What is a therapist?
Therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, is the process of meeting with a therapist to resolve problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues, and/or somatic responses (sensations in the body).
How will therapy help?
Therapy can be a wonderful tool to help people live happy, fulfilling lives. Therapy addresses a wide range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and grief, but therapy can also be used for purposes other than immediate mental health concerns.
Why do people go to therapy and how do I know if it is right for me?
People have many different motivations for coming to psychotherapy. Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well. Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts and creative blocks.
How can therapy help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in therapy. 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.
What is therapy like?
Each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual. In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, your personal history relevant to your issue, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous therapy session. Depending on your specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your therapist (usually weekly).
It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process.
Do I really need a therapist, Can’t I just do it by myself?
We live in a fast pace world with many challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully handled a specific problem in the past, there is nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact to realize that you need a helping hand, you take responsibility to accept where you are in life and make a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy.
How is therapy different from Life Coaching?
The main, broad differences between therapy and coaching follows:
- Therapists are licensed and regulated by the state in which they practice and must have the required levels of education, training, and continuing education to use the title of psychotherapist.
People typically see a therapist because they have symptoms of a mental health issue and want to feel and function better. Therapy also helps individuals by increasing insight and self-awareness by identifying the roots of issues and problematic thinking.
- Coaching tends to focus on the present and future rather than the past. Coaches help people identify their goals and the obstacles they are facing. Like therapy, coaching involves guidance and support but also places a great deal of emphasis on accountability, enabling people to do more than they might on their own.
Is therapy confidential?
Many people interested in therapy may be hesitant to share private information or stories about themselves with a stranger. They may fear judgment from the therapist, or worse, that the therapist is going to share their details with others. For therapy to be effective, trust must be built between the individual seeking therapy and the therapist.
Confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of therapy. Knowing that you can say anything to your therapist and it will remain in the room helps you feel safe and builds trust between you and the therapist. For this reason, all therapists are legally and ethically bound to keep their sessions confidential and not share with anyone else what was talked about.
Your therapist should have all of their guidelines and policies, including issues of confidentiality, explained in a written document called a Professional Disclosure Statement or an Informed Consent document. You and your therapist can review the limitations and expectations of confidentiality before you begin your work together.
The major exceptions for confidentiality are when:
- A person in therapy is an imminent risk to their self. (This means if a person comes to therapy and shares with his or her therapist that they are feeling suicidal, and if after assessing them the therapist feels they are a danger to themselves, the therapist is obligated to contact the proper authorities.
- A person is at risk of harming someone else. (This means, if a person in therapy is at risk of harming someone else, the therapist is required to notify the proper authorities and take measures to ensure the safety of those who are at risk).
- Finally, if the individual in therapy discloses situations of child abuse or neglect, the therapist is obligated to report that information to the proper child protection agency in the area.
- The last exception is the therapist being subpoenaed or compelled by a judge to testify. Those circumstances are rare and therapists can usually claim “privileged communication.