What is therapy and is there a difference between psychotherapy, therapy, and counseling?
The terms therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy all generally refer to the same process of sitting individually with a licensed mental health professional for 45-60 minutes who will help address your mental health struggles. Licensure may differ slightly depending on the clinicians level of education.
Therapy refers to treatment for psychological or behavioral problems. Therapists and clients work together to understand and change problems by improving areas of life where there is dissatisfaction. The focus is generally on changing ineffective or unhelpful patterns of thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors. This includes focusing on you and your relationships; both from the past and present (including how you relate to your therapist). People can make changes by examining both conscious (easily-accessible) and unconscious (outside of awareness) factors that may be contributing to distress, processing these experiences, better understanding them, and making more meaningful choices in the future. Depending on your goals and the kind of treatment, therapy can be very broad or very specific in nature.
I’ve never talked to anyone. I’m used to handling things on my own. Aren’t people who go to therapy weak?
Not at all. People who ask for help know when they need it and have the courage to reach out. Everyone needs help now and then. In our work together, I’ll help you explore and identify your strengths and how to implement them to reduce the influence of the problems you are facing. Many clients who start therapy later in life say that they wish they started earlier!
What’s the difference between talking to you or my best friend or family?
The difference is between someone who can do something, and someone who has the training and experience to do that same thing professionally. A mental health professional can help you approach your situation in a new objective way– teach you new skills, gain different perspectives, listen to you without judgment or expectations, and help you listen to yourself. Furthermore, counseling is completely confidential. You won’t have to worry about others “knowing my business.” Lastly, if your situation provokes a great deal of negative emotion, and you’ve been confiding in a friend or family member, there is the risk that once you are feeling better you could start avoiding that person so you aren’t reminded of this difficult time in your life. Remember it is very hard for our loved ones to be objective with us no matter how har they may try, or how much we may trust them. We believe that objectivity in itself can really accelerate a clients ability to move forward in their life.
Why shouldn’t I just take medication?
Medication can be effective but not alone. Research tells us that medication and counseling working together provide the best treatment outcomes. Our work together is designed to explore and unpack the problems you are experiencing and expand on your strengths that can help you accomplish your personal goals. If an issue you are facing is being caused by past trauma for example, medication will do minimal in addressing this issue in the long term.
How does therapy work?
Because each person has different issues and goals for counseling, it will be different depending on the individual. I tailor my therapeutic approach to your specific needs. This is our typical session structure to give you an idea.
We begin with an assessment over our first 1-2 sessions, whose purpose is to identify the presenting problem(s) and any relevant history that may have affected them. It is during this time frame that a full bio-psychosocial evaluation will be conducted on an as-needed basis.
Once the assessment is complete, we develop an informal treatment plan to determine our goals for subsequent sessions. Typically we develop 1-3 realistic, time-bound goals for the coming weeks or months.
During the treatment phase of therapy, goals are addressed in steps through various modalities at your desired pace.
Over time, we conduct a reassessment to determine if services need to continue, increase, or decrease frequency, or if we need to change the approach altogether.
How long will it take?
Unfortunately, this is not possible to say in a general FAQs page. Everyone’s circumstances are unique to them and the length of time counseling can take to allow you to accomplish your goals depends on your desire for personal development, your commitment, and the factors that are driving you to seek counseling in the first place.
I want to get the most out of therapy. What can I do to help?
I am so glad you are dedicated to getting the most out of your sessions. By actively participating through exploration, engaging in out of session exercises, addressing all areas of the CBT framework including your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, physical health, and environment, and engaging your whole self, mind, body, and soul, we believe that you will be taking all the necessary steps in your treatment to ensure the best prognosis.