By Kay O’Laughlin, Ed.D. |1/25/18
Some of the reasons people start psychotherapy might surprise you. The most obvious reasons for seeing a therapist include:
• Relationship problems
• Overwhelming sadness or depression
• Grief over death or other serious losses
• Intense anxiety
• Thoughts of hurting oneself or others
But people also choose to see a therapist when they feel stuck or lost. For example, having no sense of direction about a career path or feeling that something is missing from life.
Others decide to talk to a therapist when they realize they are using addictive behaviors to cope with stress and it’s not working. The addiction may be overeating, overusing alcohol, misusing drugs, or even compulsively over-exercising. Of course, the trap is that such behaviors create new problems instead of solving the old ones.
Therapy helps to identify negative thought patterns, misperceptions, and unhelpful behavior patterns—and then make plans for changing them.
You may wonder what therapy is and whether it really helps. Psychotherapy is generally known as “talk therapy,” though today many therapists incorporate specialized approaches such as cognitive-behavioral techniques, EMDR, guided imagery, mindfulness, and forms of deep relaxation.
Interestingly, research tells us that the most crucial factor in successful therapy is a positive connection between the client and therapist, meaning that the client feels the therapist both understands and empathizes. The American Psychological Association reported major research showing that 50% of people in therapy improved noticeably after eight sessions, and 75% improved noticeably by the six-month point. In recent years numerous rigorous studies have shown therapy has positive effects on one’s overall health and immune system.
So, in a nutshell, therapy helps most people who give it a try.
Therapists include psychologists, psychiatrists, psych nurse practitioners, social workers, pastoral counselors, and licensed mental health counselors. All of these disciplines involve licensing at a state level. Your insurance company keeps a list of providers in their network, but you should also ask whether they cover out-of-network therapists. Your doctor may be familiar with local therapists and able to recommend someone in particular.
If you need medication, a psychiatrist or psych nurse practitioner can prescribe. They may also do talk-therapy, but some prefer to work in conjunction with therapists from other fields. Often primary care doctors are comfortable with first-level medication for anxiety and depression.
All therapists help clients deal with relationship issues and solve problems. When you first meet a therapist, notice whether that person actively listens to you, seems to understand, and helps you formulate a roadmap of where you want to go and how to get there. You should feel comfortable and safe in the office environment.
One of the benefits of therapy is having time during a week devoted solely to you—how often does that happen in your busy life?
Often, people who are nervous about starting therapy soon find themselves looking forward to each session. One of the biggest surprises for many clients is how much they enjoy therapy and the sense of growing strength, clarity, and focus. I tell my new clients that the work may be intense at times, but along the way we’ll also find humor and reasons to laugh.
Are you considering talk therapy as an option? Check out these websites to help you find a therapist online.