Sometimes, it's difficult to know. But there *are* ways to read between the lines of the issues you have, to help tell if professional help is needed, or not...
For some of us, there's no getting away from an issue. It's front and center and can't be ignored.
We're speaking here about obvious issues, that are usually
- recent and/or sudden
- a one off trauma, event, accident, etc
- causing day to day emotional pain currently
- unavoidable/inescapable consequences in the real world or day-to-day life.
Examples of these sorts of issues include:
Patterns, or behavioural habits, however, are more subtle, and slightly trickier to define if help is needed.
First, let's establish what the habit or pattern is, that's causing problems:
Now, let's ascertain if the habit or pattern is "doing anything for you", i.e. there is any sort of "secondary gain" from it:
Or, look at it another way:
We're looking for belief answers to these questions, e.g. "I'm not good enough" "I'm not important" "What I say doesn't matter" etc, etc.
Often times the answer to the second question above will be the opposite of the answer to the first.
When you've got some beliefs that come up for you, now you can fill in the blanks:
"The way to _______(core belief) is to _______(habit/behaviour)."
"What makes me _______(core belief) is _______(habit/behaviour)."
*Now* can you see what the pattern or habit is doing for you?
This is often called a "survival strategy" belief, attached to a behavioural pattern.
If you don't have any feelings or beliefs coming up when you think about doing the behaviour or action, it's probably not that big of an issue in your life (you're not getting much from it).
But most folks will be able to identify clear patterns here.
Often what's happened over time, is that we've reacted a certain way, when under stress, then found one means of coping with the stress.
We tried that coping mechanism once, found that it "works" in some way, (temporarily removes some sort of pain).... then later, it's become a habitual means of dealing with that particular stressor.
When that habit continues over time, it often becomes the *only* way we know how to cope with that issue.
When it's a habit or pattern like this, to release the pattern and the habit, it becomes more important to resolve *both* the belief and the behaviour.
For instance, if I'm working on (e.g.) "the way to feel important, is to bully others..."
...then I need to resolve both "I'm not important" *and* the conclusion that "bullying others is the way to feel important" in order to be free of the pattern for good.
This is where the work with your counsellor or therapist comes in.
Of course, a competent counsellor can help guide you through these steps, and others, to help you ascertain the need for counselling.
*And* then help you resolve the underlying beliefs, conclusions, and experiences that you need help with.
We don't recommend attempting this without professional help.
Is *your* counsellor aware of these subtle distinctions?
In summary: To get clearer on the need for help, establish first of all, if your issue fits into the "acute" or "habit" bucket as above, then follow the above steps to get a sense of the need for professional assistance.
Hope it helps.
Our counsellors adhere to the BACP code of ethics and practice.