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Do You Need Therapy?
by Michael Herkov, Ph.D
December 10, 2006

People with a wide range of problems — from depression to marital strife to simple phobias like the fear of flying — can reap the benefits of psychotherapy. The common reasons you might seek therapy are listed below.

Significant or Chronic Emotional Distress
Most people seek therapy — or any professional treatment, for that matter — to relieve pain or distress. Experiencing emotional pain is part of being human. But sometimes this distress is severe or long-standing and it could impair your daily life. Therapy might be appropriate for you if you feel emotional distress — sadness, anxiety, grief — that is persistent and troubling.

Relationship Problems
Often, emotional distress comes from difficulty in relationships. Troubled relationships may involve a spouse, parent, child, coworker or significant other. Therapy can help you understand the root of the problem and provide you with the tools you need to correct it.

Skills Acquisition
Some emotional distress or relationship problems are associated with the lack of a particular skill. Such problems can include excessive shyness, poor communication, lack of assertiveness or poor anger control. Many types of psychotherapy enable people to acquire or improve these skills. In these cases, the treatment focuses on teaching people to be able to do what they need to do to feel better.

Sexual Problems
Sexual dissatisfaction and dysfunction are common problems that can be embarrassing to talk about. Over the last several decades, therapists have made substantial progress in helping people obtain the most enjoyment out of their sexual functioning.

Recent Loss
Powerful attachments to others are uniquely human experiences. Enduring breaks in these attachments — through death or separation — can result in great emotional pain. Psychotherapy can help you cope with the loss.

Victim of Trauma or Abuse
Being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, or another form of violence, such as being in an automobile accident, can overwhelm your capacity to cope and leave scars that impair your ability to live a normal life. Psychotherapy can provide a confidential arena to discuss these issues with a caring, supportive person. By focusing on healing the wound caused by the trauma, psychotherapy can help you move forward with your life.

A Clinical Disorder or Condition
Persons with certain disorders or conditions can benefit from regimens that include psychotherapy and other forms of treatment, such as medication. For example, research shows that individuals with conditions such as major depression or bipolar disorder benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and medication. One type of treatment without the other might produce inadequate results.

Personal Growth
Though you might not have clinical conditions or symptoms, psychotherapy can help you learn more about yourself and others and teach you how to control your life more effectively. It can help you overcome obstacles that have kept you from reaching your goals and becoming the person you want to be.
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