Power Through or Seek Help? 6 Misconceptions About Seeking Professional Help
When a conflict arises once, you chalk it up to a bad day. When the same or similar conflict arises again, you may think you have a streak of bad luck. A third time, and you may start using the “P” word-- “I think we have a PROBLEM.” At this crossroads, you have a decision to make: "Do I power through or do I seek help?"
Power through-- what does that look like? Well, usually it means you put your head down and endure the pain; this could be hurt, disappointment, embarrassment, anxiety, the list goes on. Sometimes “power through” means you keep trying different things until you find something that works even in the slightest.
Seek Help-- What does it mean to seek help? We reach out to family and friends or perhaps we post something on Facebook or run a thorough google search. Whatever the plea for help, it may be just what we need to get through the day.
And sometimes there is a third scenario: your crossroads may be more complex. You may find yourself asking, “How do I know when is the right time to seek professional help?” The difference between professional help and the everyday help we can get by picking up the phone, is sometimes the difference between lasting results and a temporary fix. This is not to say that friends and family are not valuable in helping us work through life’s issues; in fact, friends and family are a crucial support system when life gets hard. However, unbiased advice and guidance from a knowledgeable, experienced, yet humble, expert will often produce the healthiest and most sustainable outcome for an individual in a time of need.
You may have some hesitation about seeking professional help when dealing with a life issue. Here are some common misconceptions about seeking professional help:
1. Help does not mean you are incapable. Very smart, very educated individuals need help. Knowledge does not equal immunity to depression, anxiety, illness, autism, adhd, job loss, divorce, etc. Very smart, very educated, very capable people have to struggle with difficult life circumstances. This doesn’t have to be embarrassing, in fact, it should feel empowering to know you are smart enough to know when is the right time to seek professional help in order to better handle a hard issue.
2. Help is another perspective. How many times have you watched a television series and you predict the ending before it happens? Why does this happen? Because you are on the outside looking in (and because of poor script-writing). Someone on the outside-looking-in is not smarter than the people on the inside, it simply means they are looking at the situation through a third lens. There is not an emotional connection or extensive history (sometimes baggage) that is affecting this person’s perspective on perhaps a new way to proceed.
3. Help is for problems big and small. What happens when a gardener does not pull weeds? The weeds take over the garden and the fruit suffers. What happens when a seemingly small problem persists? The problem affects other parts of life and daily living can become compromised. Relationships suffer and tension increases. Stress takes over, mood is affected, and we end up making emotional decisions. Sometimes the affect, of what was once a small problem, seeps into everyday living, and suddenly you don't know how you got from point A to point B. Any problem that impacts daily functioning by increasing stress or tension in the home, work, or school deserves our attention. Some other big, more recognizable, triggers for seeking help are as follows: mental health diagnosis, developmental disability or learning disability, unhealthy behavior patterns such as addiction or poor coping skills, death of a loved one, major life change or transition such as marriage, divorce, college, aging parent, family growth.
4. Even Helpers need help. Maybe you’re saying, but “I am a Counselor, a Social Worker, a Therapist, a Teacher, a Doctor, a Pastor”… the list goes on. Those in helping professions often find themselves being drained of every last bit of emotional well-being because most of our time is spent pouring into others. If you are in this type of career, you perhaps are “powering through” because you know what to do. Knowing what to do and having the time, energy, and mental capacity left to do it are very different things. Helpers absolutely need help simply because you can’t give your best when you aren’t living your best.
5. Help is normal. We seek help all the time and we don’t even realize it. We live in the age of information seeking. Information is at our fingertips with a simple thing called “google.” There is always a perspective somewhere out there just 1 click away. We are not lacking in information and we are wired now to seek information and seek help all day and everyday. But there is a big difference in the kind of help a professional can offer; a real human who listens, talks, coaches, guides and is present with someone during the hardest days.
6. Help doesn’t have to be expensive. How much money is this going to cost me to get solid help from a professional? How much does insurance cover? How long do I need support? These are common questions when someone is seeking out counseling or behavior support. Consider this question instead: What is the long term investment? How much is it worth if a significant issue that is greatly impacting life in a negative way is remedied, or at least lessened? We invest in many things in life: insurance, healthy food, gym memberships, good schools. All of these are well-intentioned and each carry their own important weight, as should emotional health and well-being. Perhaps there are other expenses that could be eliminated temporarily to make room for emotional health. This self-reflection can add to action steps that will make getting professional help less head knowledge, “I know I should do this,” and moreso, real steps toward being a healthier, more balanced individual (or family).
Written by: Josi Garcia is the Co-Founder of ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has experience working with schools and families supporting individuals with special needs.