The Ins & Outs of Therapy

Therapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist

Picture of differnt cups of coffeeThere are many different aspects of the mental health field and understanding it all can be confusing. Let's start with the most basic question: What are the different types of mental health professionals and what do they do?

A therapist is a mental health professional who has earned a masters degree in counseling psychology or related field. Therapists can provide therapy to individuals, couples, groups, and families and their focus can be general (e.g. "I treat depression and anxiety") or very specific (e.g. "I specialize in treating children with attention deficit disorder"). Therapists do not prescribe medication or administer psychological tests.

A psychologist is a medical health professional who has earned a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or PsyD (doctor of psychology). Psychologists provide therapy, but can also administer psychological tests. Psychologists do not prescribe medication.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has earned an M.D. Psychiatrists treat mental health disorders first by ruling out biological factors, then usually treating with medication. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and administer psychological tests.

Insurance vs. Cash Pay

Picture of paper money up closeInsurance can reduce your payment by 100%, so why would anyone ever choose to not use their insurance for mental health? Find out the facts before you go to your first visit:

When you go in to see a therapist, you typically have a small co-pay and your therapist will bill the insurance company for the services provided. The insurance company then pays your therapist for providing that service. Done. What you may not know is that your insurance company requires your therapist to diagnose you before they can bill for services and that diagnosis becomes a part of your permanent record. That record could be used against you in the future in denying insurance or raising your premiums for having a "pre-existing condition."

Insurance companies are not held to the same standards as mental health professionals to keep your information confidential. They may require to read your therapist's confidential notes before they pay or even release your information to other insurance companies without authorization. And depending on what your diagnosis is, the insurance company may dictate how often, why, or when you may see your therapist. In other words, they can dictate your treatment.

Cash Pay:
By paying cash you ensure your privacy and confidentiality. No one dictates when or why you see your therapist, and therefore your treatment plan can be determined by you and your therapist, not your insurance company.

How Does Therapy Work?

Picture of a long road with double yellow lines and Joshua trees on either sideThe first step to good therapy is to find someone who is a good match for you. A good match can mean a few different things: What kind of therapy do they provide? How long do they recommend I see them? What is their personality like?

Imagine yourself in front of a therapist who you has a completely different personality than you. They are outgoing and like to share a lot about themselves and you prefer a lot of alone time and want someone who can stay objective with your best interests at heart. A good therapeutic match can be as important, if not more so than the treatment plan put in place for you.

Modality (Therapeutic Approach)
Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Jungian, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Family's enough to make your head spin. Therapists have different approaches to how they do therapy, much like the medical field might include western medicine, acupuncture, physical therapy, etc... Each has their own spin on how to bring healing and wholeness to the individual. Read more about different kinds of therapy below.

In Session
In general, therapy sessions are usually 45-50 minutes one on one with their therapist in an office where they can talk privately and confidentially. As all people are different, all therapists are different, and therapy provides a comfortable space where healing can take place. What you talk about and how you talk about it will all be affected by the kind of person you are, your comfort level in how much you share, and the kind of therapy you are seeking.

Different Kinds of Therapy

Picture of a bookshelf with lots of scholarly books on themThere are many different kinds of therapy and it is rare for a therapist to not be influenced by many at one time. Often therapists utilize an eclectic approach in order to provide their clients with the best care possible. The right therapy framework match is an important factor in your treatment plan. Here is a brief overview of some of the leading therapy approaches:

Depth Therapy (Psychodynamic)
Brings insight that leads to self-awareness, understanding, and real, lasting change. Read more on how I do therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Change occurs through altering negative thinking to positive thinking.

Family Systems
Insight is gained through understanding family dynamic and family of origin.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Focuses on the here and now in order to bring grounding and awareness.

Narrative Therapy
Change and insight occur by exploring a person's life story.