What are the risks and benefits of therapy?
As with any powerful treatment, there are some risks as well as many benefits with therapy. You should think about both the benefits and risks when making any treatment decisions. For example, in therapy, there is a risk that clients will, for a time, have uncomfortable levels of sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, frustration, loneliness, helplessness, or other negative feelings. Clients may recall unpleasant memories. These feelings or memories may bother a client at work or in school. In addition, some people in the community may mistakenly view anyone in therapy as weak, or perhaps as seriously disturbed or even dangerous. Also, clients in therapy may have problems with people important to them. Family secrets may be told. Therapy may disrupt a marital relationship and sometimes may even lead to a divorce. Sometimes, too, a client’s problems may temporarily worsen after the beginning of treatment. Most of these risks are to be expected when people are making important changes in their lives. Finally, even with our best efforts, there is a risk that therapy may not work out well for you.
While you consider these risks, you should know also that the benefits of therapy have been shown by scientists in hundreds of well-designed research studies. People who are depressed may find their mood lifting. Others may no longer feel afraid, angry, or anxious. In therapy, people have a chance to talk things out fully until their feelings are relieved or the problems are solved. Clients’ relationships and coping skills may improve greatly. They may get more satisfaction out of social and family relationships. Their personal goals and values may become clearer. They may grow in many directions—as persons, in their close relationships, in their work or schooling, and in the ability to enjoy their lives. I do not take on clients I do not think I can help. Therefore, I will enter our relationship with optimism about our progress.
What is therapy like?
By the end of our first or second session, I will discuss with you what your goals are and how I think we should proceed. I view therapy as a partnership between us. You define the problem areas to be worked on; I use some special knowledge to help you make the changes you want to make. Therapy is not like visiting a medical doctor. It requires your very active involvement. It requires your best efforts to change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, I want you to tell me about important experiences, what they mean to you, and what strong feelings are involved. This is one of the ways you are an active partner in therapy.
An important part of your therapy will be practicing new skills that you will learn in our sessions. I will ask you to practice outside our meetings, and we will work together to set up homework assignments for you. I might ask you to do exercises, keep records, and read to deepen your learning. You will probably have to work on relationships in your life and make long-term efforts to get the best results. These are important parts of personal change. Change will sometimes be easy and quick, but more often it will be slow and frustrating, and you will need to keep trying. There are no instant, painless cures and no “magic pills.” However, you can learn new ways of looking at your problems that will be very helpful towards changing your feelings and reactions.
How long does treatment last?
It depends. Most of my clients see me once a week for 3 to 4 months. After that, we meet less often for several more months. Therapy then usually comes to an end.
Who knows that I am seeing a therapist and what we talk about?
No one. It is your legal right that our sessions and my records about you be kept private. In general, I will tell no one what you tell me. I will not even reveal that you are receiving treatment from me. In all but a few rare situations, your confidentiality (that is our privacy) is protected by federal and state laws and by the rules of my profession. No information about your treatment will be revealed without a signed release of information form. The exception to the rules are if you make a serious threat to harm yourself or someone else; or if I believe that a child or elder has been or will be abused or neglected. I am legally required to report these situations to the authorities.
If you are submitting your bills to your insurance company for reimbursement, your insurance company requires that a diagnosis be submitted and may request additional information about your treatment.
LPC: The Licensed Professional Counselor has advanced training, a graduate academic degree, clinical work experience, and has passed a state-certified licensing examination (the NCE). Counselors treat all sorts of problems: from alcoholism and eating disorders to relationship issues and depression. This is the licensure required by the state of Missouri to practice counseling.
LCPC: The Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor has advanced training, a graduate academic degree, clinical work experience, and has passed two state-certified licensing examinations (the NCE and the NCMHCE). Counselors treat all sorts of problems: from alcoholism and eating disorders to relationship issues and depression. This is the licensure required by the state of Illinois to practice counseling.