1) Impaired functioning - If you have noticed that your ability to function in individually, socially, or professionally has decreased, or is on a downward trajectory, meeting with a mental health professional might help you to restore your normal and/or potential functioning. When we are not doing as well as we used to do (for no apparent reason), it might be time to "sharpen the saw." Activities that help us "sharpen" our personal "saw" include exercise, prayer/meditation, and talking out our problems with people we trust.
2) Lack of Life Satisfaction - Although life is full of ups and downs (sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are sad), consistent feelings of dissatisfaction with life suggests that something we are doing is not working. Although we may eventually be able to figure it out, sometimes the answers seem far away from us. At times like this,
the insights and feedback of a counselor may help us identify where we need to make changes.3) Use of Destructive Coping Mechanisms - Having our own ways to deal with difficult situations in life is an important part of reaching maturity. However, since we frequently encounter new and challenging situations in our lives, and because many of us did not have healthy coping strategies modeled by our parents, from time to time we may need to develop new strategies. Many of us have tried coping methods that, instead of helping the situation, make it worse. Examples of poor coping mechanisms include: substance abuse, anger and violence, emotional shut down, leaving loved ones, and abandoning responsibilities. Books, websites, and other media can help us find personal tools for coping with challenges in our lives. However, for certain coping skills it is good to have a "coach." Most counselors understand the importance of helping their clients develop a useful set of coping skills and strategies.
4) Feeling Like Giving Up - As mentioned earlier, it is normal to have ups and downs in life, and to get discouraged from time to time. Feeling down is just as natural as feeling up. There are times in most of our lives when we seem to be getting down more frequently, and feeling up less frequently. If such a downward trend is something you are experiencing, and have reached the point where you feel "at the end of your rope," a counselor, or other mental health professional, might be able to help you get "out of the dumps." Feeling like we "just can't do it anymore" is a good sign that we could use some help.5) Decaying Personal and Family Relationships - Research consistently suggests that having a network of family and other close relationships can help us live happier lives, experience support during difficult times, and help us feel emotionally secure. But when close relationships become distressing or hurtful we should seriously consider getting help from a relationship expert. Although, many mental health professionals can provide basic relationship therapy, you might want to consider getting help from someone with specific training in marriage and family therapy. Investment (of time, energy, etc.) toward improved relationships, can often have important impact on your level of personal happiness and life satisfaction. The right kind of counselor just might be able to provide you with the help you need to have more fulfilling and peaceful relationships.
As I mentioned initially, most of the time we are able to handle the challenges we face in life. However, a big part of maturity and emotional health is recognizing when we need help. There are numerous signs that might tell us we need help. I have listed five such signs above. Take a minute to evaluate whether you, or the people in your life, might benefit from counseling services. If so, do not hesitate to contact a professional near you. It might be one of the best decisions you ever make.