Tips for Getting the Most Out of Counseling or Psychotherapy

By Laurie Conaty, MSW, LCSW, LCAS

Picking up the phone to make a ‘therapy’ appointment, let alone walking in the door for that first appointment, is intimidating for most everyone…but, know that you are a courageous person for making that appointment or accepting the concerned suggestion to “see someone” offered by a loved one or healthcare professional.

The goal of a therapist is to understand what is troubling you, to provide you with a diagnosis and help you identify solutions…they aren’t picking out your flaws- they want to help you resolve whatever concerns brought you to their office.  And along those lines, yes, they will establish a diagnosis – a diagnosis is like the engine of a car.  It makes everything else go!  Think of it this way…you want to know if the reason you are having a hard time hearing is because you have a bug in your ear or you have an ear infection!  Silly example, but, consider the importance of the answer.  A bug in your ear causing hearing problems would likely require simply removing the bug.  For an ear infection to be fully treated, you might need some medicine, to stop jabbing q-tips in your ear and to refrain from going underwater in hot tubs.  You get the point—understanding what is causing and maintaining the problem is the critical first step!

And it gets even more interesting—when evaluating children, therapists want to know about the family system, the parental relationship, school-based behavior and all kinds of other things that might at first glance seem irrelevant.  Why?  Because to understand the problems (or behaviors) a child is having is to also be fully aware of the situations the child is in.  Remember, a therapist is not there to point out flaws, but, to help identify solutions.

You cannot and should not be dependent on your therapist.  You should not be in therapy for a long time without making progress- if it gets to that point, you need to question yourself and your therapist…why aren’t you making any progress?  Should you see a new therapist or use another treatment model than what you are currently using?  Are you working hard on making changes between therapy appointments? Could medication be helpful along with therapy? Some problems are best treated with a combination of medication and “talk” therapies.  Your therapist is able to tell you about this distinction.

A therapist has heard a lot of stuff, so don’t think you’re the first.  Tell the truth and the whole story.  You owe it to yourself—it will help you both identify the source of problems and resolve them more quickly.  And along those lines….

Your therapy sessions are confidential…information is not shared with anyone without your informed consent-there are a couple of exceptions to this when it comes to protecting your life or that of another or of protecting a dependent child.  But, you can ask about this (and you should be told anyway) before you disclose anything to a therapist.

If you wonder if therapy could help you, your child, your family or your relationship with a partner, the licensed clinicians at Behavioral Healthcare Associates, LLC can help.  We have a wealth of experience and expertise under one roof, including medication consultation and management from an office-based (v. TV or phone) child and adult psychiatrist.  Many people seek our consultation simply to answer the question—what is the problem I am experiencing and what are my choices in handling it?

Finally, what is a therapist?  A therapist is someone who is licensed to independently diagnose and treat emotional, behavioral and psychiatric disorders.  The largest group of professionals licensed to do this in the country is LCSW’s (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) who provide approximately 68% of all psychiatric care.  The next largest group is PhD/PsyD-Clinical Psychologists.  Finally, Psychiatrists (MD-Medical Doctor) with a specialty in Psychiatry, provide both therapy and medication consultation and management.   dba BHA, LLC has all of these providers under one roof-including a Board Certified Child and Adult Psychiatrist and a PhD psychologist who can provide psychological testing when indicated. You can reach us at 919.292.1464