IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME FOR ME TO SEEK THE HELP OF A PROFESSIONAL? Maybe.It depends upon what stage-of-change you’re in.
Psychologists researching change processes found that people change in stages. Here are the stages:
1.Pre-contemplation: if you came looking for this website you’re not in this stage …unless you’re just here out of curiosity. People who are in pre-contemplation are not intending to make a change in their lives in the foreseeable future. Their response to, "What are you planning to do to fix this mess?" might be "What mess?" Usually when someone moves from this stage to the next stage without a planned intervention, it's because one of two things happened: they've gotten older (for example, the mean age for quitting smoking and maintaining it is 39); or something dramatic changed in their environment (loss of job, loss of marriage, death, etc.) People in this stage usually over-estimate how hard change will be and they usually under-estimate the benefits of changing. For example, they might think that to be comfortable physically they will have to lose 80 to 100 pounds and it will take well over 2 years to do it and the main benefit will be to look better. In other words, they don't know or believe that losing 10-15 pounds could have a tremendously positive impact on their physical, mental and emotional health and that the change would only take about 3 hours a week for a couple of months.
2.Contemplation: you might be in this stage if you’re thinking about doing something about your situation in the next 6 months or so. Maybe you’re aware of lots of the benefits to changing your situation BUT all of the problems with doing so are still SO CLEAR to you and that makes you REALLY UNSURE if you want to get into therapy or not. This is an uncomfortable stage but it’s an okay stage. To me, it says that you’re mature and sophisticated enough to know that change always comes with a price. So if this is the stage that you’re in, now might NOT be the right time for you to get into therapy. If you get into therapy now, you might waste your money and your time (and the therapist’s time). A better idea would be to see if you can move yourself into the next stage. If you want to “move yourself” to the next stage, then consider shifting your focus in two ways: A. Focus on all the advantages, all the benefits for you (and those you love) that the changes would bring. B. Focus on all the disadvantages, all the pain for you (and those you love) if things remain the same.
You can do “focus-shifting” in all sorts of ways: Make lists. Continually add new benefits to changing, as you discover them and add new pain for not changing, as you discover them. Read books. Again focus while reading on benefits for changing and pain for not changing Talk to others who have made the change. Again focus during the discussions on all the benefits for changing and all the pains of not changing. Hang around with others who have made the change. Again focus during the time together on all the benefits they got from changing and all the pains they had before the change. See movies related to your situation. Again focus on parts of movie with benefits for changing and pains for not changing
Find music that helps you focus on benefits for changing and pain for not changing.
Meditate on and pray about the desired change.
3. Preparation: There’s a good chance you’re in this stage if you’re on this website checking me out. You’re planning to do something; you may not know exactly what yet. You might be thinking about talking to your pastor or to your physician in specific terms about the problematic situation you’re facing to get some specific coaching from them. Checking out this website is a part of your preparation for making things better. If you’re in this stage you have achieved a strong-enough focus on your future that you have already made the decision to change. Now it’s a matter of choosing from among the strategies that will work, the ones that will work FOR YOU. So, now is when you have to answer, “Is coaching/psychotherapy my best strategy?”
4. Action: If you’re in this stage, you’re ready to pick up the phone and make an appointment, and get going on the work necessary to achieve the change. This is the best place to be at if you’re wondering “Is this the right time?” In fact if you’re in this stage, you’re probably beyond wondering if this is a good time for you to engage in services of a professional. Rather, you’re “chomping-at-the-bit” to get going. The big question would be, “With whom?” Who should I chose to coach me or do psychotherapy with me?
5. Maintenance: Oh, it’s NICE to be in this stage! You’re done with therapy. Things are working well. You’re using the change strategies that you learned, but you really don’t have to use them that much, and you feel good about the effects. This stage lasts 6 months to 5 years usually.
6. Relapse: WHAT?! How can this be?! How can this be a stage of change? Isn’t going back to my old ways proof that the change process failed? It didn’t work, right? Nope …relapse is actually a part of change. In fact, relapse is actually the rule …it’s not the exception. In this stage, people usually feel sort of demoralized and embarrassed and weak. If you’re in this stage try to not judge yourself, because, usually all that is going on is that life threw you ANOTHER curve ball … and your previous change and growth, though real, isn’t quite enough to handle the extra challenge. The solution? Choose to pop right back into the earlier stages and start moving yourself towards the Action stage again. You’ll pick up new motivations; you’ll pick up new strategies, maybe ones that are better for you; you find experts whose expertise is more appropriate or whose style fits you better. Keep in mind that change is hard. For some change that is really hard (e.g. like quitting smoking), it often takes 6 or 7 good-faith efforts to get to the next and final stage.
7. Termination: This is when permanent change is really in place and you’re not going to need a professional any more with this part of your life. In this stage, smokers aren’t “just” not smoking. They no longer crave. They have changed their identity. They think of themselves as non-smokers. People who have had anger for many years, haven’t “just” forgiven a person or two, they have changed their identity. They see themselves as forgiving persons and they are naturally and continually in a forgiving process towards others. Spouses aren’t “just” going on dates again and “just” fighting fairly, they are truly engaged in living out a new co-created identity as a couple, that adds, paradoxically, to the deepening of their own identities as individuals. This stage is VERY GOOD LIVING!