Therapy goes by many names; such as psychotherapy, talk therapy, or counseling. The common misconception is that therapy is only for people with a mental disorder. While it is true that almost all psychiatric patients benefit from therapy, those without mental disorders often reap its benefits as well. Therapy is conducted with a therapist who will help you explore emotions, behaviors, experiences, and more that may be causing problems in your life.
You may have many questions about therapy, including what it is like and what to expect when you go. Below you can find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:
What can I expect at my first therapy session?
Your first therapy session is an opportunity for both you and your therapist to get to know each other. The first thing you do may be to fill out paperwork. This often includes information about confidentiality, billing, and insurance.
The second thing you will do is meet your therapist. Each therapist is different; where one will start your session by telling you about themselves, another may start the session by reviewing the reasons you have decided upon therapy. No matter how your therapist begins your session, the end goal is for them to learn why you have sought them out.
You may find it hard to talk about what is bothering you right away. A good therapist recognizes that it is difficult to tell a stranger about your personal struggles. Generally, the more comfortable you feel, the more you will open up. Check-in with yourself after your first session and see how you feel about your therapist. Don’t feel bad if you would rather see another therapist. Therapists are professionals who understand that not everyone’s needs will be met by their therapy style.
What mental disorders can be treated with therapy?
Therapy is a great treatment for almost any mental disorder. Some examples of mental disorders that are well managed with therapy include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Postpartum disorders
- Personality disorders
Therapy is also great for domestic situations, such as mending relationships, learning to co-parent your child after a divorce, or coping with the loss of a partner. You don’t need to have a mental disorder to attend therapy.
What are some signs of a good therapist?
A good therapist is one that you feel comfortable with, respected by, and that listens to you. There are additional qualities that make for a good therapist, such as:
- Being mindful of your cultural background
- Explaining your symptoms in terms that are easy to understand
- Commitment to developing a treatment plan, and the ability to be flexible along the way
- Confidence that therapy will help you, and reminders of this if you begin to doubt yourself
- Attention to your response to therapy
- A sense of optimism
- Involvement in continuing education
- Staying up-to-date on research-backed treatment plans
- Flexibility to adapt to your needs over the course of therapy
What are some red flags in a therapist?
Just as there are characteristics that make a great therapist, there are also characteristics that make a poor one. Some examples are more situational than others. For example, it is legally unethical for a therapist to form a sexual or romantic relationship with a patient. The therapist can lose their license. But if your therapist must break confidentiality in the event that you may harm yourself or someone else, they are doing their job as a mandated reporter. Some examples of poor therapists include:
- An inability to clearly tell you how therapy can benefit you
- Talking too much or not talking at all
- Discussing their personal issues during your session
- Doing other things or not listening as you speak (some therapists take notes during sessions. This does not mean they are ignoring you, but are keeping notes to reference later on)
- Forcing you to revisit painful or traumatic experiences against your will
- Forming a sexual or romantic relationship with you
- Revealing your identity to other people
- Revealing the identity of other patients to you
- Answering phone calls or texting during your session
- Attempting to form more than a professional relationship with you (this can include things like asking to have lunch with you, or inviting you over to their house)
The ultimate decision of whether or not a therapist is good for you is based off your own perception. If you do not feel comfortable with them, then it is best to find someone else.
Are there different types of therapy?
The short answer is yes, there are many different types of therapy. What therapy you receive depends on whether or not you have a mental illness, what that mental illness may be, the therapist, and many other factors.
The most common types of therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy. CBT is a short-term therapy that focuses on the present. This can include behaviors or emotions that you are currently experiencing and wish to change. CBT usually takes place over 5 to 20 sessions. Psychotherapy is a long-term therapy that uses childhood experiences to explain current behaviors and emotions. This is often what people think of as “traditional therapy”. Psychotherapy can take place for months or years.
CBT and psychotherapy are often completed as individual therapy. But there are options for therapy to include more than one person. Couples and family therapy are exactly as their names state. Couples therapy focuses on the dynamics between a couple, and family therapy focuses on the dynamics of a family unit. This can include immediate family and extended family, depending on who is involved in the situations discussed in the session.
Group therapy is conducted by one or two therapists for a small group of people. It is often a supplement to individual therapy and gives people a chance to interact with others suffering from similar struggles or mental disorders. Group therapy has many benefits, such as social interactions, a sense of community, inspiration from others, and much more. Group therapy is usually conducted once a week for about an hour.
Does a minor need parental consent to attend therapy?
The exact answer to this question varies by state. In Connecticut, therapy is considered an outpatient mental health treatment. The law states that minors must obtain consent from a parent or guardian for outpatient mental health treatment after 6 sessions. The exception to this is if the mental health provider deems parental consent a risk to the minor’s wellbeing. For example, if a suicidal minor has been in therapy for 6 sessions but makes it known that obtaining parental consent would mean terminating treatment, the therapist does not need to obtain consent. It would be too risky to the minor’s health.
There are other exceptions to parental consent as well. These are:
- requiring consent or notification would cause the minor to reject the treatment;
- the treatment is clinically indicated;
- failure to provide it would be seriously detrimental to the minor’s well-being;
- the minor has knowingly and voluntarily sought treatment
- the minor is mature enough to participate in treatment productively, as deemed by the therapist
You can read more in-depth about these laws at Connecticut’s page for Laws About Rights of Minors. The information about mental health care is found in Section 19a-14c.
Some minors worry that the information they discuss in their session may be shared with their parents. There is rarely cause to worry, however. Therapists are bound by confidentiality laws that prevent them from sharing patient information. This means that even if your parents ask, your therapist will not tell them what you discuss in your sessions. Be aware that there are exceptions to this, though, such as if the therapist believes you are at risk for harming yourself or others. It is their mandated duty to report such information.
If you feel that therapy is right for you, please contact New Milford Counseling Center by calling 860-740-2228 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org