Therapy 101: What You Should Know About Getting Mental Health Care

Therapy 101: What You Should Know About Getting Mental Health Care

Therapy 101: What You Should Know About Getting Mental Health Care

Lee esto en EspañolIf you’re feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed with your problems, you’re not alone. Whether you are dealing with health, family or work issues, there’s something that can help: psychotherapy. It can sound intimidating, but it’s really just reaching out for help to work through your problems.

More than 20 percent of American adults go through anxiety, depression or some other mental health issue in any year, says the National Alliance on Mental Health. leaving site icon Some people need support coping with stress and substance use or a serious illness. Others are facing relationship troubles, job loss or the death of a loved one.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Mental health influences how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, make choices and get along with others. Because it’s linked to your total health, it’s vital to get help if you need it. You can start by talking to your primary care doctor. Your doctor may be able to help with your issue, discuss how you might benefit from therapy or help you find a therapist.

Therapy can help with many issues, and you don’t have to wait until your problems become debilitating to get help. It can help you work through issues and learn new skills so you can better cope with any challenges you face in the future.

Don’t Buy into Myths

You may be worried that therapy doesn’t work or you’ll have to go to therapy for years to see any benefit. But that isn’t true. Don’t believe these mythsleaving site icon

  • Therapy is just for some serious problems.
  • Therapy means you are weak or crazy.
  • All therapy is the same.
  • Therapy is just a chance to vent.
  • Therapy isn’t private.
Therapy 101: Getting Started

When looking for a therapist, think about what matters to you and what you want to get out of therapy. You want to find someone you can connect with and who makes you feel heard.

You can contact a few therapists by phone and talk to them about what you’re looking for. Some may offer a brief meeting before a first session for you both to decide if it’s a good fit. You can ask what you can expect from therapy and about their experience working with people who have faced issues like yours.

Qualified therapists will have at least a master’s degree. Master’s level therapists will have had to show their skills by earning a state-approved clinical license (LCPC, LPC, LCSW, LMFT, LMHC). Therapists with a doctorate degree (PhD, PsyD) are also often called psychologists. Both levels have met required educational and experience rules. They’ve also done ongoing training. And some specialize in certain fields, like eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Keep in mind that therapists have different approaches. Some may have a “give and take” communication style, and you may also get homework between sessions. Others listen and then give feedback. Think about what approach might be most helpful for you. That can help you find a good fit.

Give It Time
Building the relationship can take some time. Don’t give up after only one or two sessions. And know that starting therapy can mean raising challenging issues. It can also produce strong feelings. You may feel worn out after a session. That’s the time to add in some self-care steps to care for your overall health. You’ll want to plan ways to relax to support the work you’re doing in therapy.

Find Support
Think about joining a support group. Talking with people who are going through a similar experience or dealing with the same health issue can help you. Some are called peer support groups. They are often ongoing meetings run by members. Therapy groups may also be led by a therapist or psychologist for a set period of time. A therapist-led group may be a good choice for people thinking about starting individual therapy, but might feel more comfortable starting out in a group setting.

Check to see if you have an Employee Assistance Program at work. Some employers offer the program, which provides short-term counseling/therapy for a set number of sessions at no cost to the employee. You could check with your company’s HR department to see if this is available and how to access it.

Sources: Mental Health by the Numbers, leaving site icon National Alliance on Mental Health, 2022; Understanding Psychotherapy and How It Works, leaving site icon American Psychological Association, 2022; What is Psychotherapy, leaving site icon American Psychiatric Association, 2019; 7 Myths about Psychotherapy, leaving site icon, 2021; What is Mental Health, leaving site icon, 2022