by Nate Prentice, LCSW and Emily Kahn-Freedman, LMFT
If you are reading this, it is probably because someone suggested that you may benefit from talking with someone about what is bothering you. Perhaps you have tried other avenues, including medication, but feel stuck and are interested in exploring other options. How can “just talking” be helpful?
In scientific studies, we’ve learned that for many mental health concerns, psychotherapy is just as effective as medication alone in reducing people’s symptoms. We’ve also found that anxiety and depression respond even better to a combination of medication and psychotherapy, than to medication or psychotherapy alone. Why is this?
Many people do get a sense of relief from taking medication. However, without a skill set for dealing with underlying issues, the symptoms may continue or recur. In addition, some people may have tried ways of coping that create their own problems, such as substance abuse, yelling at family members, workaholism, etc. Psychotherapy can help people learn more effective strategies. If you are computer-savvy, you may understand it this way: Medication helps with the hardware. But therapy helps with the software!
How do you choose a psychotherapist? There are several kinds of professionals trained to do psychotherapy. These include psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and marriage & family therapists, among others. The specific degree a person has may be less important than how experienced and skilled they are, and how comfortable you feel with them.
What is a typical psychotherapy session like? Gone are the days of lying on the couch. Today the sessions are usually held face to face. In the first session you may be asked a number of questions to help the therapist understand your issues and what outside influences are impacting on your issues. During or after that session, a plan for addressing these issues will be created.
Therapy sessions will then focus on how you are coping with your issues, as well as reasons why you have the issues. Some therapists will be more concerned than others with helping you explore “why” you have a problem. When I work with people who are desperate to find the root of a problem, they often end up in “analysis paralysis” because just knowing the root of a problem doesn’t always solve the problem. You may need to learn how to put out the fire before you try poking in the embers!
If you’re not sure whether therapy can be helpful, it may make sense to speak with a therapist once or twice just to see how it feels and what you think. Many people “shop” for a little while, trying a session or two with several different therapists until they find the right fit. If you’d like to make an appointment with one of the professionals at Psych Choices, just call our office at 610-626-8085 and press Extension 205 to speak to our intake coordinator.