Counseling Corner: Knowing when to ask for help

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For most of us, asking for help can often be difficult. Yes, asking for advice on planting your garden is easy. But for a serious issue, such as our mental health, we may find that we don’t want to admit to the problems we’re facing.

It’s not hard to understand why we may be reluctant. Admitting that we’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed is like we’re admitting we’re weak or inadequate. Most of us learned as children that it’s important to be independent, strong and self-sufficient. That background makes it difficult to tell someone else that we’re really not OK.

The result is that people often decide to just try and do the best they can by themselves. In some cases things might just turn out fine, though there are no guarantees. But going it alone could involve considerable amounts of stress and anxiety, and may even lead to bigger and more serious problems.

Another common option is to turn to family or friends. This can be a good idea if those we trust with our problems and fears are truly understanding and are able to offer meaningful support and help. Sometimes they can, but often times they just can’t.

If you’re facing a difficult time or situation, something that’s causing depression, high stress and anxiety, and is making it difficult or impossible for you to enjoy life, it may be time to seek out professional help. Doing so can be a difficult choice, since it means asking for help from a stranger, and usually will involve a fee.

However, realize that a professional counselor is someone who has gone through extensive training and has many tools to help those feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to go on. Despite the way it’s often portrayed on TV, counseling is not something just for “crazy” people. Most counseling assists perfectly normal people who are simply facing issues and problems that are negatively affecting their lives.

Professional counselors specialize in numerous areas. Check with your local mental health association or visit the American Counseling Association website at www.counseling.org (click the “Find A Counselor” tab at the top) to locate professional counselors in a variety of specialties.

Asking for help is never a sign of weakness but rather of the strength to recognize when your problems are real and that you need help to do something about them.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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