Frann Altman, PsyD answers:
Why do people seek therapy?
Much like the Tao, there is no one answer. People come into therapy for many reasons. Some need to respond to unexpected changes in their lives, while others seek self-exploration and personal growth. When coping skills are overshadowed by doubt, anxiety, or despair, therapy can help one find one's way.
Even the best of us can sometimes lose our perspectives and centers. Therapy can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping for issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of confidence, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, bereavement, spiritual conflicts, stress management, recovery challenges and creative blocks. It can help unstick us where we are stuck.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said " the field cannot well be seen from within the field " and so applied here, therapy is how we work together to gain that new vision with a better clarity and perspective.
What can I expect in a therapy session?
During sessions you can talk about the primary concerns and issues in your life. A session lasts 45-50 minutes, but some people request longer sessions. Weekly sessions are best. Some people who are in crisis or extreme distress need more than one session per week, at least until the crisis passes.
During the time between sessions it is beneficial to think about and digest what was discussed. At times, you may be asked to take certain actions outside of the therapy sessions, such as reading a relevant book or keeping records. Tools like 'cinema therapy' can assist in gaining perspective, understanding aspects of ourselves we can't clearly see or reveal opportunities to scale hurtles we hadn't yet considered. For therapy to "work," it is best that one is an active participant, both in and outside of the therapy sessions.
It is also important to realize that things may get more difficult before they get better. You are addressing change, and while often uncomfortable or unfamiliar, the outcomes can reap life shifting rewards. In therapy, one can examine the life lived, determine if there are even greater lessons to be learned and grow beyond what may have been imagined. Willingness is a critical ingredient in this process. We can change our views of not only the past, but of today and the tomorrows to come. When it works, therapy empowers us to engage life.
A number of benefits are available from participating in psychotherapy. Often it is helpful just to know that someone understands. Listens to you. Hears you. Someone who has no secondary agenda.
Therapy can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. Many people find therapy to be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, and the hassles of daily life. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Again, when some things may seem simple, they are not easy. Good habits take time to build as do bad habits take time to break.
Some of the benefits available from therapy include:
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself and your personal goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Find new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications skills - learn how to listen to others, and have others listen to you
- Getting "unstuck" from unhealthy patterns - breaking old behaviors and develop new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
What if I don't know what my goals are for therapy?
If you aren't sure what your goals are for therapy, that could be your first task. It may take several sessions before a direction is clarified. During the course of therapy your goals may change. However, establishing a direction for therapy will help you get the most out of the experience.
Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?
There is a confusing array of insurance arrangements. The first thing you should do is check with your insurance carrier. Check your coverage carefully and find the answers to the following questions:
- Do I have mental health benefits?
- What is my deductible and has it been met?
- How many sessions per calendar year does my plan cover?
- How much do you pay for an out-of-net provider?
- Is there a limitation on how much you will pay per session?
- Is primary care physician approval required?
Is therapy confidential?
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a psychotherapist. Information is not disclosed without written permission.
However, there are number of exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include :
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse . The therapist is required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s. The therapist must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in insuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, further measures may be taken without their permission in order to ensure their safety.