How therapy helps
According to a landmark study by Consumer Reports in 1995 and 2004 – therapy helps in three major ways. Therapy can help you to:
- Ease presenting problems, such as depression and anxiety
- Foster personal growth – better self-esteem, more confidence, and more enjoyment from life
- Function better in everyday living
Functioning better includes developing insight into your motivations, thoughts, and beliefs. Some of your thoughts can be automatic, and they need to be brought to light and discussed in order to understand them and to change your automatic reactions. Therapy is a way to understand how you think.
In fact, therapy changes brain chemistry in a way that’s similar to medication, and it can be as effective as medication. Recent studies suggest that for persons with early (childhood) trauma, therapy is more effective for depression when compared to medication alone.
Your first visit
If you’re considering starting therapy with me as your therapist, I will welcome questions before you start, such as:
- Fees and insurance
- Which populations with what types of issues I have worked with
- Kinds of counseling and therapy services I provide
After the first couple of therapy sessions, you should be feeling reasonably comfortable about opening up. If you aren’t, bring it up in session. We would first see if you have trouble opening up in general. But if it turns out to be something about me or my approach to therapy, I would help you to find a therapist that fits what you’re looking for.
What to look for in a therapist
There are several qualities that you should look for in a therapist.
A good therapist:
- Tailors therapy to suit your individual needs
- Has a respectful, professional therapeutic relationship with you
- Stays open about your concerns regarding the therapy process
- Points out options but does not tell you what to do
- Keeps the focus on you
- Talks about his or her personal life only as a way to be helpful to you
A very important factor in getting better, and the foundation for growth and healing, is the relationship that you have with your therapist. Keep in mind that the relationship should be professional – a therapist should limit contact to the sessions and never be in a friendship or other type of relationship with you – and at the same time be warm, caring, nonjudgmental, and understanding.
A good therapist does not:
- Talk about his/her own current problems
- Spend time with you outside of therapy sessions
- Impose his or her values or beliefs on you
Dispelling some common myths about therapy
Myth: To be strong means to be able to solve problems on your own
Reality: This can lead to stress, depression, and anxiety, among other problems. Paradoxically, asking for help can be scary. Since courage must have an element of fear (if you’re not afraid, where’s the courage?), therapy takes bravery!
Myth: Therapists can make people change
Reality: As nice as this would be, you are responsible for making your own changes; a therapist can help you make the change you desire.
Myth: Therapy can be accomplished in a few therapy sessions
Reality: While some problems are eased by short-term therapy, most clients gain more from a longer therapy experience. The Consumer Reports (1995/2004) article on therapy noted that the longer clients stayed in therapy, the more they improved, and clients who stayed in therapy for more than six months reported greater gains than those who left therapy earlier.
Myth: Therapy is always difficult or painful
Reality: You may be reluctant to enter therapy because you fear that therapy will be painful. Therapy is actually about releasing pain, which is one way that therapy helps. In fact, it can be a place for growth and self-discovery. You may come to see therapy as a place where you feel understood, safe, and protected.