In light of the recent shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, mental health issues and preventative care should be at the forefront of our concerns. Often, there are warning signs that precede such catastrophic events such as Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine. Newtown, Connecticut, was in a small, affluent community with very little crime which proves no area is immune to unthinkable violence.
Ironically, if a person has diabetes or high blood pressure, he has no qualms about visiting the appropriate physician. However, despite strides in education and acceptance, there still remains some stigma in needing help with mental health issues. As a society, we are taught that independence and self-reliance are admirable traits. Many of us feel we have failed if we need help. Where do we go if our marriage is crumbling? What if our family has problems effectively communicating and arguments are becoming hostile or violent? What if our child is acting out at home or at school?
Often, distress for individuals, couples, and families occurs during life cycle changes.
For example, going to college is exciting and freeing, but leaving the security of home may seem daunting. Marriage is a magical occasion until the reality of having to negotiate the traditions of two separate families during the holidays and expectations pertaining to the division of household chores and allocation of income come to the forefront. The birth of a child is a miracle and a blessing, but the lack of sleep can cause delirium at 2:00 a.m. Divorce, blended families, sexual orientation issues, family illness, death, job changes, and retirement are included in the stressors that can be too overwhelming to formulate an effective solution without professional help.
The process of therapy comes with no guarantees. However, experience with past clients has given me faith in the power of human resilience. Often, clients have the answers to their own problems with some prompting by being asked the appropriate questions. A simple change in thought patterns can make such a difference in how we treat ourselves, our spouses or significant other, our children, our friends and co-workers, or simply a stranger we meet. If we think differently, we act differently, and therefore, life IS different.
When selecting a therapist, my suggestion is to look on-line such as at the Psychology Today website therapist referral section, ask friends for recommendations, or consult with a doctor or minister. Ask questions of the therapist during the phone consultation. A good therapist meets the client(s) where they are in life, does not impose his or her world view, and promotes healing, peace, productivity, and growth. Making that first phone call or sending that first e-mail is the scariest part of therapy.
There is no shame in needing or asking for help. Ironically, sometimes voicing concerns out loud to a neutral third party is very cathartic and talking to an outside source is what is needed to heal the soul and promote forward progress in life. You may discuss what makes you depressed or anxious, if you are contemplating divorcing your spouse or need help on how to save your marriage, if you have questions about your sexuality or want to disclose your sexual preference to others..and the list goes on. Point being, I wish more people who need help would seek it.
Amy Wood, MMFT, LMFT-I,CC of Upstate Family Solutions has a private practice in Greenville. She also sees clients at Middle Tyger Community Center in Lyman. Mrs. Wood may be reached at (864) 354-5957 or at www.upstatefamilysolutions.com