It's not uncommon for me to have a new client or even a family member or friend who has never had therapy before and they have no idea how therapy works. All they have to go on is depictions of therapy in tv and movies which are not always accurate. It would be very intimidating to embark on this treatment journey when you don't even know what that treatment is. If you're one of those people then I have good news and bad news. The good news is I can answer a lot of the most commonly asked questions here. The bad news is is that some questions do not have simple, black and white answers, but I will do my best to demystify the process.
Question 1- How do I know if I need therapy?
It might be time to see a therapist if you're having trouble managing your emotions, thoughts, or behaviors; you're having trouble functioning at work, school, in relationships, or other responsibilities; you want to grow as a person; you have experienced trauma; or you're having suicidal thoughts or self-harm behaviors. I talk more in-depth about this question in my blog post Maybe You Should See Someone
Question 2- Therapist, Counselor, Psychiatrist, Psychologist...who should I see?
The mental health field is vast and there are a lot of different types of professionals offering services, which can make looking for help overwhelming and confusing. I explain all the different types of providers here and in my blog post Navigating the World of Mental Health Professionals but basically it comes down to- do you want to talk to someone about your issues or do you want to take medications to help with your issues? Of course there is a lot more nuance to this but answering that question for yourself is a good place to start. Once you do check out the blog post I mentioned and decide which professional best matches your needs.
Question 3- How much does therapy cost?
This is one of those questions that doesn't have an easy answer. If you are using insurance benefits then your cost will depend on your individual plan as well as the rate the insurance company negotiated with your therapist. With insurance co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles all come in to play. I have some clients who never have a co-pay ever and other clients who pay the full rate until they meet a steep deductible. Call your insurance company to better understand your benefits. Some people pay privately for therapy and self-pay rates vary greatly depending on the services you're looking for, the area you live in, and the specialties of the therapist. Self-pay rates usually range between $100-$250 per 50-60 minute session.
Question 4- How private is therapy?
Therapists are held to high legal standards of confidentiality. We are unable to disclose anything about you or your therapy without your permission except in a few specific scenarios. If a therapist is concerned about your safety because of suicidal or homicidal plans then we may need to break confidentiality to ensure your safety. Additionally, therapists are mandated reporters, meaning if we suspect abuse on a child, elderly person, or vulnerable person then we are required by law to report it to the state. If you are involved in litigation and therapy records are subpoenaed we may be required to furnish those records. If someone other than you is paying for therapy then they may be privy to information contained in billing documents such as appointment dates, services, and diagnosis. If you use insurance then information about services and diagnosis will be shared to submit claims and the insurance company may request notes and treatment plans for insurance billing. Otherwise, what happens in therapy stays in therapy unless you explicitly give permission otherwise.
Question 5- What, exactly, happens in therapy?
This is one of those questions that doesn't really have a straight answer. There are a multitude of therapeutic techniques and psychological theories. Most therapists blend a variety of these based on each client's individual needs and goals. In addition to this, different therapists have different styles- some may put an emphasis on compassion and reflective listening while others may push and challenge clients to reach their goals. In general, here's what you can expect. The first session is going to focus on creating what's called a biopsychosocial assessment. The therapist is going to ask you questions about your symptoms, history, family, health, substance use, etc. After that you can expect that in sessions there will be a back in forth conversation where you talk about the things that brought you to therapy and the therapist will ask questions or make observations intended to increase insight into the issues. Your therapist will provide information about ideas and tools that will be helpful. Some therapists assign "homework". Choosing the right therapist for you is important and I urge you to read my blog post How to Choose a Therapist.
Question 6- How long is therapy?
Another question without a definite answer. Each session is usually 45-60 minutes. Many clients attend weekly or bi-weekly. Some people may only be in therapy for a few months while others may be in therapy for years. This depends on the client's issues, symptoms, and goals as well as the therapists preferred therapeutic techniques and styles. It's important to think about how you see therapy fitting in to your life and if you feel strongly about limited or extended duration of therapy talk to any prospective therapists about it.
Question 7- Will therapy actually help?
There are many, many studies proving the effectiveness of therapy for a variety of diagnosis and issues. With that being said, there are ways you can improve the benefits of therapy. Check out my post How to Make the Most out of Therapy.
If you're still not sure about the process give me or another therapist a call and we can answer your questions or give more information.