What is Counseling or Therapy and What Can I Expect If I Am In Therapy?

by Laurie Conaty, LCSW, LCAS, PA

Therapy or counseling can be thought of as getting help for something that is bothering you and doesn’t seem to go away no matter how you try! Or, you know what’s bothering you but you aren’t sure what to do about it! 

When you have your first (or first few) appointments with a therapist, you will be talking with them about what is bothering you and they will, along with you, develop an understanding of what is going on for you.  They’ll want to understand the goals that you want to achieve by being in therapy.  If you aren’t sure how to describe your goals, they can help you with that!

A therapist (particularly if you are using insurance which requires that a treatment be ‘medically necessary’ in order for insurance to pay) will establish a diagnosis.  A diagnosis defines what is going on and also points towards best treatments.  It is important that you know and understand what your diagnosis is – just like any other healthcare related issue. 

When evaluating children, therapists need to know about all of the folks who interact with that child.  So questions about mom and dad’s relationship,  school-based behavior and all kinds of other things that might at first glance seem irrelevant will be asked of the parents/legal guardians.  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. Children react to their environment…check out our website, behavioralhealthcareassociates.org for the article “Before You Take Your Kid to Therapy…”

Your therapist can and should explain to you the treatment modalities that they will be using to help you or your child.

Regardless of the type of treatment used, therapy or counseling should be a conversation that is always focused on YOUR goals.  While the relationship with a therapist may ‘feel’ comfortable-a therapist isn’t your friend like someone who you would just vent to.  You can expect your conversations with a therapist to be goal-oriented and purposeful. 

If you don’t feel you are making progress in counseling/therapy, you might ask yourself and/or your therapist these questions:  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, 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 USA is LCSW’s (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) who provide approximately 68% of all psychiatric care in the US.   The next largest group is PhD/PsyD-Clinical Psychologists. LCMHC (Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor) and LMFT’s (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists) also provide behavioral healthcare services.  Finally, Psychiatrists (MD-Medical Doctor) with a specialty in Psychiatry, provide medication consultation and management.   dba BHA, LLC has a variety of providers under one roof-including a Board Certified Child and Adult Psychiatrist.  We are happy to answer any questions you have, and, you don’t need a referral!  Please call us at 919.292.1464. behavioralhealthcareassociates.org