MHN is here to help you get acquainted with the process and find the best fit for your needs. Preparing for your appointment, knowing what to expect and understanding your care options can help you get the most out of the experience.
How to Prepare for Your Appointment
What to Expect During Therapy
- Define, as best you can, why you are seeking help and what you would consider a satisfactory result. Answering these questions will help you choose the kind of therapist and treatment that might be the best fit and assist you in preparing for your visit.
- Make a list of medications you take and keep a file with any details relating to your problem.
- Write down any questions you have in advance, so you can refer to them during your appointment.
- Expect to receive a confidentiality form during your first visit. Ask for clarification if you have any questions about the form. You should feel confident that the information discussed during your session will be protected by your therapist’s code of ethics and the law.
Your therapist will want to learn more about:
- Why you are there, your problem, how long it has been going on and what you have done to try and resolve it.
- Who you are, which involves learning more about your past, your work and interests, your important relationships, how you have handled problems previously and what makes this time different.
- Any past treatment you have had, for mental health, substance abuse or serious health conditions.
- Information about your family, especially if any of your relatives have had mental health or substance abuse problems.
During your visit, the therapist will work with you to further define the problem you are having. The next step will be to set up a treatment plan, which maps how you will work together to address the issue. It’s important to have realistic expectations of the process. Keep in mind that the only person you can change during the process is you.
It’s also important to remember that therapy has a beginning, middle and end. Your goals should be discussed from the beginning. You’ll know if the therapy is working because you will be able to see that you’re making progress towards these goals. If you are not making progress within about eight visits, you and your therapist need to re-evaluate your treatment plan. It may be that you need to do more work outside of your sessions, or your therapist needs to be more specific about the assignments you are given. Perhaps medication is needed for you to make further progress. Therapy ends when you have made enough progress and have enough tools to go the rest of the distance on your own or with community support.
Types of Therapists
There are many types of psychotherapists:
- Clinical Social Workers have a master’s degree in social work.
- Marriage and Family Therapists also have master’s degrees, but with an emphasis on marital and family therapy.
- Licensed Professional Counselors have master’s degrees in counseling or psychology.
- Clinical Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology. In addition to being trained in therapy, some do psychological testing to assist with diagnosis and treatment planning when needed. In a few states, psychologists are also allowed to prescribe medications.
- Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses who have additional training in mental health nursing. In some states, they are also allowed to prescribe medications.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialty training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, which often includes the use of medications in addition to therapy. Sometimes the treatment will be “split,” with the psychiatrist managing the medications and another therapist providing the psychotherapy.
Types of Therapy
There are also many different kinds of psychotherapy, depending on who is being treated and the type of psychotherapy being used. Treatment can be done with one person, two people in an intimate relationship, members of an immediate or extended family or unrelated individuals in a group setting working on the same issues.
The focus of the treatment depends on the kind of therapy:
- In individual therapy, the focus is on you and the problem you arrived with.
- In couples’ therapy, the relationship is the “patient,” not the two of you as individuals.
- In family therapy, the family is the “patient.”
- Group therapy is different. All individuals in the group are patients, not the group itself. The group is used as the means to treat each member. People in group therapy learn from and give support to each other. However, group therapy is different from a self-help group. In group therapy, one or two trained therapists facilitate the sessions, usually focusing everyone’s attention on a certain kind of problem shared by all members.
There are also many approaches to therapy. The ones described below have been studied for years and are known for their effectiveness. The most effective kinds of therapy focus on what people do and think, because these are the two things people have the most control over.
- Behavioral Therapy works to change what you do when faced with either real or imaginary situations that cause you to become anxious or fearful and interfere with your ability to do things.
- Cognitive Therapy, on the other hand, works to change what you think. In this type of therapy, you learn to actually change how you respond to your own negative or irrational thoughts.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) combines these two approaches as described above.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a very structured type of therapy. IPT is a form of individual treatment that focuses on the connection between one’s social environment and his/her issues, and how to facilitate positive change in relationships.
All of these are brief forms of treatment and are done in either individual or group settings. Each involves learning about your condition, keeping a record of your symptoms and emotional responses to them and practicing techniques between sessions to help you overcome your symptoms.
The articles and tools on this site are for informational and self-help purposes only. They should not be treated as a substitute for financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice, or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional.
We’re Here to Help
Your EAP can help answer any questions you may have about therapy and can help you get the referrals you need, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.