Have you ever asked yourself this question? If so, perhaps you said no for any number of reasons. This is the first in a series of brief articles about the purpose of counseling, qualifications of a good therapist, and how to find a therapist on the Internet. As a therapist, I often refer clients to other therapists when I cannot work with them for one reason or another. In the process of talking to clients about therapy, I became aware of what the public does and doesn’t know about my profession and wanted to share some insider information to educate and enlighten others.
Historically, counseling or mental health is a very young field. So what did we do before there were therapists? One can only assume they we talked about our problems with our family members, a trusted friend, a minister, or someone in our community we respected and admired for their wisdom. And perhaps that person was helpful, perhaps not. Either way, all we had to turn to was each other. Some changes have occurred in Western culture that I believe have contributed to the development and need of counselors and therapists. An increase in our individual autonomy, a more highly mobile society, and changes in the nuclear family unit have all led to people living alone, living apart from family, or generally not having the support of family and friends around. In a way, these changes in our culture have created a need for a specialized support person, someone we can go to with our problems, someone who will listen and not judge, someone who will help us understand our behavior, and someone who can guide us toward solutions. In 21st century American culture, that someone is a therapist.
So what exactly would I see a therapist for? If you have a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, or post-traumatic stress, you could certainly benefit from the support of a professional therapist. If you are having problems in your marriage or relationship, some therapists specialize in marriage or couple’s counseling. Children and teens seem to be increasingly developing mental health problems due to breakdowns in the nuclear family. I am currently counseling middle school students and seeing firsthand some of the serious problems that develop because children and teens do not have the loving support of family to help them through a myriad of challenges. Or perhaps your life is going pretty well but you just need help making a decision about something. For all the reasons I mentioned, and more, therapists can be a tremendous support in helping us navigate life’s many challenges. My next article will focus on the qualifications of a good therapist.
Written by John Johnson