A very common thing I hear my clients say is “I feel like I don’t deserve to be here seeing you…. There are so many people worse off than me, and perhaps I’m just wasting your time, and wasting an appointment that someone else could be using”.
There is still such a strong belief in our society that a person must be severely mentally ill or “completely falling apart” in order to be in need of psychological assistance or to be able to benefit from psychological help. But in fact, this is not the case.
Whilst people who are very unwell with mental illness do usually require treatment by mental health professionals, I would estimate in my practice that about 65% of my clients are relatively high functioning individuals, who generally cope quite well on a day to day basis (at least from an outsider’s perspective). They might be struggling, however, with low self-esteem, or perhaps they find it difficult to assert themselves in their interpersonal relationships or at work. Others might find that they are grieving the loss of a loved one, or a relationship breakdown, or perhaps they are finding it difficult to drive without being anxious following the car accident they had several months or even years ago. Some clients might be anxious when they meet new people, but quite confident when around people they know well. Others might find that their perfectionistic tendencies are starting to impact their efficiency at work due to the need to triple check everything.
Whatever the reason, it is most certainly NOT the case that only those individuals with severe mental illness will benefit from psychological assistance. In fact, most of us are likely to benefit from some form of psychological therapy at some stage in our lives. I myself have even seen a therapist in the past when I went through a relationship breakup and was finding it difficult to process.
So yes, by all means, if you have psychological symptoms which are having a severe impact on your day to day functioning- then please seek help soon. But, even if you feel you are coping in most areas in your life, but that your difficulties are having a negative impact on your life and this is bothering you, then you might benefit more than you think from seeing a Psychologist. In the majority of cases, Psychologists will help you to apply evidence based approaches to manage your difficulties, and of course, will allow you to discuss your difficulties perhaps in greater detail than you have before.
And don’t worry- you are not “wasting our time”. I can only speak for myself (but assume this applies to most Psychologists), when I say that I entered this profession to connect with others and to help people improve their quality of life- that doesn’t come with any “severity qualifiers.” In fact, I enjoy my job more when I get a variation of different presenting concerns…. it tends to keep me more stimulated and interested. So let’s work to reduce the stigma about seeking psychological help. It’s really no different to going to see your GP for a symptom that is bothersome.
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