Is there a difference between counseling and therapy?
In general we see a difference between these terms. Counseling relates to helping people with decisions by sorting through alternatives and possibilities. Counseling is usually very 'now centered' and tends to deal with surface level issues. Therapy relates to helping people understand why they are doing what they are doing. Therapy goes to 'first causes' or, at least, to early causes, and tends to explore the adaptations we made as children that seemed to work then but don't seem to be working well now.
Do I really need counseling or therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, counseling or therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation.
How can therapy help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in psychotherapy. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, addictions, 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. Well trained psychologists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy in general depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills
- Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
What is therapy like?
Every counseling or therapy session is unique and caters to each individual and their specific goals. It is standard for therapists to discuss the primary issues and concerns in your life during therapy sessions. It is common to schedule a series of weekly sessions, where each session lasts around fifty minutes. Counseling can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or one can engage in longer-term therapy, addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. There may be times when you are asked to take certain actions outside of the sessions, such as reading a relevant book or keeping records to track certain behaviors. It is important to process what has been discussed and integrate it into your life between sessions. For therapy to be most effective you must be an active participant, both during and between the sessions. People seeking psychotherapy are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives. Here are some things you can expect out of therapy:
- Compassion, respect and understanding
- Perspectives to illuminate persistent patterns and negative feelings
- Real strategies for enacting positive change
- Effective and proven techniques along with practical guidance
Is medication a substitute for therapy?
In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you. In fact, the 'standard of care' for a number of diagnoses is a combination of 'talk therapy' and 'medicine therapy.' For example, both Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder regularly call for both medical and psychological treatment, yet often people are only undertaking one component and not realizing the benefits they seek.
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.
Are there reasons not to use insurance even if I have it?
Yes. You may work in a field where the fact that you have utilized mental health resources might impact your advancement. Although this fact may technically be protected information, it is not always clear who has legal or illegal access to highly personal information. For example, in spite of federal laws, private medical information like your credit card shopping record is being bought and sold freely by companies who can profit from the information. Years of experience in life has taught that a little paranoia is sometimes helpful. Many patients prefer to pay on a fee-for-service basis.
Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?
I am able to accept some insurance plans like Blue Shield of California and Triwest, but insurance plans are a very complicated arena -- the same insurance company may sell over a hundred different plans to companies with many different variations.
To determine if you have mental health coverage, the first thing you should do is check with your insurance carrier. Check your coverage carefully and find the answers to the following questions:
- What are my mental health benefits?
- What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
- What is my co-pay for each visit?
- Do I have a 'deductible' that must be achieved before full coverage kicks in?
- How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval ('authorization') required from my primary care physician?
- Is an approval ('authorization') number required before treatment can begin?
Is therapy confidential?
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a patient and psychologist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.
However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:
In addition, each person seeking relationship counseling (couples or partners) must understand that the treatment unit is the couple or the relationship. Couples are asked to sign the 'No Secrets Policy' that governs communication between the therapist and each member of the couple or partnership.
- Suspected child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. The therapist is required to notify the police.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. However, if an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.