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iStock_000009515143Small.jpg"Most therapists want to increase their clients’ consciousness, which in turn helps people understand their thoughts and feelings in relation to a problem. This understanding in turn, opens up the idea of having different options or choices to learn new ways to cope with life stressors.

Therapy is a commitment to improve your life

Therapy is a commitment to improve emotional and physical health. People have the right to make choices on what they want to change in life. Many have difficulty understanding the fact that going to therapy might provide real, tangible benefits. Other people may view therapy as being an invasion of privacy. A few people may be truly independent and have fears of losing that freedom, or have fears of the label “crazy”. 

Psychotherapy is effective for a variety of behavioral and mental conditions with various cultural and community groups and the effects are larger than the effects produced by many medical treatments.

Treatment is an emotional process, however, therapists are trained to be mindful during these difficult encounters because of the value that is placed on this therapeutic alliance. The goal is to help people reduce stress so that they can experience healthy and happy lives and people who feel judged withhold information, which in turn impedes progress. Women tend to embrace the therapy relationship easier than men as this is one environment where people can go without fear of being judged which in turn releases emotional tension and stress, thereby decreasing anxiety.

Who goes to therapy?

Seeking help is a sign of courage. There are many reasons people decide to go to counseling and view it as being a learning experience or an opportunity to improve something. In fact, most people make a conscious choice to improve the quality of their life, which could mean stirring the motivation up to run a marathon! People do not have to be severely ill to go to therapy as some have difficulty with maintaining pleasure and joy in life.

The decision to go to therapy is for most people a conscious, courageous decision to try to change or resolve a difficult life circumstances. People decide what they want help with, which issues to consider and then they get to choose the ways to treat. At the end of the first couple of sessions, there will be a discussion that includes other areas to explore, ways to cope and problems solving techniques. Therapists also explain the approximate length of time it will take to help people feel better.

People should consider therapy when they are unhappy, or when feeling so distressed that it interferes with their daily quality of life, or, when they want to improve an area that is in acceptable, working condition. Counseling can also be helpful for those who are facing a change, experienced a loss, or for those who just downright wish to greet the day with more enthusiasm.

The Rules of Therapy: Privacy and Confidentiality

There are extremely strict privacy rules pertaining to psychology and everything therapists examine is in strict confidence. However, licensed mental health professional have a legal mandate to report any serious and persistent suicidal threats, any threats to hurt someone, and any abuse against a child or senior citizen. Throughout the process, therapists encourage people to ask questions of any and all types, as clients are hiring them to help. Therefore, write down questions and “ask away”.

How to Prepare for Therapy – The Initial Interview

  1. Be willing to discuss the problem areas and events leading up to making the decision to call a therapist. How can a therapist help?
  2. History of the basic problem: How long has this problem been difficult and were there any triggers. (Loss of Employment, Death of a loved one, Medical Problem)
  3. Have there been any prior treatments or psychiatrist visits, which would include hospitalizations?
  4. Therapists may review developmental or childhood experiences, along with discussing any emotional problems within the biological family.
  5. People will be asked to describe their thoughts, moods and behaviors.
  6. How well are people taking care of their bodies? (Eating well, sleeping, Exercise)
  7. The treatment plan is then discussed, and, a preliminary completion date should be provided. (Usually 4-6 months sessions on a weekly basis for 45 min)
  8. If either the client or therapist is skeptical about scheduling another appointment, it is reasonable to think about rescheduling for a few days, and then call the office for a follow-up meeting later in the week.

How to Evaluate the Need for Therapy

How do people determine and evaluate the need to see a professional therapist? Many may have attempted to cope with the problem by themselves, discussed the problem with friends, co-workers, minister or anyone who was willing to listen. Sometimes just talking out a problem with a sympathetic listener will help, however, if talking about the concerns has not helped, it might be a good idea to assess the benefits of going to therapy. A professional therapist can view the situation from a non-judgmental fashion, and is qualified to assist with problem solving.

Most people will be putting in a reasonable amount of time, money, and energy into therapy, and they should choose a therapist wisely, possibly a referral from a friend or a therapist that they have seen in the past. Find a therapist that promotes an emotional connection, not a therapist that is acting superior or indifferent during the session. Therapy is more about the relationship and less about the technique. When a person feels this emotional connection, treatment is more likely to be extremely useful, and sessions will be on the path to success.

Time and Therapy: People can determine whether they are ready to seek help from a professional by asking themself if it is worth taking an hour out of the week to talk about the problems. If the answer is yes, then they are probably ready. If no, then they may not be ready and they will always be able to revisit this topic in the future. For most of the population, the answer to this question is this simple.

Motivation and Therapy: People delay entering treatment for various reasons. Often they think that their problems are their own problems, and they should be able to solve them alone and, in fact, no one else needs to be aware of their business. Many people isolate and do not have a strong support system; therefore, it is difficult if not impossible to reach out to others and ask for help. This reaching out takes motivation, and it is scary to admit having problems. It takes courage to place ourselves in a vulnerable position, especially to a professional. If people are fearful about scheduling an appointment, they can view this process as being it as being a once in a lifetime experience, just to evaluate if therapy is worth the risk. After all, the decision to go to therapy is their choice.

It is essential for people to understand that anything in life that we do for the first time is anxiety provoking. If people can keep this thought in mind while walking into the counselors’ office, they may realize that the therapist is also meeting them for the first time! People choose to make the appointment and can choose never again to go back, should they feel that this experience was just too traumatizing.

Success and Therapy: It is reasonable to expect that people will come to a deeper understanding of themself and their problems. It is reasonable to expect that they will learn new ways to cope with problems, thoughts, feelings and life circumstances. It is reasonable to expect that people will feel empowered and in control of life. However, it is not reasonable to expect that therapy will solve every problem in life. Life’s’ problems change routinely according to the situation. With long term treatment, it is reasonable to expect that the ability to cope with new problems independently will improve over time.

Successful treatment facilitates change in the way people react to situations. It is the therapists’ responsibility to encourage people to explore new ways to cope and develop a deeper understanding of the problems in life. After exploring difficult problem area’s  people then get to choose which one they would like to learn how to manage. As the therapy continues, the process increases that sense of awareness “an aha moment” that promotes the sense of empowerment and pride. This is success in therapy.

The Last Therapy Session

Counseling is warm, kind, and gentle in its approach, but it requires courage and personal strength to work through the process. Therapy has many benefits and advantages for every individual who walks the path. The last session involves a fundamental overview of how people believe they progressed on the areas that were explored. This evaluation can be performed by using a percentage rating scale. The discussion usually includes ways in which people are able to independently “take on the world.” Hopefully, most will show that strut and be happy spirit, as treatment takes action, time and commitment, and all deserve to “stand up straight and walk tall”.

What are the Benefits of Therapy?  

One key advantage of therapy is that the process gives someone a safe and secure place to explore problems and therapists are trained to listen and analyze problems. People deserve a safe and secure environment where they can express themselves freely without the risk of being judged.

The healing environment places a high value on the worth of the individual. The client and the therapist work together to establish realistic goals that they want to achieve from the therapy. In sum, therapy focuses on the client, while the therapist does their best to help the client achieve their goals. Being in the position to make meaningful choices over their own well-being might be a new experience for some which can be extremely empowering thus raising self-esteem especially when the process is nearing the end.

Psychotherapy teaches patients life skills that last beyond the course of treatment. The results of psychotherapy tend to last longer than psychopharmacological treatments and rarely produce harmful side effects.  While medication is appropriate in some instances, research shows that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often most effective in treating depression and anxiety. It should also be noted that the effects produced by psychotherapy, including those for different age groups and across a range of mental and physical health disorders, are generally comparable to or better than the effects produced by drug treatments for the same disorders without the potential for harmful side effects that drugs often exhibit.

It takes courage and curiosity to enter into the “what is therapy” arena because it is the one approach that explores a persons’ inner world. Therapy helps people believe that they do, in fact, have choices, and then we examine the different ways to achieve the goals associated with that choice. Once people understand this process, they will begin to feel empowered and become much more proactive in taking care of life."

Live Well

Dr. Cheryl MacDonald, RN, Psy D  Health Psychology of San Diego

 

 

 

 

 

 

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