 5 sessions. If they wait months or years to process that bad car wreck or traumatic death, it can be more painful and take longer for them to resolve the resultant psychological conflict.
- When you are ready and willing to grow, accept help from others, or just know it should not be this difficult! This tip is not particularly scientific or based on fancy research but is 100% the truth. Our society has certainly stigmatized mental illness and even grief, but it is important to remember feelings are never wrong and that grief is a normal part of living. Every time you share your feelings with another person, especially a trained professional, you cut the power for them to cause you harm in half.
Trust your own judgment beyond the above suggestions. If you experience these signs continually, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can help. And don’t forget, if you are a Hosparus Health family, you have up to thirteen months of Grief Counseling included as part of your hospice benefits! Just call our Grief Counseling Office at 502-451-5451 to request an appointment or speak to a member of your hospice team. If you have other counseling needs, call us to see how we can help.