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Your Problem Doesn't Need to be "Big Enough" for Therapy


An ancient sculpture of a man and his sons fighting a serpant. It has been called the prototypical icon of human agony.
Laocoön and His Sons

Some folks believe that problems need to be massive to warrant a trip to the therapist, or think that addressing smaller issues in therapy is a luxury for those who can afford the time and money to pursue it.* However, less disruptive problems may reasonably warrant a trip to a therapist. Here are a few reasons why:


First, "small" problems are often symptoms of a deeper underlying issue. For example, someone who has difficulty meeting people at work may benefit from exploring the root cause of this issue, such as a struggle with anxiety, low self-worth, or unrealistic expectations for yourself and others. Addressing root causes often improves not only the identified "small" problem itself, but other less visible issues and contribute to a greater sense of well being.


Second, these less intense problems can have a cumulative effect. They seem minor on their own, but as they repeat over and over for the rest of your life, they take a toll. As an example, improving your public speaking by going to a group like Toast Masters just for one speech seems like a lot of work unless we consider that all subsequent speeches--at weddings, at work, and parties--will also benefit. Improving your day just 1% may seem like a small thing, but improving each of the rest of your days 1% adds up to a monumental difference.


Third, therapy can be a helpful resource for anyone who wants to make positive changes in their life--regardless of how big or small those changes might seem. Whether you're dealing with a specific problem or just looking to improve your overall well-being, therapy can be a caring, safe environment in which you can express your thoughts and feelings, plan new ways of behaving, and relate to other people in a new way.


So, do your problems with living need to be wildly disruptive to go to a therapist? No.** In fact, your smaller issues may be evidence of a bigger underlying issue, may accumulate to make your life noticably worse in the longterm, and or could present a real opportunity for personal growth. So don't let a sense that your problems are "too small" prevent you from reaching out to a therapist.


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*Of course, there is some truth in these stereotypes. Traumatic events or significant impairments in functioning often warrant a trip to therapy. And, those with resources may be able to entertain a lower threshold of when they feel it's time for therapy--access to services remains an issue for healthcare. I (and many other private practice therapists) maintain a caseload of pro bono services because of the belief that mental health should be available to everyone.


**It would be a fun plot twist if I had said "yes" though.

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