Ever been to psychotherapy? If you haven’t, you may have the wrong idea about who can benefit from treatment. You may be surprised to learn that it’s not for the severely mentally ill; there are institutions for those with profound mental impairment. Psychotherapy can help all of us as we navigate our way through life’s ups and downs and find ourselves at a point where we feel overwhelmed and uncertain how to proceed.

Maybe you’ve lost a job promotion to a colleague . or you are going through a relationship breakup. You may actually have a history of unsatisfying relationships. What about your self-esteem? Is it low because you grew up with a critical parent — or because you’ve compared yourself to a sibling and feel like you’ll never be as successful as him/her?Maybe you’re tired of feeling like everybody’s doormat — or you are a perfectionist and impose impossible expectations on yourself. Perhaps others think of you as ‘moody,’ or ‘hot-tempered.’ Friends, coworkers, and family are warning you that you better change your ways or are distancing from you in silence. You are starting to realize you are your own worst enemy and you feel anxious, defeated, and stressed.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that their friends and family can provide the same support as a therapist. Friends, family, and therapists can both provide empathic support; however this is where the likeness ends. While friends/family can have good intentions, they often offer unsolicited advice lacking in objectivity. They can be offensive or hurtful when they advise you to “just get over it.”

The boundaries will be more defined between you and your therapist. The therapist will be able to give you an objective, educated opinion of your situation. He/she will work collaboratively with you to help you make the changes necessary for a more gratifying life. A therapist will validate you and give you unconditional positive regard. The concept of sharing one’s innermost issues with a stranger is a tough one for many to digest; however, it is because there is no prior relationship that a therapist can work objectively and nonjudgmentally with you.

A therapist will be able to assess that your moodiness or ‘bad temper’ could be a brain chemical imbalance. He/she can coach you with anger management skills and also refer you to a psychiatrist who can medicate you with a mood stabilizer and relieve you of your constant agitation. Life will be so much more enjoyable when you are no longer chronically annoyed.

If you have negative views of yourself, a therapist can help you to understand that they are distorted and help you to acquire a positive, reality-based self-concept. He/she can help you to make the changes needed for future successful personal relationships. She can help you to become more assertive. She can help you to become more confident in your decision-making.

There are a variety of professionals who provide psychotherapy: licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), licensed professional counselors (LPC) and psychologists (PsyD, PHD).

Psychotherapy can be an empowering experience. Now that you are a bit more informed about it, consider seeking treatment if this article resonates with you and your life.

Kristy Fox-Berman, LCSW. Private practice in Skillman, NJ. 908-625-7090.

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