Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, a psychotherapist or another person in a therapeutic role such as a social worker?
- Is therapy right for me?
- Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
- How can therapy help me?
- What is therapy like?
- Is medication a substitute for therapy?
- Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?
- Is therapy confidential?
What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, a psychotherapist or another person in a therapeutic role such as a social worker?
A Psychiatrist is a doctor who has attended medical school and done a residency in psychiatry. In many states, psychiatrists and other medical doctors are the only professionals who can prescribe psychiatric medications. Many psychiatrists focus on severe issues such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. These challenges usually require a combination of therapy and medication.
A clinical psychologist is a professional who has earned a PhD or a PsyD in clinical psychology. In most states, psychologists cannot prescribe medication, but are trained to work with individuals who have either mild or severe psychological issues. Some psychologists do not work as therapists, but instead teach at universities or conduct psychological research. The training program of PhD clinical psychologists has more of a research focus than the newer PsyD degree.
Counselors are generally Master’s-level psychotherapists who are focused exclusively on providing therapy to individuals, couples, or families. Counselors do not prescribe medications. Many counselors focus on common life issues, including stress and anxiety, mild to moderate depression, relationship conflicts, and work or career development. Although counseling graduate programs include a great deal of psychology, the emphasis is more on working with “problems of normal living” rather than severe mental illnesses.
Clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and marriage and family therapists also provide psychotherapy services in most states. Many social workers focus on solving social problems and connecting clients with appropriate resources. Marriage and family therapists tend to specialize on interpersonal and family dynamics. Psychiatric nurses often work with doctors and can prescribe medication in some states.
Any of these professionals might refer to himself or herself as a “psychotherapist.” Excellent therapists come from all these traditions.
Is therapy right for me?
Seeking out therapy is an individual choice. There are many reasons why people come to therapy. Sometimes it is to deal with long-standing psychological issues, or problems with anxiety or depression. Other times it is in response to unexpected changes in one’s life such as a divorce or work transition. Many seek the advice of counsel as they pursue their own personal exploration and growth. Working with a therapist can help provide insight, support, and new strategies for all types of life challenges. Therapy can help address many types of issues including depression, anxiety, conflict, grief, stress management, body-image issues, and general life transitions. Therapy is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self-awareness, and working towards change in their lives.
Do I really need 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, 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 by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
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, stress management, 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. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy 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 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. Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. There may be times when you are asked to take certain actions outside of the therapy 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. 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.
Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?
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?
- How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval required from my primary care physician?
Is therapy confidential?
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychotherapist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.
However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant 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.