When Coping Skills Don’t Cut It

teen with anxiety cops with anxiety symptoms. She gets help from an anxiety therapist in anxiety treatment in Franklin, TN with Cody Higgs

I hear a lot from parents that they want their kids to come to counseling to learn some coping skills. It’s great when parents are aware enough to notice that kind of thing, because it all too easily slips under the radar a lot of the time. But is it enough?

Why the answer isn’t always as simple as coping skills

A lot of the time, the teens and college age students I’m working with express more needs than coping skills. Mental health is…complicated. Everything isn’t always super clear. You can’t just run some labs and say “there’s the problem, here’s the medicine, you’re good to go in 7-10 days.”

Take anxiety for example. What causes anxiety? It may be a hereditary predisposition to more easily become anxious. Maybe it was caused by being in a bad car wreck, or watching a horror movie at a young age, being bitten by a dog, or from growing up in a home with lots of anxious people. Maybe something like bullying is the cause. It could be from relationships you’ve had or that you’ve observed, whether with friends, family, or romantic relationships.

There can be so many causes for what we experience emotionally. A lot of times one issue blends with another and can make things more complicated. Coping skills aren’t necessarily sufficient for dealing with every problem. A lot of the time, there is more work to be done, and not to sound all therapisty, but there are more things to explore and unpack.

Needed, but not complete problem solvers

That said, coping skills aren’t only useful, but necessary for life in general. If none of us had coping skills, there very well may not be any more buildings still standing – or people still standing for that matter. They’re great, and that’s why when parents or their kids call me and talk about building coping skills, I’m usually in agreement.

A person can have great coping skills and still struggle with emotional difficulties. I see it a lot. That can be really frustrating for people. Sometimes they’ve done lots of personal work trying to find something to do that helps them feel better, and they just haven’t found it. The fact is that life is complicated, and mental health has to do with every part of life. It’s not always as simple as doing something you like or that temporarily makes you feel good. Sometimes it is, but not always.

The answer(s)

Are there other practical things that you can do without going to therapy? Sure there are. Coping skills, healthy daily habits, and social activity can be some general useful things that can help out mood. Maybe those don’t work for your specific situation, and that’s okay. Like we pointed it earlier, there’s generally not a simple quick fix. This isn’t a simple sore throat. Mental health ends up being in lot of parts – or every part – of a person’s life. Mental health translates to more than the mental aspect of health 

Is therapy right for you?

Most of the things that I write don’t center on “You must have therapy.” If that were the case, I could just write one blog saying that therapy is the only answer to every problem. The fact is, though, that sometimes therapy may be the most effective thing for what you’re dealing with. I think plenty of people know when or if therapy is right for them, and I’d say “go with your gut” on that.
If you think therapy is right for you, I’m more than happy to speak with you about getting started. Feel free to reach out any time.