Many can see therapy and counseling as a last ditch effort. Especially, individuals connected to a more masculine culture, such as with first responders. I hear people talk about marriage struggles then follow it up with “I don’t think we need therapy yet” or “We’re not at that point.” And the same goes for themselves as an individual or for their child. Almost as though signing up for therapy admits a failure of some sort. Of course there’s no one size fits all when it comes to when someone should seek out therapy. As a psychologist, on the other side I see and hear about the many different points that people find support. Far too often people seek help when one person in a marriage is no longer invested in it or an individual seeks help when they have very little hope left that things will ever change based on how badly things have gotten.
It can be really hard to think about when starting therapy earlier than you might consider it because of the stigma attached to it. So let’s talk in terms of something we can ALL relate to… Your car! Okay… If I gave you a beautiful car and told you this would be the only car you’re ever going to get and it will last you your lifetime if you take proper care of it. How would you approach maintenance? Would you let things go until you were broken down on the side of the road? Not if you wanted it to run smoothly long term. If that was the goal you’d likely pay attention to the car’s warning signals and follow the recommended maintenance that occurs regularly and try and catch problems before they got too bad right? Likely because everyone knows that when it comes to cars catching things early and when they are minor issues will be less expensive and easier to fix in the long run. Actually, we know that about any expensive object, tool, or piece of equipment. It’s no different with your physical and mental health!
It’s great that our cars have signals to alert us when we should be paying attention and find professional help. Believe it or not, if we’re paying attention, we notice our body and minds also have warning signals.
MAYBE YOU ARE HAVING…
challenges falling or staying asleep
more sadness than usual
a shorter fuse
recurring stomach aches
eye twitches and the list goes on…
IN A MARRIAGE SIGNS MIGHT BE...
feeling like it’s hard to get your point across
like your feelings aren’t being considered
differences in parenting styles that continually lead to arguments
feeling a lack of respect
feeling a lack of love and care
Sure you’re still functioning and you usually push through it and move on. We can all choose to keep driving with our low fuel signal on.
If your car alerts you about low fuel, how long will you go before you decide to pull over and get gas? Filling your car with gas is a quick fix and we all have to make time for it, no matter how inconvenient, if we want our cars to last! If you decided to keep driving until you broke down, well... you’re likely causing more wear and tear on your car than necessary and other issues may develop as a result, right? This is no different when it comes to therapy!
“According to relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, couples wait an average of SIX years of being unhappy before getting help.” Think about how much more challenging it would be working through six years of resentment and miscommunication then it would learning skills early on and addressing challenges along the way. The same goes for your personal life! Don’t wait until YOU or your marriage are “broken down” to come in. If we want things to last us (say a career) and run smoothly we should pay attention to our warning signs and apply proper maintenance along the way.
Don’t keep waiting, find a professional that specializes in the challenges you or a loved one are experiencing. I specialize in working with children and adults from first responder families. You can make contact with me here if you live in CA and are local. If not find a therapist near you here.