When To Seek Support From A Therapist

With the arrival of a new baby, parents will often say they feel every emotion under the sun, and their emotions change moment by moment. Given the circumstances, this experience makes perfect sense and is quite common. So, how do we know when the time is right to seek support from a therapist or other professional?

Here are a few times when you might reach out for additional support:

  1. During pregnancy. If you have a history of anxiety or depression, you may be at increased risk of experiencing anxiety or depression after having your baby. Having an established relationship with a mental health professional before the baby comes will help prepare you to address any mental health issues that arise. It’s also not uncommon for someone to develop new symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy- after all, pregnancy itself can be stressful, and you are anticipating a major life change. If this is you, know that you’re not alone, and it’s okay to get extra support before the baby arrives.
  2. You are unable to meet your basic needs. Are you finding yourself unable or unmotivated to eat, drink water, or take a shower despite your best efforts? When you do have time to sleep, are you unable to do so? Not being able to meet your basic needs may indicate higher levels of depression and anxiety, but new parents can sometimes think this is normal. Naturally, your new baby’s needs might immediately take precedence over your own, and often new parents will put off their own wellbeing. However, there comes a point where not having your basic needs met will impact your mental health and vice versa.
  3. You can’t seem to calm your worried mind. Most parents will experience some degree of anxiety with the onslaught of things to learn and the monumental task of caring for a precious new life. However, if you find that anxious thoughts pop into your head throughout the day (and night), and you can’t seem to move past them, it might be time to get extra support from a therapist. They can help you develop strategies to manage those thoughts.
  4. You are disconnecting from others. We all have varying needs for social connection, and many new parents will hunker down for the first several weeks of their baby’s life. Over time, as parents navigate their new identities (or their new family dynamic as a larger family), maintaining social connection is vitally important. It may look different than it used to, and it can happen in many ways, but we all need social connection to thrive. If you find that you are avoiding social connections or are struggling to reach out or respond to others, it may be a sign that your mental health needs a boost.
  5. You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Having thoughts of harming yourself or others is always an indicator of needing mental health support, but there can be an overwhelming sense of shame and fear for parents who have such thoughts. This shame and fear might prevent someone from seeking the help they need. Parents need to know they are not alone in having these thoughts, and there are folks out there who will help you without judgement.
  6. If you want to! There’s no wrong time to get extra support. If you’re wondering if you could benefit from therapy or are curious about a support group but aren’t sure if you really need it- try it out and see how it goes. A supportive therapist will meet you where you are!

How do I find help?

When you need help the most, it can be the hardest to reach out. Here are some tips on getting the help you need:

  • Ask a trusted partner, family member, or friend ahead of time to pay attention to your mood and wellbeing, so they might be able to alert you to any concerns they are noticing.
  • Ask someone you trust to help you find support since it can be a lot to navigate.
  • Talk to your doctor about your feelings and see what they recommend.
  • If you feel comfortable, ask other parents if they have a therapist they would recommend.
  • Search Psychology Today for therapists in your area.
  • Explore organizations that offer support for new parents. For example, Postpartum Support International offers online support groups. You may find many other supports available in your area (sometimes free or low cost!)
  • If you are having immediate concern that you may hurt yourself or your baby, call 9-1-1, your local mental health crisis hotline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), or the Postpartum Support International Helpline (800-944-4733).

About Julia Small, LCSW-S

Work with Julia

I’m Julia, a psychotherapist based in Austin, Texas. My work is dedicated to walking alongside my clients as they heal, grow, and become the fullest versions of who they are.  Everyone deserves to feel heard, understood, and supported- whether you are grieving a loss, dealing with a difficult life change, working through past wounds, discovering who you are, or simply feeling stuck.  I am honored when people choose to share their stories with me.  I believe each person holds inherent value and unique strengths, and part of my work as a therapist is to support people as they recognize the value and strength within themselves.

I am currently offering therapy sessions in-person, or through online video service or phone to clients in Texas.  Finding the right therapist is important, and can take time. For that reason, I offer a free 15-minute consultation to see if we might be a good fit to work together.

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