What's Behind the Motivation to Ask for Psychological Help?

Does asking for help make you weaker or braver? In this article, we review what encourages us to ask for help at a given time.
What's Behind the Motivation to Ask for Psychological Help?
Maria Fernanda Ramos Roa

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fernanda Ramos Roa.

Last update: 17 November, 2022

A person might go to therapy for many reasons: anxiety, depression, phobias, grief, etc. However, not all people who suffer from these clinical entities turn to a mental health professional to help alleviate their discomfort.

Fortunately, today, seeking help from a psychologist is becoming increasingly normal. Contrary to what happened in the past, when asking for help was associated with madness, mental imbalance, or a weak will, requests for help are now beginning to be associated with individuals who want to feel better. In addition, a good part of society already assumes that it isn’t necessary for there to be an underlying clinical entity for the therapeutic process to be enriching.

Crises, such as the coronavirus pandemic, have highlighted the role of going to therapy, whether it be online or face-to-face. Indeed, the stigma that accompanied online therapy is gone. In effect, having been forced into using it, we now realize it’s just as effective as face-to-face counseling.

patient in therapy
Currently, psychological therapy is normalizing.

What makes you ask for psychological help?

As a rule, you ask for psychological help when you realize that, with your own resources and coping skills you’re not capable of feeling better and moving forward. For instance, perhaps you’ve already asked for help from those around you but continue to feel overwhelmed by the situation you’re going through. Or, maybe you can’t identify any particular problem, but you simply feel a kind of discomfort that continues for days and against which you feel completely helpless.

Not all people have the ability to recognize their problems. For some, recognizing that they can’t autonomously manage a problem they’ve identified constitutes a real threat to their ego. In fact, it’s a step that involves awareness of personal responsibility.

If you go to therapy, will your relationships improve?

Maybe you have multiple complaints about your mother, partner, children, etc. However, part of your search for help comes from recognizing that you don’t have the ability to change the people around you, but that you can question how you participate in creating your relationships, and the way in which you bond. From there, you can make some changes.

The desire to ask for psychological help and make changes should always come from yourself. Because being forced to attend therapy is never a good idea. That said, it sometimes happens when one partner forces another to go. In these instances, there’s no desire for change, so therapy simply won’t work. After all, some people simply don’t want to change and that’s their decision.

How is the demand for psychoanalytic therapy built?

The demand for psychoanalytic therapy is constructed differently. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a particular process with a specific kind of listening and framing. It’s unlike the medical scenario where a patient goes to a mental health specialist for their symptoms and illnesses to be ‘removed’.

A psychoanalyst doesn’t ‘remove’ symptoms. The symptoms are understood as a reflection of an unconscious conflict. This is where the work is done and, as a consequence, the symptoms reduce or are modified and redefined. Therefore, the psychoanalytic demand must entail a certain awareness and responsibility.

In therapy, you must see yourself as involved in what happens to you. You don’t address your complaints and questions to others, but to yourself and your role in everything that happens to you. Therefore, you must have the desire to know your conscious and unconscious (what you do and say without knowing it). Not from a blameworthy approach, but an empowering one.

After all, it’s you who, in some way has created what’s hurting you, so it’s also you who can make changes to reverse the situation. You can’t change others and believing that you can will only cause you frustration.

The function of the therapist

Prototypically, it’s the mother who’s in charge of interpreting their baby’s crying and associating a meaning with it. The function of the psychoanalyst is similar to that of the mother, in that they help their client/patient to organize the information with which they’ve gone to therapy into one or several integrated stories (Vucinovich, 2014).

There’s a misconception that psychotherapists know what’s best for their clients and will tell them what to do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s why the responsibility that we mentioned earlier is so essential. Only you, as the patient, can make the decisions. Your therapist only accompanies you along the way and enables you to listen to yourself.

You might go to therapy with specific requests. Perhaps you want answers and advice so you know what to do. Instead, you find you’re faced with a professional who doesn’t respond to this request, but rather helps you build a different demand (Silanes, Ibarlin De La Colina, 2018). It’s a demand that makes you responsible for making your own decisions. Thus, you fully respect your own freedom to choose and are clear about the possible consequences of your decisions.

Psychologist with patient in therapy
Psychological therapy teaches us tools and strategies to deal with adversity and difficult situations.

Will therapy make you happier?

Therapeutic interventions provide you with tools to face adversity in an adaptive way. That said, there are also some more subjective issues that aren’t measured in tools and exercises but are just as important. For instance, the feeling that you’re capable of coping is a large part of what you take away with you after therapy.

But does therapy make you happier? Well, it depends on how you understand happiness and what it is that makes you happy. It also depends on what you do with everything that therapy provides you. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for the transformations that occur. It couldn’t be any other way, since you’re the one who’ll be in charge of maintaining those changes over time.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Silanes, M. C., & Ibarlin De La Colina, M. (2018). Demanda y entrada en analisis. Una clinica freudiana viva. X Congreso Internacional de Investigación y Práctica Profesional en Psicología XXV. Jornadas de Investigación XIV. Encuentro de Investigadores en Psicología del MERCOSUR., 721-723. https://www.aacademica.org/000-122/547
  • Vucinovich, N. (2014). Entre dos versiones de la demanda: diferencias entre desmedicalización y psicoanálisis. Norte de salud mental, XII, (48), 19-25. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=4830206.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.