When is counseling a good idea?

Counseling can be of assistance in a wide variety of situations. Several families, for example, mention the impact it’s had on their lives in edited excerpts below. To learn if it might benefit you, see advice below from Laurel Spencer of Diakon Family Life Services …

•    “I’m a single mom and messed up royally when I was younger. My youngest child, for example, has struggled with feeling abandoned. And who could blame him? His father told him that I should have had an abortion because having him ruined his life! My son wouldn’t sleep alone for years; it was hard for me to leave him. I sought out counseling for him but then realized I also needed an outlet. I’m still struggling but my son and I went to counseling together and I learned what he needed to have from me. I also learned how to better handle the stress of raising my children alone. Counseling definitely helped us.”

•    “My husband and I sought marriage counseling after becoming involved in foster care while also caring for our other children and grandchildren. There was never time for just the two of us. My husband thought counseling was a waste of time but went because he knew it was important to me. Communication was our key issue. Now, thanks to counseling, we are open to communication and pay more attention to each other. Counseling has allowed us see there needs to be “us time” and even parent/child time with each of our children. In fact, we hire a sitter once a month so that we can do something with our older kids. Before going to counseling, we had simply spread ourselves too thin.”

There’s no question about it: We live in a complex world that sometimes presents us with difficulties we’re not sure how to address.

When that happens, it’s good to know there’s someone to whom we can go for answers and help.

Research shows that one in four people is currently experiencing emotional distress of one kind or another, whether connected to relationship issues such as separation or divorce, parenting concerns, problems at work, financial matters, substance abuse, loss or grief, overwhelming stress and so on.

One in 17 people is experiencing a severe illness of some type.

Whatever the challenge, our friends and family often provide an excellent support system that can help us over the rough spots in life.

But how do you know when you or someone you love could use compassionate, professional guidance and feedback? When is counseling advisable, and how do people benefit from it?

Many warning signs are readily apparent, for example, when an individual is suffering from a serious health condition, experiencing severe mental illness or abusing drugs or alcohol. Others may have gone through a traumatic event such physical or sexual abuse or a violent crime. In these cases, counseling is not only appropriate, it’s also vital that these individuals receive attention and treatment as soon as possible.

But what about less-obvious warning signs?

These signs can vary greatly, but some to look for include …

•    Recent stressful events,
•    Anxiety or depression,
•    Changes in emotions or behavior,
•    Changes in eating or sleeping habits,
•    Problems at work,
•    Isolation from others,
•    Thoughts of suicide and so on.

When people face these types of circumstances, they may not know exactly what kind of help they need. That’s when a professional counselor can be useful—by providing an assessment, by offering continuing, positive support and, if necessary, referring the person to a higher level of care.

Programs such as Diakon Family Life Services offer a number of services to help you or a loved one get your life back on track, including individual and family counseling, therapy for children and adolescents, outpatient addiction counseling and other, more intensive psychiatric services.

If you’re interested in counseling for yourself or someone else or, if you’re certain treatment is necessary, the easiest and best thing to do is reach out for advice.

In trying times, it’s good to know someone is on your side.

—Laurel Spencer
Clinical Director
Diakon Family Life Services – Upper Susquehanna

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