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Stressed Out? Down and Out? Keep Calm and Call a Therapist

You Are Not Alone

"Maybe You Should Go Talk to Someone.” That’s code for “Call a therapist.” The suggestion may have come from someone who cares about you. Or from the still, quiet voice within. Even from this blog post that caught your eye just now. Either way, the message is this: Whatever is bogging you down or working you up, counseling helps you feel better, faster.

As it happens, we are coming up on National Mental Health Awareness Month in May. So what better time than the present to explore the possibility of mental health counseling?

WHO does it help? The short answer: Therapy helps anyone and everyone, any time. We’ve all got stresses. We’ve all got blind spots. The right therapist shows you how to see the Big Picture clearly. Of course, people enduring chronic and severe mental illness need routine therapy to function, usually in combination with medication and regular evaluation by a psychiatrist. Our focus here is on mental wellness for those of us who generally move through our lives with relative ease.

At some point though, most everyone hits a speed bump. Life doesn’t seem to be working right anymore. Our usual way of doing things is ineffective, or maybe even backfiring and making the situation worse. This is common during times of stress: divorce; parenting a troubled teen or a tyrannical toddler; being a troubled teen; relationship struggles at home, school, work or in your social life; loss of a loved one; entering adolescence, retirement, or any stage in between. Even happy events like a new baby or a job promotion can trigger levels of anxiety or depression that interfere with our ability to live life with a sense of purpose, enjoying meaningful connection with others, meeting challenges with confidence, and let's not forget having FUN.

HOW does it help? Counseling helps us to identify our triggers and then, to disarm them. Sometimes we aren't able to pinpoint a certain situation that's causing our distress. No worries. That's quite common. Either way, therapy brings insight about what you've been doing to cope with these challenges, which coping skills are working for you, and which ones need fine-tuning. Basically, therapy trains you in the art of tweaking. As opposed to twerking. Miley Cyrus is your go-to girl for that.

WHAT should you look for in a therapist? Top of the List: Choose a therapist who "clicks" with you. Research show that the single-most important factor in the success of therapy is the relationship between you and your therapist. Next, ask questions. Search for a therapist who specializes or has experience in what's bothering you. Ask what type of therapy does the counselor use? A good sign is if you can understand their answer without Googling. Anyone who spouts a bunch of technical gobbledygook isn't likely to be any less confusing when you're on the couch, straining your neck to see the therapist across from you on their high horse.

Consider practical matters too. Does the counselor offer appointment times that fit your schedule? How long does a session last? A standard “therapeutic hour” lasts 45 minutes to 50 minutes. Obviously, you want someone whose fee fits your budget. Do keep in mind that “behavioral health benefits” offered by insurers typically cover treatment only for mental illness, as opposed to the types of issues we are talking about here. Consider therapy an investment in yourself. You may need only a few sessions to get over that speed bump.

WHY not just get a prescription from my doctor for ant-anxiety or anti-depressant meds? Generally, medication is primarily about symptom relief. Symptoms are like weeds. Unless you pull them out by the roots, they’re going to grow back. Research has shown that in some situations, therapy is more effective than meds, as in cases of mild- to moderate-depression, for example. Therapy goes deeper than biology, also taking into account how you think, how you feel and express emotions (or don't feel them), and how your way of being in the world affects the quality of your life, for better or for worse. This means getting to the core of what's causing those symptoms to begin with.

In the end, the right therapist will guide you to "crack the code" that leads to your Best Life.

Whatever is getting in the way of you living your Best Life, therapy can help. Let's talk: Call 954.494.3848 e-mail vzaffos@aol.com

Valerie Zaffos is a licensed mental health counselor in Weston, FL working with teens and adults, individuals, couples and families. She also is a certified hypnotherapist. Free one-hour consultations are offered for prospective clients.

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