Most people from time to time feel depressed, frightened or confused. How do you know when you need professional help? These guidelines may help you decide.

First, consider the source of your problem. Is it external, that is, due to circumstances or events such as death, divorce, illness or other loss? If so, depression and anxiety are "normal" feelings. The question then becomes: Are you coping and adjusting? Or are your feelings and responses interfering with your daily functioning?

If your problem is internal, you may not be able to pinpoint a specific cause; but you may feel dissatisfied, restlessness, or in conflict. Then the problem is more complex.

Changing yourself or your lifestyle requires more commitment and courage than merely adjusting to changes beyond your control. Again, the crucial question to ask yourself is whether or not this problem is interfering with your job or personal life.

Rating yourself objectively on three factors may help you decide:

#1 Self-esteem --- how you see yourself, how close you are to being your ideal self; how much you value the person you are. Which of these items describe you?

  • Do you tend to see only your weaknesses, rather than both positive and negative qualities?
  • Do you consistently feel inferior to others?
  • Do you always take the blame when things go wrong?
  • Do you alternate between the extremes of thinking "I can handle it all" to"I can’t cope"?
  • Do you feel that your parents have always disapproved of you

    The more items you have checked, the more likely you have poor self-esteem.

    #2 Activity Level – which of these items describe you?

  • Are you a passive "couch potato"?
  • Are you always running, in frenzied activity that gets you nowhere?
  • Do you stew and fret but do nothing constructive to solve your problems?
  • If you have checked any of the above items, you tend to be passive and unproductive left to your own devices.

    #3 Connectedness – consider the following questions:

    • Do you have true friends rather than superficial acquaintances?
    • Do you have two relatives with whom you can talk and share problems?

    If you answered "no" to either or both of these questions, you probably lack satisfying connection with others. Trusting relationships in which you can be yourself and share your deepest thoughts and feelings become the support system which helps you cope with problems when they occur.

    To return to the question of whether or not you need therapy at this time:

    • If your primary problems are internal,
    • If your self-esteem is low,
    • If you are passive or unproductive,
    • If your support system is weak,
    • If your attempts to solve your problem or adjust to situational changes have failed and you feel "stuck,"
    • If your problems are affecting your functioning in your job or social life,
    It may be time to consult a professional for help exploring and working through your thoughts and feelings; to help you develop new tools at an important crossroads, or time of crisis.