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Common Questions

Is therapy right for me?
Do I really need therapy?  I can usually handle my problems.
We don't go to therapy, we solve our own problems.
How can therapy help me?
What are the types of psychotherapists and their training levels?
What do I look for in a psychotherapist?
What is therapy like?
Is medication a substitute for therapy?
Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?
Is therapy confidential?

Is therapy right for me?

       Seeking out therapy is an individual choice. There are many reasons why people come to therapy. Sometimes it is to deal with long-standing psychological issues, or problems with anxiety or depression. Other times it is in response to unexpected changes in one's life such as a divorce or work transition. Many seek the advice of counsel as they pursue their own personal exploration and growth. Working with a therapist can help provide insight, support, and new strategies for all types of life challenges. Therapy can help address many types of issues including depression, anxiety, conflict, grief, stress management, body-image issues, and general life transitions. Therapy is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self-awareness, and working towards change in their lives.

Do I really need therapy?  I can usually handle my problems.

Sometimes we all need an objective third party to listen to us and help us figure out new ways to deal with problems we are encountering. Therapy can help you to change your thought, feelings, and behaviors.

People typically think of psychotherapy for themselves or for others when something big is going on such as:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Excessive drug and alcohol use
  • Severe depression or anxiety impairing day to day function
  • Unhappy with marriage, separation, or pending divorce
  • Panic attacks or claustrophobic fears
  • Anything unsettling that is keeping you from functioning optimally at work or at home
There are many other situations where therapy is of great value that you may be unaware of. You may want to invest in psychotherapy:
  • If you have friends and family who are tired of listening to your same problems over and over.
  • If you are stressed and don’t know what to do to relieve the pressure.
  • If you feel hopeless or trapped, as if there is nowhere to turn.
  • If you worry all the time and can’t seem to find answers to your challenges.
  • If the way you feel is affecting your everyday life, your sleep, your sexual interaction, or your eating habits.
  • When things only seem to be getting worse and worse for you.
  • If you are unhappy with your life.
  • If you are often sick or have chronic health problems.
  • If you are unsure what direction you want to take with your life, feel stuck as you presently are.
  • Feel like you are just wasting your life and have no purpose.
  • If you constantly compare yourself to others and always come up short.
  • If you worry about what others think of you.
  • If you believe you are not good enough.

        Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.

We don't go to therapy, we solve our own problems.

       The decision to talk to a professional can be a difficult one. You might come from a family that believes you shouldn’t discuss your problems with anyone outside the family. You may wonder if therapy could help you with your challenges. You may be the type of person who doesn’t believe in psychotherapy for whatever reason. Often people believe they shouldn’t need anyone else’s help with solving their problems. They feel they should be independent and strong on their own. Sometimes people think that they can just talk to their family or a close friend. However, these people are often not objective enough and they sometimes have a hidden agenda that is not always in your best interest. They may want you to marry someone you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with or they might want you to change jobs or they may not want you to move away from them. Even when friends and family think they have your best interest at heart, they may not. A psychotherapist has an education level and experience working with the problems you are encountering that your friends and family likely don’t have. In addition, your friends and family may be tired of hearing your same complaints and are no longer willing to listen to you. This lack of support compounds the problem. 

       Some people may even feel shame that they need this help because they have not been able to do the work on their own.  Other people are worried that if they seek therapy they might be labeled “wacko” or “sick” or even “crazy,” or they label themselves that way. In reality, we all need at little help from time to time with problems of living. Some people bravely challenge themselves to work on their problems with a professional and usually make much faster progress than those who continue to struggle on their own. Therapy can be thought of as an emotional “maintenance” program for health and well-being. It’s similar to going to the doctor when you have a broken bone or a cut that needs stitches. Issues left unattended sometimes result in unanticipated and unintended consequences such relationships falling apart or people losing touch with the meaning of their lives.

       In therapy, individuals often discover ways to solve their own problems that they have never explored before. You get in touch with emotions that you’ve buried and haven’t know how to deal with. A therapist can be a sounding board for you to figure out your own challenges. Each person must find their own path. You may discover an essential piece of information that will help you know what you should do given your circumstances. You are the only one who knows what it feels like to live in your skin and how the various options feel to you. Therapy can aid you in discovering how to live with the consequences of your choices. A good therapist can help you address all these issues so you make the best choices for you. Therapy can be extremely effective in addressing issues of depression, anxiety, stress, alcohol and drug problems, martial issues, and various other common issues of living. Mental health treatment is an investment in yourself and your future.

How can therapy help me?

       A number of benefits are available from participating in psychotherapy. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include: 
  • Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
  • Developing skills for improving your relationships
  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
  • Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
  • Improving communications and listening skills
  • Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
  • Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
  • Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Types of psychotherapists and their training levels.
  • Clinical psychologists (Ph.D. and Psy.D.): Are licensed after completing 5-7 years of graduate doctoral level studies (generally equivalent to the training a medical doctor has) plus post-doctoral internship hours. After their training, they sit for an exam and upon passing are allowed to practice independently.  A Ph.D. differs from a Psy.D. degree in that a Ph.D. is required to do an original piece of research methodology. My dissertation is on therapist self-care skills. How do we as psychotherapists, take care of ourselves and stay healthy while dealing with peoples’ problems all day long?

NOT ALL PEOPLE WHO ACQUIRE THESE DEGREES ARE PSYCHOLOGISTS. You must be licensed by the Board of Psychology in your state to legally call yourself a Psychologist. You may check with the licensing board to assure your therapist is licensed.

  • Psychiatrists (MD): They have gone to medical school. All psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication and have training in psychiatrist hospital settings. They sometimes are trained in talk therapy but not always. They tend to work with severe mental health issues. They have a similar amount of schooling to a psychologist.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW): They are licensed after completing about 3 years of a Master’s degree in Social Work. They are allowed to practice independently with problems related to mental health.
  • Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT): They are licensed in many states after completing about 2 years of a Master’s degree. They are allowed to practice independently with problems relating to marriage, family, and related mental health issues after passing the licensure exam.
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC): There is no licensure of this group. Training and study time including passing an exam are required without any specific degree needed.
  • There are a variety of other types of people who work with clients on mental health issues including Pastoral counselors, psychiatric nurses, and life coaches. Many certification programs do not require any post-high school education. Check to see what kind and how much training and experience the person you are considering has.

       The level of training does not indicate the level of competence. There are wonderful psychotherapists with little formal training and there are incompetent ones with a huge amount of training. Select carefully. It’s your life you’re dealing with and you have a right to good care.

What do I look for in a psychotherapist?

       There is a wide range of skills and training for psychotherapists in private practice. While many are competent and ethical, some are not. Educate yourself and choose wisely. The following information may help you in making the best selection. Here are some things you want in a therapist:
  • A good match in the client-therapist relationship is critical for achieving excellent therapeutic results. You are in charge of this process. Look for a therapist who encourages you to initially shop around for a good match for yourself.  It’s appropriate to call several therapists to ask about their services and get an impression of them over the telephone
  • The therapist is emotionally healthy. He/she continue to challenge themselves by working on their own issues. He/she seek therapy as needed for themselves. You don’t want a therapist who doesn’t use their own profession or doesn’t do their own work. (Make sure your therapist walks their talk.)
  • The therapist gently challenges your attitudes and/or behaviors. Psychotherapists who just let you talk and are always in listening mode cannot be helpful enough. All of us need someone to call us on what we can’t admit to ourselves about ourselves, in a gentle, compassionate, and caring way
  • Therapy should be effective. Psychotherapy should show some results within weeks or at least months, not years. Regular evaluation of the therapy progress is necessary. You want to make sure the therapist does a written treatment plan where you both agree upon the details of your goals for improvement. It is also helpful for them to do a diagnosis session with you where you understand what he/she are treating you for in order for the treatment plan to be geared toward your problems.
  • You might have already discussed your issues with friends and family to the point where they no longer want to listen to you. The psychotherapist lets you explain your problems while limiting you if you get lost in details. The therapist helps you concentrate on what will help you solve your challenges rather than wallowing in your problems. The therapist is active and responsive in their interaction with you.
  • The therapist encourages you to look at yourself as a whole person – mind, body, and spirit. He/she supports you in doing whatever healthy self-care skills work for you in addition to therapy such as exercise classes, walking in nature, yoga, meditation, massage, warm baths, religious services, journaling (writing about your problems), etc.
  • Do not choose a therapist just because he/she are on your insurance provider’s list. Insurance company provider panels do not always provide optimal care. Check carefully as you would with any therapist.
  • He/she does not focus solely on childhood issues. He/she take into consideration how your childhood impacts your current life but do not dwell on it. He/she help you find ways to be aware of this impact and how it influences your day to day interactions while focusing on how to solve your present day challenges.
  • The therapist has clear office policies. He/she make sure you understand and consent to all the information prior to signing. He/she take time on the intake appointment to go over it with you. He/she have a clear cancellation policy that you understand and agree upon.
  • The therapist is fully committed to protecting your privacy. Providers on insurance panels are often required to submit information about you that you may not want exposed. Be aware and ask what details are necessary to reveal to your insurance company. You might even select someone not on your insurance plan. Some insurance companies pay for outside providers easily and with less paper work about your private information.
  • The therapist is willing to talk to you on the telephone between sessions if necessary. He/she have emergency contact information for you in case he/she are not available
  • He/she maintain clear and appropriate boundaries. He/she is professional and well trained in their field (see information on types of psychotherapists and their training levels).
  • The therapist is flexible in who can be part of therapy and he/she invite family members or friends, if appropriate, to one session. Often one session with a spouse, family member, or close friend can help the client to more effectively use their newly acquired coping skills between therapy sessions which increases the value of the therapy time.

What is therapy like?

       Every therapy session is unique and caters to each individual and their specific goals. It is standard for therapists to discuss the primary issues and concerns in your life during therapy sessions. Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. There may be times when you are asked to take certain actions outside of the therapy sessions, such as reading a relevant book or keeping records to track certain behaviors. It is important process what has been discussed and integrate it into your life between sessions. For therapy to be most effective you must be an active participant, both during and between the sessions. People seeking psychotherapy are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives. Here are some things you can expect out of therapy:

  • Compassion, respect and understanding
  • Perspectives to illuminate persistent patterns and negative feelings
  • Real strategies for enacting positive change
  • Effective and proven techniques along with practical guidance

Is medication a substitute for therapy?

       In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you. It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress.

Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?

       To determine if you have mental health coverage, the first thing you should do is check with your insurance carrier. Check your coverage carefully and find the answers to the following questions:

  • 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?

Is therapy confidential?

       In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychotherapist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.

       However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:

  • Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
  • If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. The therapist is required to notify the police.
  • If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. However, if an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.
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