When to seek professional help


In the previous article, we talked about Jessie’s situation which persisted for a month or two. Her parents had no choice but to seek professional help. Jessie was perfectly fine except for refusing to go to school. Would she benefit from professional help?

Jessie’s parents decided to seek consultation from a psychologist who specialises in working with young people. Jessie was then referred to a daycare and learning centre in the hospital. She spent almost a year learning life skills and soft skills at the centre together with a group of special needs individuals – from teenagers to young adults. Jessie was the youngest member in the group. After a year, Jessie told her parents she was ready to go back to school. She was transferred to a new school and has excelled since then. What changed?

When to seek professional help

If the problematic behaviour prolongs for more than a month and disrupts daily functioning, you should consider seeking help from a professional. In Jessie’s case, her problematic behaviour had arisen out of the blue, and severely impacted her daily routine – attending school. Despite transferring her to a few different schools and trying out various methods, the problematic behaviour remained.

What type of professional help

When you encounter behaviour-related problems, you are recommended to seek advice from a psychologist. Psychologists specialise in human behaviour and emotions. They are trained to find out the cause of certain behaviours, and help people manage emotions and behaviours.

In Jessie’s case, the psychologist explained that Jessie was overwhelmed with the transition (hence the problematic behaviour) and needed some time to cope with the stress. Hence, she recommended Jessie attend a daycare and learning centre where she could learn some life skills at her own pace. Without anyone noticing, Jessie learned to manage stress better.

Stigma about seeing a psychologist

There is still a stigma attached to seeing a psychologist. The perception is that visiting one means you are mentally ill. Many people are reluctant to see a psychologist because of this stigma. They don’t want to be labelled mentally ill.

Psychologists work with different group of individuals, including perfectly healthy people who struggle with stress, anxiety and challenges in daily life. Imagine, if Jessie’s parents were not open to seeking professional help. Jessie would most probably have missed her golden opportunity of education.

Set realistic expectations

Unlike the flu or cold, there is no immediate cure or relief for behaviour-related problems. It takes patience, time and appropriate techniques to address a problematic behaviour, change the behaviour and learn to manage emotions.

There will be ups and downs in the process, but it benefits a person in the long run.

Jessie took a year to go back to school. She may have missed a year of school life and academic knowledge, but she has gained a lot more from the time spent in the learning centre with other special needs individuals. She gained the ability to manage stress, she boosted her self-confidence and gratitude, and improved her self-management.

Sping Lim is a practising health psychologist based in Malaysia. Throughout her years of practice, she has come to the realisation that most social and emotional problems can be prevented if individuals are provided with the appropriate guidelines from young. Check out her work at Lilo and Friends (www.liloandfriends.com).