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Psychotherapy: Signs that You Need Help and Common Problems Women Take to a Psychological Therapist

Psychological therapy is a way of understanding and managing difficulties in your life through talking with a trained professional. Learn from the clinical psychologist Naureen Whittinger about the signs that you need professional help and about most common issues women take to her office.

When to make an appointment with a psychological therapist?

You might choose to go to therapy because you are struggling to cope with your daily activities. Alternatively, you might have noticed changes in your mood, your energy levels or how you are responding to events. 

Key changes in mood to look out for are feeling very low or more irritable than usual, worrying excessively, or experiencing panic. Alternatively, your mood might be elevated making it difficult to concentrate or rest.

Your mood is linked closely with your physical wellbeing, so you might also notice changes in how you feel in your body. For example, not sleeping easily at night, feeling very tired even though you have rested, or changes in your eating pattern like losing your appetite or eating too much. 

The type of thoughts you are having might signal your distress. Maybe your thoughts are racing, you are preoccupied by something, it’s difficult to concentrate, or hard to notice positive things around you. 

Changes in your relationships might be another sign. You might be more easily upset by others or having frequent arguments, or instead withdrawing from others or feeling frightened to be alone. 

These signs are often very normal reactions to difficult things that have happened to you. They may go away with time or with the support of friends and family. However, if problems like these persist for some weeks, there is no need to suffer alone.

The decision to go to therapy should always be a personal one and there is no wrong time or reason to start.

Therapy can provide a helpful space to talk and find new solutions. If you are having serious thoughts about ending your life or are harming yourself, you should know there are people who can help you and it can be crucial to seek professional support.

What are the common difficulties women take to psychological therapy?

Women often begin therapy at times of intense stress, perhaps after a difficult event such as divorce, bereavement or problems at work. Alternatively, it might be because they are facing a dilemma in their life and they wish for something to change. 

Other women have been planning to attend therapy for a long time because they wish to understand themselves better.

In life, women often experience a lot of pressure; to be perfect and to have the ideal relationship, family, career and home, whilst also looking beautiful and not complaining.

It’s no wonder many women experience depression and anxiety, have difficulties regulating their emotions, or find unhealthy ways of managing such as addictions or self-harming. Therapy can provide a space to consider competing priorities and pressures, as well as relationship patterns that cause pain. It can also help women consider important decisions like when is the right time to start a relationship or a family, or how to move forward after the loss of a parent, partner, child or friend.

As a psychological therapist, I notice some mental health concerns such as eating disorders are more commonly experienced by women, and there are conditions like postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis which are experienced solely by women. Women are also more likely to experience gender-based crimes and take difficulties relating to fertility, pregnancy and childbirth to therapy. 

The decision to go to therapy should always be a personal one and there is no wrong time or reason to start. 

a woman at the therapist's office

How to choose a psychological therapist?

Your family doctor or another healthcare professional can usually refer you to a psychological therapist.

This is a good way of finding a therapist who is qualified, professional and ethical in their approach. Some other ways of finding a therapist are through recommendations from friends and family, through community or charity organizations, or from online registers. 

After you have identified a psychological therapist, the first step will be to find out more about how they work and if this fits with what you want. If you are accessing therapy through healthcare professionals or other organization, you might not be able to choose your therapist but you can still ask questions about what to expect from therapy. 

If you have found a private therapist, read their website or give them a call to find out more.

Ask about the time, place, duration and how long therapy might last.

Make sure you are clear about the costs and any charges for missed appointments and holidays.

Whoever you choose to work with, you should always ensure that they have the appropriate qualifications to work with you and is registered with a professional body. Your therapist should be able to explain more about how they work so you can be better prepared for your first session. 

How to decide if it’s the right psychological therapist for me?

Getting a good fit is important and ultimately you want to ask yourself if your therapist is someone you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with. For some people, starting therapy can be tough or feel strange, but you should be able to tell your therapist is there is anything you do not understand about the process or do not feel comfortable about in the sessions. 

If you've already made an appointment with a therapist, don't miss this first-time therapy session guide by Dr. Whittinger.

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