We all experience different seasons of life. Sometimes we have good stress, sometimes we have bad stress and what can feel like ever-changing circumstances. We experience the joys of graduation and weddings. Perhaps we have the blessing of the birth of our own child or grandchild. There are also times when we may experience hurt that can surprise us with how deeply it cuts: bullies at school or work, spousal abuse or neglect, etc. We’re more than familiar with life’s ups and downs but how do you know when you should see a counselor? Below are some examples of the kinds of life events and experiences that you should carefully consider as signals to see a counselor.
Moving can be an exciting and stressful time. Whether it’s moving to start your first year of college, getting your first apartment and “grown up” job or starting over after a major life change, moving to a new town where you don’t know anyone can get very lonely. If you’ve been living in a new town for three months or more and have not found a new church to attend or made any new friends (not even work friends) and find yourself getting depressed and lonely, you may want to talk with a counselor. For individuals with a history to depression, this is especially important as loneliness exacerbates depression. Your counselor should be able to recommend a few churches and some other hobbies or activities to become a part of to help you find healthy community to connect with others.
Significant Life Change
Maybe you are in a new season of life as an empty nester. Perhaps you’ve recently retired or lost your job. Maybe you are recently divorced and now share custody of your kids and have new “free time” every other weekend. What do you with this new season of life? Who are you now with this new significant change? Starting a new routine and a new purpose can be overwhelming but you should never struggle through it alone. If you find yourself having difficulty navigating a significant change in your daily life, it may be time to meet with a counselor to get some outside perspective, encouragement and guidance.
Hardship and challenges can make us feel overwhelmed, especially when more than one challenge hits at the same time. Depression and anxiety have increased among college and graduate level students. According to a study done by the University of California at Berkley in 2005, 10 percent of graduate and professional students had contemplated suicide with more than half feeling depressed much of the time. The study was conducted again among 790 students 10 years later and obtained similar results of students reporting feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and stress. The intensity of the programs, cost of living, lack of social support and future job outlook are all realities that can result in students feeling completely overwhelmed. Yet it’s not just students. There are countless unique situations in life that can result in someone feeling overwhelmed (job loss or change, sudden death of a loved one, change in general). If you haven’t already, this is the time to reach out to a counselor to take steps toward better mental health and soul care.
Suicidal or Self-Harming Thoughts
If you’ve ever experienced thoughts about killing or harming yourself or others, it is imperative for you to see a counselor immediately. Whether you are a teen being bullied at school or a married woman in deep depression, take the brave step of reaching out and getting help. If you have a loved one or friend who has shared these thoughts with you, offer to help them find a counselor to talk to and even volunteer to go to their first appointment with them if they’d prefer. This is a tough subject that can be scary to talk about and address, but it’s important to do so and to get the help that’s needed.
General Wisdom and Counsel
Maybe you aren’t experiencing a crisis situation or major conflict in your life right now. Perhaps you’re a newlywed couple that could benefit from wise counsel about making an important life decision together. Perhaps you’re trying to figure out what next step to take in your career or decide on a college major. The Bible describes wisdom as “skill in living,” and when it comes to making wise decisions, sometimes we need the godly perspective of others to help us understand God’s Word so that we can make good decisions.
I believe that the best time to see a counselor is before life and relationships are in crisis mode. When you’re starting to feel anxiety for the first time or more panicked than you’ve ever been, that is God’s way of telling us that we need to get help. Whatever your situation is right now, I hope these points provide some clarity as to how you are handling life and whether it is the appropriate time to bravely reach out and meet with a counselor. To connect with a local Biblical counselor contact your pastor or trusted family member, visit Heart Song Counseling to see if there is a counselor near you or check the Association of Biblical Counselors website.