When Can Counseling Help?

Even after three decades as a professional counselor, I’m always amazed that some people still are reluctant to talk to a counselor. In fact, why is it that some people think nothing of hiring a personal trainer to help them stay in physical shape but wouldn’t consider a “communications coach” to help them through a difficult personal period or phase.


If personal trainers are all the rage, why aren’t personal psychological trainers? Counselors have access to a whole ship of tools and tips to help people communicate better and maneuver the seas of change in their lives. And many insurance companies are happy to support your growth by paying for the services they know will lighten your stress.


So how do you know when counseling can help? How do you know when it’s time to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with a psychologist, social worker, therapist or counselor?

Consider meeting with a communications coach or personal counselor:

1. If there is a major change, good or bad, in your life.

Major life events can affect us more than we think. If you’ve gotten a big job promotion or are going through/have gone through a divorce, for example, counseling can help you adjust more confidently to these changes. “Change happens!” is the motto of these times of flux. Because whether we like it or not, change often happens rapidly or unexpectedly, and sometimes the next challenge or change may present itself before you’ve absorbed the last change or had time to adapt. Heck, I even remember when the world operated on manual typewriters and carbon paper…and there was no such concept as the Internet!

2. If there is a stress pattern that haunts you across time.

Counseling or coaching can help you sort through causes, triggers and put an end of self-defeating patterns if you keep getting stuck in the same old ruts. Perhaps you’ve noticed a pattern in your life of quitting before you finish major projects, or changing relationships in mid-stream only to find yourself back in the same soup again. Maybe you experience unexplained physical problems, or maybe you drink, drug, work or think too much. Maybe you feel as if you never are able to accomplish what you want most, or you repeat the same blunders despite your best intentions. If you want to stop those or other patterns, consider counseling.

3. If there is a depression, uneasiness or anxiety that won’t go away.

Some people aren’t quite sure what’s bothering them, but they are convinced something is wrong. Respect these intuitions that bubble up into your conscious awareness. A counselor can help you sort through the mud and muck of confused thinking to get at the root of what’s bothering you. There are reasons for every distress, even if you are not aware of them at the time. Counselors and family communications coaches are best at “digging up the truth.”

4. If you doubt your adequacy or self-esteem and need a boost in confidence.

Everyone in life shares many of the same struggles, but most people think that they’re the only one who’s ever experienced their specific problem. Problems are solvable with teamwork! A counselor or communications coach can assure you that nothing is wrong and help you normalize your painful experience. You may even have heard someone who has gone through counseling say, “I wasn’t told something I didn’t already know, but it was nice to confirm with someone else that what I’m struggling with is normal and I’m coping better with it all.” That type of confirmation alone can ease your mind when you feel as if you’re losing it.

5. If there is a child or teenager who is experiencing stress and strain for no obvious reason.

Because they’re often vulnerable and open, children and teens often sense a family problem before the adults know about it. If your child shows a quick temper or lethargy, or any other type of unusual behavior, it may be an expression of some pain in the family that is not being talked about. A counselor can help tell if it is a child/teen problem or a couple/family problem. Likewise, if you’re having trouble with your children/teens, counseling can often help you sort out what’s causing the problems and help you figure out what to do next.

6. If there is too much distance, quietness or stewing in your partnership or marriage.

Be concerned if you never have an argument with your partner or mate, and be just as concerned if you are always on edge and arguing. Much anxiety, aggravation and dysphoria (feeling blue) stems from relationship distress interacting with personal dissatisfaction. Often we are most afraid of change in our most intimate relationships. Resisting positive changes and being non-communicative smashes the crystal vase of your love to smithereens. A positive partnership or marriage is the best antidote to unpredictable life stressors that catch us off guard.

7. If you are curious about the counseling process.

We all are wise to use many professional consultants, from tax advisers to teeth advisers. It is more common than ever that a family communication consultant or counselor is on par with a family doctor or dentist for good family health. A skilled communications psychologist can be a lifelong friend to your family and ease the many tough transitions you might go through by knowing your family’s unique history.


Word-of-mouth is still a great way to get connected to a positive counselor or a change management and communications coach.

Ask your friends, coworkers, colleagues and family members if they can recommend a good counselor or psychologist. Don’t be fooled by titles. Competent “counselors” include psychologists, counselors, social workers and more-they are all the talk doctors, not the pill doctors (doctors who can prescribe medications are psychiatrists).

At the end of your first 45-minute evaluation meeting, you should have a very good sense of what counseling is like, whether the counselor thinks you could benefit from counseling and why, and have a clear set of positive goals to help guide future discussions and change.


You will feel better by the end of the first meeting. Of course, you also may find that you don’t really need counseling or the particular type of counseling this counselor specializes in. For example, initially you may have gone to a child psychologist for a concern about a child’s lack of motivation in school, but soon learn that you (and your spouse/partner) need more helping on how to set effective limits as parents. It is the counselor’s job to guide you to the right resource.


In any group of people, there are a few I call “change resisters.” They actually believe the saying, “It’s not my fault because I don’t have a problem.” I believe the people who have the biggest problems are those who believe they are perfect and have not a single problem in the world.

Consider accessing counseling today! Why not treat yourself to positive life changes instead of getting white knuckles because you’re hanging in there by just surviving and trying to hang on to your grip by your fingernails.


Helpful, state-of-the-art ideas on counseling children, teens, adults or conquering relational distress can be found at these sites: www.apa.org and www.drrobertbrooks.com

Dennis O’Grady is founder of New Insights Communications and a professional psychologist who understands that the best kind of talking, counseling and therapy is the kind that establishes good communications skills and focuses on change….change for the better, change for the future, change that helps the world go forward instead of spinning and spinning in place.

Dr. Dennis O’Grady provides executive coaching and professional development training in Ohio and surrounding states. Dennis is the author of “Talk to Me: Communication Moves to Get Along with Anyone” which is a leadership training and positive relationship workbook.

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