When to Seek Help

Emotional pain distorts our view of the world.  The longer our pain lasts, the unhappy we become.  It‘s time to seek help when feelings or situations such as the following interfere with your life or relationships with others:

Extreme Unhappiness-When you feel unhappy for a very long time and your sadness won’t go away even when things change for the better.  When you don’t care about things that were once important and you eat and sleep too much or too little and can’t seem to find the energy to get out of bed.  If you have tried or seriously considered suicide, you should seek help immediately.

Overwhelming anxiety or fear- If you always seem to be afraid and nervous and your fears keep you from doing things you want to do.  When you’re always afraid that the worst will happen to you or your loved ones.  When you have ailments that doctors say have no physical cause.

Feelings of Inadequacy and low self-esteem-when you’re always convinced that others are better than you are—smarter, prettier, more capable And you set yourself up for failure—in relationships at work, at home— by always making the wrong choices.

Family problems- if you feel trapped in a joyless or violent relationship, feel overwhelmed by single-parenthood, or have explosive, destructive arguments with family members.  Or if you are emotionally or physically abusing your children

Sexual problems- When you’ve lost all interest in sex or if you’re never enjoyed making love.  If you have sexual fantasies or practices that make you feel guilty or abnormal.

Childhood ‘leftovers”- If you’re haunted by an unhappy childhood and unresolved feelings towards a parent who was an alcoholic or emotionally, physically or sexually abusive.  Or if you are still trying to please a parent who rejected you

Traumatic events- If you’re struggling with grief over the death of a loved one or the loss of someone or something you were deeply attached to.  If you’re been raped, mugged, or hurt in an accident.  Or you’re witnessed a crime or had a terrible experience you can’t forget

Behavioral problems-when you’re lost control of your life- can’t stay out of debt, or stop overeating , drinking alcohol, taking drugs or having sex with men you don’t really care about.  Or if you have trouble making or keeping friends or maintaining intimate relationships

Severe Mental Illness- If you hear voices, feel that other people are controlling your mind or are convinced that everyone is against you.

What to expect?

Unlike a well meaning friend or relative, a therapist can consider your concerns from a fresh, objective, perspective.  But a therapist will not solve your problems for you; she will guide you by listening, questioning and observing—- so that you can find your own answers. 

Finding a psychotherapist

There are several ways to find a psychotherapist. You may be surprised to learn how many of your friends have sought help and are willing to share their experience with you.  Your family physician, dentist, or nurse practitioner are good sources of information.  You can also ask for referrals from local or national mental health organizations

Questions you should ask:

You should ask a prospective therapist these questions before you begin therapy:

  1. Is she/he licensed?
  2. Does she/he have experience treating your kind of problem?
  3. What is her/his technique or clinical orientation?
  4. How long is each session? (usually 45 to 50 minutes)
  5. How long does she think your treatment will take? (length and frequency of therapy will vary with each client and problem)
  6. What is the cancellation policy? ( Many therapist ask clients to pay for missed sessions)
  7. What is the fee? (Fees for therapist in private practice may range from $45.00 to $125.00) Is she/he covered by insurance? Does the therapist maintain a few slots for reduced fees?

Your rights as a Client:

  1. You have the right to expect absolute confidentiality
  2. You have the right to be able to tell your feelings without being criticized, ridiculed or patronized
  3. You have the right to seek another therapist if you feel you are not making progress
  4. You have the right to report any therapist who abuses you sexually or otherwise.  Having sexual relations with clients is a serous breach of ethics.  Report any such behavior to the local government agency or your state that regulates the profession

Choosing a Psychotherapist: The term psychotherapist tells nothing about a person’s professional field and offers no guarantee of credentials.  In most states even an untrained person can call herself a psychotherapist.

  1. Always choose a therapist is a member of a legitimate mental health organization.
  2. Try to be well informed and trust your instincts

Psychiatrists-are licensed physicians who have completed a three year residency in psychiatry that included extensive supervised training and an additional two years of clinical experience.  They are the only psychotherapists that can prescribe drugs

Clinical Psychologists-have earned a doctoral degree and must complete many hours of supervised training.  Practicing clinical psychologists must be licensed in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia

Social Workers-have a bachelor’s or masters degree in social work or a doctoral     degree from an accredited graduate school of social work

Clinical Social Workers- received special clinical training.  Most are certified by the Academy of Certified Social Workers which requires they complete two years of clinical experience and pass an examination.  A licensing examination is also administrated in most states

Pastoral counselors-must have a theology degree and graduate study in her area of pastoral counseling or a related field.   They also receive extensive clinical supervision.  They are certified by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors

Marriage and Family Therapists-must have for years of college and two or more years of graduate study.  Licensing is required in most states but not all.  They should also be members of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists which required a master’s degree, training in marriage and family therapy and two years of supervised practice.

Psychoanalysts are generally psychiatrists who have been trained in psychoanalysis in addition to training in their own fields

Sex Therapists are unregulated in most states.  The title can be used by anyone.  Always ask for training and credentials.

Questions to ask yourself after first or second session:

  1. Can I learn to trust this person?
  2. Does she/he make me feel I am worthwhile person no matter what my problems are?
  3. Does this person listen to me attentively?
  4. Does she/he seem to understand me?
  5. Do I have a sense that therapy with this person will work?
  6. Does she/he seem sincere?

If you answer no to any of these questions you may want to discuss your feelings with your therapist.  If you still feel uncomfortable, look for another therapist.

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10 Objectives For Therapy

  1. Stay focused on one issue at a time. Learn to focus on self.
  2. Understand why or what causes you to become depressed.
  3. Learn the true meaning of self-care, self-validation, and self worth.
  4. Learn how to be an advocate for self. Learn how to become the priority in your life.
  5. Understand why you jump into relationships so soon. Explore the need/desire to be in a relationship.
  6. Learn to slow down, date, and work at developing meaningful intimate relationships.
  7. Understand the basis of the decisions you have made in past relationships.
  8. Learn to listen to yourself,  and get out of toxic relationships early rather than waiting too late.
  9. Learn to accept your  faults and accept that you do not have to be “exactly right” all the time!
  10. Figure out what you want in terms of a career that you can enjoy and is what you want to do.