What can a therapist do?
Therapists or counselors offer advanced problem-solving and coping strategies skills training for issues such as depression, anxiety, post-trauma reactions, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, disordered eating, body image issues, and creative blocks. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset in enhancing personal growth, improving interpersonal relationships, addressing family concerns or marital issues, and boosting quality of life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or guide you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how you use the process and tools you learn.
How can therapy help me?
Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life. While you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, your strategies may not be as effective in your current situation. Sometimes this occurs because a person is faced with an extraordinarily difficult time or a combination of several challenges all at once. Therapy is designed for those people who have enough self-awareness to realize they could use a fresh perspective on their situation or their coping skills. Recognizing when your quality of life could be enhanced with the aid of a therapist is admirable. Quality therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to address triggers, reduce damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
Why do people go to therapy and how do I know if it is right for me?
People have many different motivations for coming to psychotherapy. Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.) or are not handling stressful circumstances well. Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts and creative blocks. Therapy can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods. Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life. In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives.
What is therapy like?
Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different for each individual. In general, you can expect to discuss your personal history relevant to your issue, the current events in your life, and to report your progress or new insights gained since the previous therapy session. Depending on your specific needs, you can also expect your therapist to guide you through new behaviors or to gently challenge your current ways of looking at your situation. Therapy can be short-term for a specific issue or longer-term to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular (usually weekly) sessions with your therapist.
It is important to understand that you will get better results from therapy if you actively participate in the process. The ultimate purpose of therapy is to improve your quality of life outside of therapy, not just to feel better during the session. Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, your therapist may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your progress - such as reading a pertinent book or article, journaling on specific topics, noting particular behaviors or taking action on your goals.
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely with medications. Instead of just treating the symptom(s), therapy addresses the cause of distress and the behavior patterns that get in the way of progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of wellbeing with an integrative approach to wellness. Ultimately, you determine what's best for you in working with your medical doctor, which in some cases is a combination of medication and therapy.
Do you take insurance, and how does that work?
To determine if you have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them. Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers. Some helpful questions you can ask them:
- What are my mental health benefits?
- What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
- How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval required from my primary care physician?
Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components of therapy. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust of your therapist with highly sensitive subject matter. The content of therapy sessions is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office. Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone. This is called “Informed Consent”. Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Naturopath, Attorney). But, by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
State law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:
* Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders. (This information must be reported to the appropriate authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement)
* If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.