Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About How Therapy Works
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I am usually able to solve my problems on my own. If I go to counseling, does it mean I’m weak?
My clients are some of the most capable, resilient and kind people I know. Everyone is a position at one time or another to need help from others. If you’re usually the one taking care of other people, it can be especially hard to ask for support. It takes a lot more courage and strength to make a change and ask for help, than it does to stay feeling stuck. Together we’ll figure out what’s causing you to feel overwhelmed and what it will take to regain a sense of control in your life.
Why pay a therapist when I can just talk to my friends or family?
Talking to friends and family can certainly be helpful. A counselor should not take the place of your friends, family or partner, but they may be able to offer a perspective and some interventions those closest to you may not. A therapist has received formal education, completed advanced training and typically has a lot more professional experience than the average person. Heck, even counselors will seek out their own therapists rather than their friends or family when they have problems they can’t seem to solve on their own. Counselors can teach you coping skills and strategies, are trained to listen to what you have to say without judgement and can help you understand yourself and why you feel the way you do about certain things.
It’s also important to note that confidentiality, or privacy, is unique in the context of therapy compared to many other relationships. Nobody else will know your business, because your counselor must maintain you privacy under strict rules set by the state and their licensing board. Finally, sometimes your friends, partner or family members may be the ones contributing to the distress you’re feeling. Talking to them about how you’re feeling may be counterproductive, at least until you learn some tools to more effectively communicate or can establish healthy boundaries.
Will I have to take medication?
Counselors are not prescribers of medication. Whether or not you take medication to help treat and manage your symptoms is entirely up to you. There are certainly some cases where medication can be helpful, especially when your symptoms are felt more in your body. With your written consent, we can collaborate with other medical providers like a primary care physician or a psychiatrist to coordinate care if you choose to take any medication, but that is up to you. That said, medication is not a magic wand or a miracle solution. Medication won’t instantly change your thoughts or feelings. It is most effective when used in combination with talk therapy. In many cases talk therapy can be effective even without medication. If you’re considering medication, but would rather try a natural, non-medication approach to treatment first, counseling is a great place to start.
How does counseling work? What happens in a therapy session?
Counseling offers a neutral, judgement free place for you to talk through the harder, messier parts of your life. Things that you might not feel safe or comfortable talking to others about. It can also be a place to find support, encouragement and help getting through life transitions. Transitions may include a career change, the introduction of a new baby or a recent loss. What happens in each counseling session will look different for every client. Each person’s reason for seeking help and needs are different. Typically your sessions should involve you doing most of the talking, and your counselor doing most of the listening, offering feedback and offering you coping skills and strategies as needed. I can be directive and blunt when needed, or take a more passive and supportive approach, depending on the needs and preferences of my clients.
How many counseling sessions will I need?
The length of time people see a counselor varies based on their needs, preferences and goals. I recommend starting with weekly sessions so we can establish a foundation and build some momentum. We also need to get some coping skills into place for you to use between sessions. Many clients continue meeting weekly until they feel they’ve achieved their goals for counseling. After an initial period of time has passed, the counselor and client may decide tapering down to a bi-weekly session. Some clients may opt to terminate when they feel their work is done. Or some may ask for a monthly check in type session for on-going accountability and support in maintaining their progress. I am accommodating and flexible when possible, while still providing the appropriate level and quality of care you deserve.
How can I make the most of my time in therapy?
Counseling is an investment of your time, resources and trust. In order for it to work you have to believe your counselor can help you. You have to show up willing to be honest with yourself and your counselor. It’s important to get into the dark, messy, uncomfortable parts of your life. You’ve got to talk about what’s going on that made you reach out for help in the first place. Show up on time, keep your commitments to yourself and your counselor and communicate if things aren’t working. Like getting to know anybody, the first few times you meet with your counselor it may feel a little awkward. Assuming it’s the right fit, things should feel more comfortable and helpful after the first few sessions. If for some reason they don’t, talk to your counselor about your concerns.