How does therapy work?

People come to therapy for many reasons. Psychotherapy or counseling can provide support and skills-building for coping with challenges such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood trauma, bereavement, work conflicts, stress management, loss, drug or alcohol abuse, etc., as well as severe mental illness. Therapy is an active, engaging way to identify what’s not working in your life and relationships and to develop the skills needed to have more of what you want and need.

For therapy to “work,” you must be an active participant, both in and outside of the therapy sessions. Research has proven that the best possible outcome from therapy can be achieved through a strong relationship with your therapist. Therapists will work to create a safe and candid relationship with you and act as trained and empathetic guide, but your motivation and commitment to the process of understanding and growth has a tremendous impact on whether or not you find counseling to be a helpful experience.

How do I know if I need therapy?

The time when most people tend to go to a therapist is during a crisis: an immediate threat where you feel in danger, suicidal, or unable to live your life in a normal, productive way. This can often occur after a loved one has died, a relationship breakup, a period of depression, or if you are in danger or have been harmed in some way. The reason for going to therapy at this point is to be able to stabilize your life so that it is not in any immediate threat. However, you don’t need to have a “major” problem to go to a therapist. Just feeling unable to deal with your problem or feeling unhappy makes you a good therapy candidate. Many people seek therapy for specific non-crisis problems, such as insomnia, procrastination, and low grades.

In short, therapy is the answer if one feels it can help. It’s important for individuals to be motivated to engage in therapy and to not feel mandated or guarded. I often talk with people about several reasons we may be ready for therapy, including feeling like we’ve exhausted other avenues to resolution, or that we will make a change only once the pain of staying where we are is greater than that we will face in a new place.

Does deciding I need therapy mean that something is wrong with me or that I’ve failed?

Being in therapy is not a crazy action; It’s the most rational solution for dealing with a problematic situation. Seeking therapy helps show that you recognize the need to tackle your conflicts in a safe and supportive environment. If you are feeling the need to seek therapeutic help, then this usually means that you have reached your personal ceiling of frustration and are feeling stuck.

No one can live your life for you. Family, friends, and coworkers will eventually appreciate the positive changes generated from your therapeutic experience, as therapy helps you develop your self-reliance within the context of better relationships with others. More often than not, you’ll realize that you’re not alone in this endeavor.

Is therapy only for people with serious problems or mental illness?

Contrary to popular belief, only a very small percentage of people in therapy have a serious mental illness. Most people who go to therapy are everyday people that have everyday problems and are being proactive about improving their life. People go to therapy for a variety of reasons: depression, anxiety disorders, family problems, parenting, self-esteem, life purpose, and sexuality–just to name a few.

Mental health has been long overlooked and misunderstood as only for “crazy” people. But the truth is, anyone can benefit from some form of therapy, as it is only now being appreciated more and more as a critical component for overall health. Consider this: virtually everyone has experienced some level of anxiety or depression. Being in therapy doesn’t mean that you’re crazy; it means that you’re smart.

What is the first visit like?

When you come in for your first visit, you’ll be told about your rights of confidentiality and made aware of instances for which I might need to break confidentiality (such as a life-threatening emergency, imminent suicidal risk, and some court-related things that most likely won’t happen to you). I’ll explain my policies about attendance, cancellation, etc. I’ll also do a risk assessment in case one of the reasons you’ve come to therapy is due to suicidal thoughts or intentions. At this point, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them.

I make every effort to provide a safe, comfortable, nonjudgmental space for my patients. Even so, I realize that making the initial decision to come to therapy for the first time can be an incredibly difficult one. You should know that it’s perfectly normal to be nervous. In fact, if you are feeling nervous or find words difficult to come by, don’t be afraid to be honest and tell me. In the end, there’s nothing anyone can say that shocks me. It’s important to remember that while you are the expert in your own life, you’re in therapy to improve some aspect of it, which will eventually require some degree of openness.

How often should I come to therapy?

Generally, I recommend weekly appointments, especially towards the beginning of therapy. Some clients prefer to come every other week, and some clients prefer twice a week. All of these options are fine. During your first appointment, we will discuss what works best for you.

Therapy can be an effective and powerful way to work through many challenges. There is no way to be certain, however, how long it will take to meet your goals. Some therapy is more short-term, but depending on your personal challenges and goals, therapy can become a long-term process, which some find to be an integral part of their commitment to self-growth.

What if I can’t afford it?

Much like any other service (a doctor or dentist, for example), you’re hiring a qualified and trained professional to help you with an issue you want solved. A therapist is more than just “someone you pay to listen to your problems.” While compassionate listening is an important part of the counseling process, therapists have master’s and doctorate degrees and have spent years studying how people interact and respond to things like relationships, work environments, change, conflict resolution, and communication.

When you consider costs, think about the cost of your conflicts in terms of your emotional pain and subjective suffering, your loss of productivity, the effect of your stress and anxiety on your physical health, and the way your emotional conflicts affect your work and family relationships. Therapy is an important investment in yourself, which is why I try to keep costs competitive and provide different payment options so we can find the best way therapy can work for you.

Do you prescribe medication if it’s necessary?

Although I cannot prescribe medication, I have extensive knowledge in the area and can refer patients to my network of other providers in community who can get what we need. I’m also able to work with people who are already taking medications.

How long will it take before I feel better?

Therapy is a science, but it’s not an exact science. No timetable exists to predict how quickly you will see results. However, talking about your concerns is the fastest and most effective way to address them. Periodically, we will review your progress in therapy and determine any remaining challenges standing between you and your goals.