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What is Therapy & How Can It Help Me?


Posted by: Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC

Life with a chronic illness is often experienced like a ride on a roller coaster. There are continuous ups and downs. As a professional therapist, I recognize my intention is to try to always be “on top of my game” by focusing on the services I provide to my clients and in the case of this blog, my readers.

Personally, as a CF patient, I juggle complications related to my own chronic health issues. I’ll admit, over the past year, having surgeries, coping with hospitalizations and navigating ongoing higher levels of medical treatment have been quite exhausting to my mental, emotional and certainly physical health experience.

With this, I certainly know that I am an imperfect human being and I too have needed to reach out for additional support. I have done this by leaning on family and friends and to be fully transparent, situationally seeking out the added insight and perspective of another professional therapist. Doing this has allowed me the opportunity to feel supported, validated and has reminded me to hold onto my optimistic outlook – even in the darkest of times, as I continue to believe in the good outcomes along my path.

Below is a list of FAQs about mental health therapy and how it might help you, or a loved one personally:

Is therapy right for me?

Seeking out mental health therapy is an individual choice. There are many reasons why people go 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, work transition, or health crisis. 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 all those above, plus, conflict, grief, stress management, body-image issues, general life transitions and more. 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 toward 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 many of the difficulties you’ve faced, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you want or 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 help overcome whatever challenges you face.

How can therapy help me?

A number of benefits are available to those participating in psychotherapy. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as those previously mentioned, plus relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief and loss 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 resolutions 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
• Improving overall health and well-being by resolving issues & lessening stress

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 50 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 toward 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
• And YES, learning about yourself and acquiring new communication skills can create change in your relationships.

How old should children be to start therapy?

Children can enter therapy once a behavioral or emotional concern has been identified. Children can benefit by seeing a specialist for their particular age group. Many states offer unique credentials to therapists who received additional training and experience in working with children. These therapists hold a Registered Play Therapist credential, in addition to the professional license they hold in their state. This certification proves that they have undergone very specific training, supervision and practice to work with children at their developmental age level.

Specialists who provide therapeutic support to children offer a variety of tools to assist them to process their struggles. Play Therapy is a widely renowned form of counseling or psychotherapy in which play is used as a means of helping children express or communicate their feelings.

Is medication a substitute for therapy?

In some cases, a combination of medication and therapy may be the right course of action. By 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.

Does the therapist accept insurance? How does insurance work?

Here are some important questions to ask to determine whether your therapist-of-interest accepts your insurance:

• Are you contracted with my insurance plan (in-network)?
• What are my mental health benefits?
• What is my deductible / copayment / coinsurance?
• How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
• Is approval or prior authorization required from my primary care physician?
• Will a diagnosis be required by insurance company?

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 dependent 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 then the therapist is required to notify the police.
• If a client intends to harm himself or herself, then 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.

Signing a HIPAA medical release form allows other individuals or entities to have access to a patient’s personal medical records, medical history and health information. A client must sign a Release of Information form voluntarily to grant access to outside individuals.

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was created as a federal law to protect a patient’s or individual’s medical records and health information for privacy purposes, so not just anyone can access this information. The law is designed to limit who health care providers share medical information with and can only be released to parties outside the doctor’s office with a patient’s permission.

Making Your Decision
I hope all this information has assisted you in determining when and how therapy may be right for you or a loved one. I would like to invite you to feel free to personally contact me if I may be of any assistance in finding the right therapist for your needs. I may be reached at (407) 733-2110 for direct inquiries. Remember, your mental health plays a key role in your overall happiness and wellness.

Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor & Cystic Fibrosis Pharmacy Patient Advocate

*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment.

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