By Michelle Marks, phd
At one time, seeking professional help was something you kept to yourself. Today, many people openly admit that they turn to therapists to help them through their problems. If you’re considering psychotherapy, but don’t know much about it, the following questions and answers will help ease your mind.
Q: My doctor suggested I get psychotherapy. But my problems are real, not just “in my head”. How can psychotherapy help me?
A. A psychotherapy referral does not discount the reality of your problems. If you have a problem that’s impacting your mood, health, relationships, or effectiveness, you may benefit from psychotherapy. Seeking psychotherapy does not mean there is something wrong with you; most people experience problems or symptoms during their lifetimes that could be helped with psychotherapy.
Q: What kind of problems can psychotherapy help?
A. Psychotherapy can help if you’re bothered by negative thoughts, emotions, behavior patterns or habits; if you’re stressed, depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, having trouble getting over your past, feeling unfulfilled or off-track, or if you have been diagnosed with a psychiatric impairment.
Q: What happens in psychotherapy?
A. During the first few sessions, you and your therapist will be building a therapeutic relationship, defining goals and developing a treatment plan. Sessions are typically 45-50 minutes in length and are much like conversations. You should be prepared to discuss your situation. Your therapist will listen and clarify, ask questions, make suggestions, provide support and accountability, or teach you strategies for coping, managing stress or solving problems. Many psychotherapists suggest homework so clients can apply what they’ve learned in therapy to real life situations.
Q: How long will I need to go for psychotherapy?
A. That depends on a number of factors, including your problem and your communication style, and also might be impacted by your health insurance. If you need help sorting out a specific problem, a few sessions may suffice. Psychotherapy most typically continues for several months so clients can address a variety of issues or more complex problems. Many people benefit from longer-term treatment and continue for years or return for periodic “boosters”.
Q: Is there anything that psychotherapy can’t help me with?
A. Problems and pain are inevitable. Though psychotherapy can’t make your life problem-free, it can help you cope more effectively and reduce your suffering. It can also help you learn to relate to problematic people differently and decide whether to continue your relationship with them. Additionally, psychotherapy does not “make” anything happen to you. The benefits you can gain from psychotherapy can be significant, but they rely on your active participation.
Q: How much does psychotherapy cost?
A: Individual psychotherapy sessions vary in cost, and may range from about $50 to over $200 per session depending on a variety of factors including the qualifications and experience of the psychotherapist.
Q: Will my insurance pay?
A. Many insurance plans offer mental health benefits. If you use insurance, your therapist will have to document the necessity of your treatment to your insurance company. If your therapist is in your provider network, you will pay a co-payment or a percentage of the cost of the session. If your therapist is not in your provider network, you will pay upfront but may receive partial reimbursement. Keep in mind that if you use insurance for psychotherapy, there may be limits placed on the number of sessions covered.
Q: Please tell me about confidentiality in psychotherapy?
A. The psychotherapy relationship is a private one and your therapist will not typically disclose your identity or any information about your treatment to anyone without your written permission, but there are a few exceptions to the privacy rule. If you disclose that you intend to hurt yourself or someone else, if you report that you are aware of child abuse, elder abuse, or any threats to national security your therapist has an obligation to protect the threatened party.
Q: How do I choose a psychotherapist?
A. Psychotherapists vary greatly in training, experience, and specialty. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe psychiatric medications and may also offer psychotherapy. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners also can prescribe medication. Other psychotherapists do not prescribe medication. Licensed Psychologists have doctorates in psychology, and Clinical Social Workers and Licensed Mental Health Counselors typically have Master’s Degrees. If a psychotherapist holds any of the above designations, you can be confident that they have enough training and experience to satisfy the state licensing board for their field. But keep in mind that there are no regulations on the terms “therapist” or “counselor”, so if you are considering working with someone who does not present with any of the titles listed above, you should ask about their credentials. You can also find a psychotherapist in the Yellow Pages, through your insurance company or by asking your physician or friends for recommendations.
Dr. Michelle Marks is a Licensed Psychologist who offers biofeedback, psychotherapy and life coaching services and has a private practice in Bethlehem. She specializes in helping people manage stress, lead healthy lifestyles and thrive in their personal and professional lives. She can be reached at 478.0093 or at www.michellemarks.com.