By Marjorie Girotti-Hernandez, MA, LPC, 2020 Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern
Talk therapy. Play therapy. Art therapy. Couples therapy.
“Psychotherapy” comes in many forms, but they are all methods of treatment for mental health concerns that ultimately boil down to the relationship you form with a trained clinician. Psychotherapy can be helpful for such conditions and symptoms as:
- panic attacks,
- daily stress,
- life transitions,
- low self-esteem,
- relationship issues,
- and more.
By creating a safe space and earning your trust, your clinician can help you identify, discuss, and work through whatever life stressors or experiences are keeping you from feeling your best.
As you’ll be working with that clinician to address your thoughts and feelings, life experiences, or even just concerns you have about work or life stress, it’s important to build a safe, trusting relationship with your clinician. Research suggests that the success of treatment is closely tied to the therapist and client “having a shared vision and understanding of treatment” (Wampold, 2015). But therapy requires more than just a good clinician. You’re ready for therapy when you’re ready to show up consistently with an attitude of honesty and openness and a willingness to try strategies that lead to positive change. To increase your likelihood of success with therapy, it’s important to understand the following three things before you schedule your first appointment.
#1. Your Provider
If you’ve ever looked into therapy in any of its forms, you know providers come with all kinds of titles and credentials. These are the different names for psychotherapists who are qualified to provide treatment for you and/or your family:
- Social Worker (LSW, LCSW, MSW): a provider who has earned a graduate degree in social work
- Professional Mental Health Counselor (LPC, LCPC, LPCC, LMHC): a provider who has earned a graduate degree in counseling psychology
- Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT, LMFT, LCMFT): a provider who has earned a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy
- Psychologist (PsyD, PhD): a provider who has earned a doctorate degree in counseling or clinical psychology and can provide both psychotherapy and psychological assessment
- Psychiatrist (MD, DO) = a provider who has earned a medical degree, specializes in mental health, and can prescribe medication for mental illness
There is no one “right” degree. It’s more about working with someone you feel comfortable with. At Pillars Community Health, we provide an initial assessment that will help determine what level of care you need; that assessment results in our scheduling an appointment with a provider whose qualifications and interests match your needs and concerns. Psychotherapy takes many shapes and
forms, as each clinician has their own approach and style and will tailor sessions to you. For that reason, if you had a negative experience with one therapist in the past or one therapeutic approach, switching to a different therapist or trying a different form of therapy could work for you.
The therapist you are assigned may also depend on the type of therapy you’re interested in: individual, couples therapy, family counseling, parent support, or even counseling in a group setting.
It’s important to note that we do not assign someone directly to a psychiatrist—rather, if through psychotherapy or in conversation with your primary care doctor you decide you could benefit from medication, you may be referred to a psychiatrist.
#2. Your Timeline
How much time you spend in therapy (or how many times you meet with your therapist) depends on your specific situation. Your clinician will tailor a treatment plan to you. You may meet once a week, twice a week, or just check in periodically, and generally each session will last 45-60 minutes. Therapy can be short-term (1-20 sessions) or long-term (more than 20 sessions) depending your goals. While some clients may undergo psychotherapy once in their lifetime, many others return to therapy as needed throughout their lives for ongoing support and wellness—for maintenance, or a “tune up,” if you will.
Your therapy begins with the first session, in which you and your clinician will get to know each other and talk about your expectations for therapy. If you have any concerns about the process, that first session is a great time to bring them up. For that initial appointment, you can come alone or have someone accompany you (they will just need to sign a release of confidential information to be a part of the session).
#3. Your Rights
All clients have the right to participate in, collaborate on, or end therapy services. You also have the right to fair and respectful treatment regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, religious and spiritual affiliations, etc.
You also have several rights when it comes to your personal information. Pillars Community Health ensures you have access to view your health records and the ability to give permission (or deny) the release of personal records. Clients can expect that personal information is kept private within the agency except for the following reasons:
- If you disclose the abuse of a minor (under age 18), elder, or vulnerable individual
- If you disclose a desire to harm yourself or others
- If, in a rare circumstance, a judge orders release of confidential information
- If you provide written consent to disclose information to a third-party
- If you are a minor (under age 18), your caregivers/legal guardians may legally discuss aspects of your case
Of course, therapy is about relationship, so it’s a two-way street. Just as the clinician has a responsibility to be fair and respectful to the client, you the client, you have a responsibility to treat staff and other clients with respect, regularly attend scheduled sessions, fully participate in sessions in order to make progress, and follow administrative policies (such as paying fees on time or canceling appointments with at least a 24-hour notice).
Pillars Community Health provides services to both insured and uninsured individuals. For more information please call our main line at 708-PILLARS. The cost of therapy can vary depending on the service provider and your specific health insurance. Many therapists offer a sliding fee scale, which means the amount you pay depends on your income. At Pillars Community Health, a nonprofit, we work with clients to ensure fees are not a barrier to treatment.
If you or someone you love could benefit from Mental Health Services, please call 708-PILLARS (708-745-5277) or click here for more information. We continue to offer therapeutic services, including virtual visits, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Baldwin, S. A., Wampold, B. E., & Imel, Z. E. (2007). Untangling the alliance-outcome correlation: Exploring the relative importance of therapist and patient variability in the alliance. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 842-852.
- Duncan, B. L., Miller, S. D., Wampold, B. E., & Hubble, M. A. (2014). The heart and soul of change: Delivering what works in therapy, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Elkins, D. N. (2016). The human elements of psychotherapy: A nonmedical model of emotional healing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Orlinksky, D. E., Ronnestad, M. H., & Willutzki, U. (2004). Fifty years of psychotherapy process-outcome research: Continuity and change. In M.J Lambert (Ed.), Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (5th ed., pp. 307-390). New York: Wiley.
- Philips, B., & Wennberg, P. (2014). The importance of therapy motivation for patients with substance use disorders. Psychotherapy, 51(4), 555-562.
- Rodgers, B. (2003). An exploration into the client at the heart of therapy: A qualitative process. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 2, 19-30.
- Wampold, B. E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: Models, methods, and findings. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Wampold, B. E. (2015). How important are the common factors in psychotherapy? An update. World Psychaitry, 14(3), 270-277.