Why Do People Go to Therapy?

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It may be difficult for someone who doesn’t go to counseling to answer the question, “Why do people go to therapy?” But for those who go to treatment, the question is simple to address. Therapy makes them feel better and it improves the quality of their lives.

This post outlines the various reasons people go to therapy and the overall benefits they can expect from it.

Reasons People Seek Therapy

There are many reasons people go to therapy. It could be that the person is struggling with a mental health issue, has a conflict at work, or feels like they aren’t living up to their full potential. While the reasons people choose to go to therapy are endless, there are many common reasons people decide to seek help from a mental health professional.

Dealing with Other People

You may think it’s a joke, but the No. 1 reason people go to therapy, according to mental health professionals, is to figure out how to deal with other people who refuse to go to therapy. Family members, friends, and coworkers who refuse help for their mental health challenges or addictions can make you want to cut people off, get a divorce, or quit your job. It can also be the cause of your mental health concerns. 

Many people enter therapy to learn how to develop healthy boundaries with others. In my work with clients I regularly remind them, “We teach people how we want to be treated” and “People are always teaching us who they really are, it’s our job to believe them.”  

Mental Health Conditions

Some people recognize that they have a mental health issue and seek help to relieve some of the symptoms and to learn how to manage their symptoms. 

Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. lives with mental illness. The internet also offers a lot of information about mental health conditions which leads some people to self-diagnose. This self-diagnosis can be a slippery slope depending on where a person is getting their information from.  

There is a myriad of mental health conditions that people seek treatment for. Common mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, panic disorder, abuse of alcohol or drugs, intimacy issues, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Unexpected Mood Swings

A lot of people go to therapy because they don’t feel like themselves. They have persistent negative or sad moods, or they feel extreme highs, followed by unexplainable lows. They seek help, especially if they can’t pinpoint why the mood swings are happening, but they are starting to impact their life negatively. Extreme mood swings could be a sign of a mental or physical health issue.

Harmful Thoughts

People have thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Most people who have suicidal thoughts will not go on to make a suicidal attempt. But suicidal thoughts are considered a risk factor. The number of people in the U.S. who have thoughts of suicide is increasing. It is estimated that at least half of people experiencing suicidal ideation do not seek help. Sometimes people aren’t even sure why they’re having these thoughts. 

Whether there is an identifiable reason or if everything looks good on the outside, anyone having harmful thoughts needs to seek professional help. If someone close to you expresses suicidal thoughts, it is important to take action quickly and contact a professional. Remember, expressing suicidal thoughts is a warning sign and needs to be taken seriously. 

Experiencing Big Change

Changing jobs, moving to a new city, starting over after a divorce… life gives people a lot of plot twists. New adventures, even positive ones, can be challenging. Adjustment isn’t always easy. Sometimes people need emotional support when they’re experiencing significant changes. 

Many people have an attachment to certitude. They want to be able to “lock things down” and keep things as they are, which prevents them from accepting change. An unwillingness to accept life on life’s terms will also cause a person to suffer with a variety of unpleasant, even debilitating emotions like sadness, anger, resentment, loneliness, and isolation. Working with an experienced therapist can provide you with tools and exercises to help with the transition and ease challenging emotions.

Grieving a Loss

Loss comes in many forms. It could be the death of a loved one. Or it could be the loss of a job or cherished item. Regardless of the type of loss, people seek therapy when they’re grieving and can’t seem to adjust to life without something or someone.

Learning how to adjust following a loss can be particularly difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced loss before or who doesn’t have many resources or tools available to them. It’s important to remember that grief is an emotional process. There are no quick fixes. And oftentimes grief can be rather complex. Well-meaning family and friends may try to support a person, but a trained therapist can help with navigating and managing the complexities of emotions that arise following a loss.

Withdrawing or Feeling Lonely

Sometimes people are just going along with their lives and realize that they don’t like doing what they used to enjoy. They’d rather be home alone and avoid social situations. They may even feel lonely but can’t force themselves to spend time with friends and family. Regardless of the reason withdrawal occurs, it’s essential to seek help because a sudden change in mood can indicate a possible mental health issue that treatment can help.

Changes in Basic Functioning

There are two things all people must do. They must eat, and they must sleep. People seek counseling, or a doctor may recommend they seek mental health care, if their eating or sleeping patterns change dramatically. Significant shifts in food intake or sleep are typically signs of a mental health concern, especially if a physical cause doesn’t exist.

Substance Use

Experts estimate that about 20 million people in America have a substance use disorder. Some people go to therapy because they recognize that they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. People may seek help with substance use before it becomes an addiction. Or they may realize that they have an addiction and seek help to get their behaviors under control.

Coping with the Pandemic

A global pandemic is something people didn’t expect to deal with before COVID-19. Now going into the second year of the pandemic, experts still encourage people to wear masks and avoid unnecessary contact. These recommendations come after many Americans spent a year isolated at home, having face-to-face contact only with the people they live with. Coping with the pandemic is having a significant negative impact on people’s emotional health. Many people are seeking therapy as a result. 

How Therapy Helps

Overall, people go to therapy because they have concerns about how they feel emotionally and want to feel better. But there are many additional benefits of therapy beyond feeling better.

Benefits of therapy include:

  • Learning more about yourself 
  • Support achieving your goals
  • Improved relationships
  • Learning how to set boundaries
  • Understanding your thoughts and actions
  • Stopping harmful thoughts and behaviors
  • Improving your emotional and physical health
  • Improving your quality of life

How All Counseling Can Help

It’s ok to question why people go to therapy and chances are, if you’re asking that question, you want to understand therapy better and may even be considering therapy for yourself.

All Counseling wants to help. If you want to go to therapy, use our searchable directory to find a therapist to help guide your process of healing.


2021 State of Mental Health in America. (2021). Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.mhanational.org/research-reports/2021-state-mental-health-america

NIMH » Mental Illness. (2021). Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness#:~:text=Mental%20illnesses%20are%20common%20in,(51.5%20million%20in%202019).

The #1 Reason People Go to Therapy | Amen Clinics. (2021). Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/the-1-reason-people-go-to-therapy/

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