source: Joe Houghton
Not long ago, I was waiting for an elevator at an office building. I overhead the following conversation between a Latina woman and a Latino man, both in their early thirties:
The guy comments: “I didn’t sleep well last night…got terrible insomnia…I’m tired, breaking down…”
The woman replies: “What’s going on? Why can’t you sleep?”
The guy replies quietly: “I don’t know..I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes – I think I’m having panic attacks…”
The woman replies: “real panic attacks? I’ve gotten those in the past, not good. You should see a therapist or some sort of counselor, man. It helps.”
The guy replies: “Me? No way! I’m not crazy? Do I look like I’m crazy? I’m not yelling and screaming…”
Listenting to this conversation reminded me that seeking psychological help is still a misunderstood and often taboo subject for many people, especially for Latinos. I’m not going to discuss the cultural reasons behind the resistance to psychological counseling, but I thought I would answer a question I’m often asked as a psychologist:
How do you know when you need to seek professional help from a psychologist or psychotherapist?
People seek psychological counseling for many reasons. In general, however, individuals decide they need a therapist when:
- There is a new crisis in their lives: a loss; serious problems at home; a traumatic experience AND they are having a hard time coping with this crisis (e.g. not being able to function as well as they were functioning prior to the crisis).
- There has been a significant change in their lives that they’re having a hard time adjusting to: divorce; loss of a job; marriage; going to college; giving birth; retirement.
- Psychiatric condition affecting your emotions: For example, depression, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, and manic-depression, along others. There is a range of symptoms that can be experienced under these conditions. These conditions can range from mild to moderate to severe. The more they affect the individual’s level of day-to-day functioning, the more they should seek counseling.
- Psychiatric conditions that disturb judgment and thinking process: If someone you love is expressing paranoia, poor judgment, and bizarre or odd thinking pattern that is affecting how they relate to others and their functioning, they should seek psychological and/or psychiatric help.
- Past unresolved psychological issues: Many of us have experienced difficult times in our past, whether it is an abusive relationship, parental neglect, or really hard times. Sometimes, we need to have these moments processed and validated in order to move on with our lives and achieve some closure. Usually, unresolved issues show themselves in the form of maladaptive patterns or behaviors that we tend to engage in (e.g., a pattern of dating abusive men).
- Relationship, marital or family conflict: A large number of individuals seek counseling when they feel conflicted by their relationship with loved ones. Often, couples come together to learn how to communicate better, or to discuss an ongoing problem in the relationship. Many of the women that come to me for psychotherapy are women who have had a very difficult relationship with their mothers. Psychological services can be very helpful with these types of problems.
Do you have any questions about psychology or psychotherapy? Do you think seeing a psychologist is still very taboo in the Latino culture?