What Therapy is all About

Originally published in The Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch, 2016

I’m often asked the question, “what is life coaching?” It sounds a lot like therapy, and most people know a little of what counseling is like. So let’s start there.

Therapy or counseling deals with the past, healing and disorder. A diagnosis is needed for insurance coverage. Without insurance coverage, sessions range from $60 to $150 (or with a sliding fee, $20). Insurance companies, once they have received the paperwork and diagnosis will commit to covering a certain number of sessions. Once that number is reached, the therapist can petition that more sessions be covered.

For Medi-Cal recipients under 18, there may be a therapist available at their school providing services. The Center for Human Services, Sierra Vista and Catholic Charities are great local resources for low cost therapy. Because of the Affordable Care Act, many more adults now have access to counseling.

There are many theoretical orientations to therapy. That’s fancy for what the therapist believes about the human person, causes of distress, what motivates us, and how change works. You may find a therapist who focuses solely on the past, believing all of our current actions or feelings are tied to past experiences and understanding those experiences lead to healing. You may find a therapist who sees the best effort to be put into reshaping the present by changing behaviors, rewarding positive steps in the right direction.

Because of the differences in theoretical orientation, the length of therapy recommended will vary by provider and the needs of the client. The therapist will discuss this with the client early in the sessions. Weekly sessions are usually best although not always financially possible.

The therapist’s worldview should never be imposed on the patient. If the patient is upfront saying, “I don’t believe in divorce,” or “I don’t believe anything happens to us after we die, we just disappear,” a good therapist, even if he or she disagrees, will work within that framework.

Depending on your insurance, it may be possible to “shop around” for a therapist if you find that the therapist you met with was not a good fit, either because of personality, style or if that therapist was not open to your worldview. Trust is the key to this relationship. If you don’t trust your therapist and what he or she has to say, you won’t be nearly as open. Change will either take longer, not happen, or happen because of reasons outside of therapy.

Common issues like past trauma, anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors are common indicators of a need for therapy. In counseling, you can learn about the difficulty your experiencing, help you understand the effects of it in your life, and guide you toward helpful resources to change.

A mother may know her infant’s fever is not high enough to warrant concern, so she checks with friends to find out what they do to help the baby be comfortable, only seeking medical help when certain warning signs occur. Attending therapy is like seeing a doctor. There is a lot of mental, emotional or relational distress we experience that we can handle, read about or talk to others to learn how to cope. But there comes a point for many when its’ time to see a doctor: when sad or angry or anxious moods do not shift but dominate, when we feel we have lost control, when we can’t let go of something in the past, if you’re experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or someone else. These are just some of the signs that therapy might be an important step for you towards happiness.

Here we come to the overlap. As healing and change occur in therapy, the focus shifts from the past to the future. Now that x is under control, what to do now? We’ll discuss this next time. Stay tuned.