Good question! Ultimately only you can answer; however, here are some suggestions as to how you might be able to decide.
Firstly, what makes you think you might need it?
Many of us feel that we’re not living our best lives or being our best selves. Many of us feel that far from being our best, we’re struggling to make do or even be anything at all. We may not like ourselves or be happy with the way we feel. There are a whole bunch of reasons why that might be, and not all of them mean you need counselling.
Some alternatives to counselling include coaching and personal development training. Coaching is good for people who want to achieve a specific goal but aren’t sure how to get there or how to overcome obstacles in their path. These obstacles can be personal factors such as lack of confidence or fear of meeting new people as well as practical ones. Many coaches work with these issues very successfully. If you need something more, a reputable coach should say so. Remember that coaching and counselling are not regulated professions. Counsellors should have some training but anyone can call themselves a coach. Some will have been formally trained and others will not. However, training does not necessarily equal better quality coaching. I offer coaching and counselling, and find that I often mix the two together when working with a particular client because it works better for them.
Personal development training is good for specific situations like a fear of public speaking, where techniques will be useful. Again, these can help with issues like confidence, but more as a side-effect than being the main point of the activity.
If there are things about you that you don’t like, counselling is an option to resolve them. That might be to do with the way you think, for example you may lack self-confidence or self-belief. It could be to do with how you behave; for example you might struggle with addictive behaviours, be unable to control your weight, or have a compulsion to buy shoes. Or it could be how you feel; perhaps you’re fearful or angry or ashamed or sad all the time. It could also help if you’re in physical pain. There are studies which show that counselling can help with conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, as well as stress-related issues like IBS, Crohns disease, headaches, insomnia or straightforward back, neck and shoulder pain. Incidentally if you have any of these conditions, Bowen therapy may also help with the symptoms and I do that too.
Counselling is for people who want to change. People who are struggling, who are coping fine because of the pills but wish they didn’t need them, who aren’t sure if it’s going to be ok, who are abused, confused or repressed. If everything in your life is the way you want it, even if it doesn’t meet the standard definition of happy, you’re fine. People may tell you that you need counselling because you were in a traumatic road accident, or a close family member died suddenly, or you are high as a kite on stress; but if you’re coping with all that then you don’t need it. It’s possible to live through trauma without needing any help, just as it’s possible to recover from the flu without going to the doctor. There is also a right time for counselling. Again that’s a very personal thing, but studies have shown that people usually need a period of processing time immediately after a traumatic event before they can begin to helpfully talk about it and/or work through it. Three months is generally felt to be the minimum, but some people may not be ready for much longer. Some never are. And by the time some are ready, they don't need it any more.
You don’t have to be at the end of your tether to benefit from counselling; it can be preventative as well as curative. Counselling is not the reserve of the deeply traumatised, self-harmers, those with suicidal thoughts or serious mental illnesses such as bipolar; of course it can help all these people, but it can help others as well. However if you aren’t willing to talk openly about your feelings or behaviour, or you want to be presented with a solution to your problems, or to be ‘fixed’ in the next 10 minutes, it isn’t for you.
Counselling is not, or at least should not be, a way to become a ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ member of society. If you’re a narcissist, a kleptomaniac, manipulative, or a compulsive liar, but are completely happy with that, counselling is unlikely to do much for you. If you can’t tell whether kindness is a virtue or a fault, but would like to be able to work it out, then it may be just what you need.
You may find Reiki, meditation, hypnotherapy, reflexology, crystal healing, animals as therapy or any of a dozen other treatments just as helpful as counselling, or more so. Different things work for different people. If you aren’t sure whether counselling is for you, give me a call and we can talk about it.