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FAQ About Therapy

I have my friends and they help me through things – why do I need a therapist?

There are many reasons that your friends are not a replacement for therapy. Not only is putting that burden on your friends unfair to them – your friends are not your therapists and no matter how much they swear up and down they want to be there for you and don’t mind, they are not equipped to be giving certain advice and oftentimes may be not only steering you down the wrong path or worsening your own mentality surrounding a situation, but their own mental health may be negatively impacted by trying to act as a counselor-type role when they’re not equipped to do so. 

A therapist is not only removed from the situation, but they are trained on how to not only help you, but also to take care of themselves in doing so. It’s an ethical way to be able to talk about intense things and to vent about your life on a regular and lengthy basis – with your friends it is not appropriate and can cause serious damage both mentally and to those friendships. 

Additionally, in a therapist-client relationship, you don’t need to worry about the feelings of your therapist. Obviously they’re still a person and you can’t disregard that, but they’re there to help you with your problems and they have signed up (and are being paid) to help you with difficult things – you don’t have to worry about being a “downer”. You also don’t have to censor or self-edit your speech because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or out of concern of being judged. Therapists are trained to be understanding, and chances are they’ve heard 10000x worse. 

With friends you often might get advice for the short term (and therefore gaining short term relief and gratification), but with therapists you can chart a path of plans for how to work towards long term goals, and therefore making much more significant progress and a much more significant and positive impact in your life. 

What is the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist?

A therapist is a licensed counselor. They help clients to treat mental health symptoms and to work through the management of their stress, relationships, daily and lifelong mental health issues, processing, and more. 

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and prescribe medication to treat mental health disorders. 

Oftentimes patients will work with both a therapist and a psychiatrist on a team (they’ll meet separately generally, but there will be communication and the treatment should be functioning as a team) – with their therapist meetings happening on a more regular basis, while they will meet with their psychiatrist more infrequently for medication check-ins and prescriptions, diagnosis meetings, and more. The psychiatrist and therapist should be in communication with one another regarding the patient’s care. 

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication. 

Psychologists typically hold doctorates, however they do not attend medical school and are not medical doctors. Instead they study human thought and behavior.

Both psychiatrists and psychologists can diagnose disorders and can provide counseling and therapy, however only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication. 

I had a bad experience with a therapist – how do I get back into therapy when I don’t want to and I don’t trust therapists anymore?

Having a therapist betray your trust in such a vulnerable situation is a really awful thing and to start out if this has happened to you, I am sorry. It’s very important, however, to not allow this to shut yourself off from professional help as a whole or to associate what one therapist did with what all therapists will be like in your mind. It’s okay if it takes a long time for you to open up to a new therapist and it’s okay if it takes a long time for you to trust them – you can tell them (if you’re comfortable) at the start of you working together that you’ve had a bad therapist/client relationship before that’s caused you to mistrust therapists and that it may take you some extra time to open up to them and to trust them, and any good therapist will be understanding and respectful of that. Give yourself time to heal but also don’t give yourself so much time that you allow that time to turn into fear of returning to the work. Do virtual sessions if those are easier for you – at least in the beginning, and give yourself time – just don’t let one bad therapist take away from you a massively valuable resource in your healing journey in the long run. 

What do I do if I don’t feel like my current therapist is the right fit for me?

Please know that it’s a very normal experience to have to go through a few therapists to find the right fit for you, and don’t get discouraged. Finding the right therapist for you can be a process, and it’s okay to take your time to find the right match for you. 

Just like any other professional relationship, the therapeutic relationship depends on a good fit between the therapist and the client. You need to feel comfortable and safe with your therapist in order to be able to open up and work through the challenges you’re facing in your life and the things you wish to process with them. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right therapist that you can connect with.

It’s very important to remember that finding the right therapist isn’t a reflection on you or your ability to navigate therapy. Therapists are trained to work with a variety of clients, but it’s possible the first or first few therapists you see simply may not be the right fit for you. It’s very important to remember that therapy is a collaboration, and it’s okay to communicate your needs and preferences to your therapist and let them know if there’s something you need from them that you’re not getting.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express concerns during the initial consultation or first few sessions. This can help the therapist to know if you’re a good match for one another. It’s also very important to trust your gut and pay attention to how you feel during and after each session. 

Remember that therapy can be very valuable and transformative to your life. Additionally, when working with a therapist there are bound to be uncomfortable things you’re speaking about, so there is a degree to which you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone. So long as you don’t feel red flags that seem potentially harmful, try to stick with your therapist for at least a handful of sessions to see how things pan out because sometimes pushing through discomfort is necessary. If you have truly given a therapist your best shot, however, and you simply aren’t meshing, it’s okay to accept that a therapist simply isn’t the right match for you and to decide it’s time to find a different therapist. 

Keep trying and don’t give up hope – you will find the right therapist for you!

How do I know if I’m making any progress in therapy?

Measuring progress is a very important part of therapy and can be an easy thing to forget to do. Without actively measuring your progress it can be easy at times to feel like you’ve plateaued or like you’re being vulnerable, spending money, and doing a lot of emotional labor for nothing. In reality you are likely making a lot of progress, you simply aren’t tracking it, which is why setting up a system to do so is important. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Set goals: Setting goals with your therapist can help you know what you are trying to achieve. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant. This will not only help you, but also assist your therapist in helping you. As you progress, you and your therapist can check in on where you’re at along the way in regards to your goals.
  • Feedback from your therapist: Ask your therapist for feedback. It’s okay to ask them questions – it might feel scary or like it’s something you’re ‘not supposed to do’ – but why? You’re literally paying them to help you – you should be able to ask them in their professionally trained opinion, where they think you’re at and how you’ve progressed with their assistance. If they think you haven’t made enough progress, maybe other techniques need to be implemented and this conversation can be a good starting point to begin that move towards more productive treatment for you, and ultimately the goal is for you to be getting the treatment that is going to work best for you. Ask questions, and ask for feedback.
  • Assess the frequency and intensity of symptoms: Clients can assess the frequency and intensity of their symptoms. For example, if a client was experiencing daily flashbacks before therapy, but 6 months in is only having two flashbacks a week, that’s significant progress.
  • Journaling: Keeping a journal can help track your progress in therapy. Write down your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and reflect on them over time to see how far you’ve come and how patterns change over time.
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