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5 Signs That It's a Good Time to Start Therapy

3. Depsite your best efforts, things seem to be getting worse.

Key points

  • People often start therapy when they're in pain and having a hard time coping.
  • Loved ones can help you decide whether to start therapy.
  • Therapy works best when you see it as a personal investment.
Goffkein/Adobe Stock
Source: Goffkein/Adobe Stock

If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s time to start therapy, here are five common ways to tell. You may identify with one or more of these signs; even if none of them resonate with you, it’s the right time for therapy when you‘re thinking it is, for any reason.

1. You’re suffering.

You’re in pain a lot of the time: the distress of depression, the agitation of anxiety, the longing of grief, the frustration of OCD, the horror of trauma. In one way or another, you’re hurting.

2. You’re struggling to deal with life.

Your internal struggles are affecting you at work or at school, or are hurting your relationships. You often feel overwhelmed and may find yourself overreacting to even small daily hassles. It feels like you’ve come to the end of your own ability to meet life’s demands.

3. Things are getting worse despite your best efforts.

You’re doing everything you know to feel mentally and emotionally well, but nothing seems to help. Maybe anxiety is escalating or depression is deepening. Your sleep may be getting worse, or your drinking is out of control. You feel like you’re heading in the wrong direction and you can’t seem to stop.

4. Someone you trust who knows you well suggests it.

Sometimes the people who are close to us can see us more clearly than we see ourselves. They may recognize that outside help is a good idea before we do. Even if their recommendation is driven partly by frustration with you, consider it as carefully as you can. One word of caution: If you start therapy at their urging, find something in it for you as soon as possible. Therapy works best when you see it as an investment in yourself.

5. You want to start therapy more than you don't want to.

Starting therapy is almost never a 100-percent-certain slam dunk decision, but will involve ambivalence. Part of you will say yes, and another part will say no. Change is always that way.

At some point, the part of you that is ready to face the difficulty and unknowns of finding a better way will say to the part of you that’s afraid to change: “Come on—let's do this.” Healing begins before your first therapy session. Healing begins when a voice inside you lets you know it’s time.

If you’re ready to get started, ask your doctor for a referral to a psychotherapist, or ask someone you trust for a recommendation. If you have health insurance you can search for someone in your network, though many therapists are out-of-network providers. You can also search the Psychology Today directory for a therapist in your area. Teletherapy may also be an option.

Portions of this post are adapted from Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Simple Path to Healing, Hope, and Peace.

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Gillihan, S. J. (2022). Mindful cognitive behavioral therapy: A simple path to healing, hope, and peace. HarperOne.

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