Find the Right Fit in Therapy

 

Written by: Shae Chisman, MFT-I

No, I’m not talking about skinny jeans. I’m talking about your therapist. Although finding the “right” therapist can be just as frustrating as finding that perfect pair of pants. No “sucking it in” should be necessary when finding someone to courageously share your shadow moments with. Feeling safe, accepted by, and challenged by your therapist are all essential to overcoming whatever ails you.

Those of us who have participated in some sort of mental health counseling know how important it is to actually like your therapist. Research shows that the client-therapist relationship is known to be one of the most important factors for contributing to client change (Blow and Sprenkle, 2001). So, if you find yourself feeling judged, unsupported, and disliked by your therapist – chances are you may not have a successful outcome in therapy.

 

Here are 7 signs that your therapist is right for you:

  1. Your therapist is warm, welcoming, and portrays what we call unconditional positive regard. This means that they should be accepting of who you are and what you bring to the therapy room.
  2. You feel safe being completely honest with them – no matter how shameful the truth may be. Therapists see and hear it all. Your story is unique and essential to your journey – and therapists are trained to handle your truth without judgement.
  3. You feel challenged. I know we just described a therapist who seems coddling and nurturing – but part of nurturance involves confrontation. Many of us have conditioned negative emotional responses to confrontation and part of your therapy journey must involve looking at yourself with clarity. Therapists are here to be a mirror to show how maladaptive patterns have prevented you from being your best self.
  4. All emotions are welcome. Laughter. Shouting. Sobbing. Your therapist should be capable of handling your emotions – as well as their own. In your most vulnerable moments, your therapist should remain supportive and open to whatever comes up. It can be messy – but that’s part of healing.
  5. They collaborate with you regarding your own treatment. YOU ARE THE EXPERT ON YOUR OWN LIFE. Therefore, you should be involved in creating your own long-term and short-term goals for treatment. If you have a therapist who has created therapy goals without your consultation – and they do not align with what you want out of therapy – RUN!
  6. They empower you to make decisions on your own. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about therapy – that therapists should be advice-givers. While at times, making referrals and resource suggestions are completely necessary – your therapist should not be telling you what to do with your life. They should be helping remind you that you have the capability to overcome your problems.
  7. There is an expectation that at some point in the near future, you won’t need therapy anymore. In the same vein as #6 – you should be empowered by your therapist to make change and eventually thrive with use of a natural support system. A good therapist does not want you to be reliant on them. We want to help you get un-stuck – not need us eternally. In the beginning stages of therapy – conversations regarding what it would look like to not need therapy anymore should take place. That way, you both have a picture of what needs to take place to get you back on track.

 

Bottom line : you should be happy with your therapist and if not – you have the power to let them know what you need out of therapy. And if they cannot give that to you – find another therapist.

 

Georgia HOPE offers in-home and online therapy (with AMAZING therapists) for a multitude of presenting problems including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression & other Mood Disorders
  • ADHD/ADD
  • PTSD
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Substance Use
  • Eating Disorders
  • And more!

 

10 Signs You May Need A Therapist

You’ve hit the wall. A tragedy has occurred. Nothing is going right.

“Pick the kids up from school. Keep it together for them.”

You vent to your spouse. They take your pain personally and feel defeated in helping relieve it. Now you feel guilty for burdening them.

The to-do list keeps getting longer and your energy is already depleted.

Ah, sweet coffee…”

You call your friend. All she does is compare your suffering to hers – like it’s a competition. Now you feel invalidated.

“I’ll just have one more glass of wine…”

You decide to just veg out and watch some Netflix. Instead, painful memories and intrusive negative thoughts begin to creep in. Now your mind is more frightening and confusing as the last season of Stranger Things.

“CAN I JUST GET A BREAK?!”

Sound familiar? Many of us are walking around with unsurmountable suffering that no one can see.

  • Childhood trauma.
  • Broken families.
  • Crippling debt.
  • Workplace drama.  

We try our best to hide this from the world. But instead, our pain begins to manifest into emotional outbursts, strained relationships, physical illness, etc. How do we begin to heal? How can we change the never-ending cycle of chaos?

Therapy is the first line of treatment in getting un-stuck. Whether you are going through a major life transition, feeling down, having relationship trouble, experiencing anxiety, or problematic usage of substances – therapy can help.

A survey released in May of 2004, “Therapy in America 2004,” and co-sponsored by Psychology Today magazine and PacifiCare Behavioral Health, found that an estimated 59 million people have received mental health treatment in the past two years, and that 80 percent of them have found it effective.

So, here are some signs that you should consider therapy…

 

  1. Your eating and sleeping habits have changed. Either you’re getting too much or not enough of either. Either can be detrimental.
  2. You no longer enjoy the things that you used to. Maybe you aren’t so zen in yoga class anymore and start skipping them. Or Sunday tee-time just isn’t giving you the joy it did before.
  3. Your emotions are turned up to 12! Find yourself crying in the bathroom at work (more than usual)? Or instead of just murmuring curse words at the driver who cut you off, you actually try to start a fight with them.
  4. Social situations are a no go. You don’t want your friends to stop inviting you to get-togethers, but every RSVP is left unchecked.
  5. Unhealthy habits are becoming problematic. We automatically think of drinking and drug use when this comes up. But this could also involve excessive shopping, excessive dieting, risky behaviors, etc.
  6. Your relationships aren’t being nurtured. Arguments with your spouse. Snapping at your children. Ignoring your friend’s phone calls and texts.
  7. Something horrible happened. You’ve experienced a trauma that has shaken you to your core. Trauma isn’t just for combat soldiers. A car accident, affair, loss of a loved one, or anything you feel is traumatic – is trauma.
  8. You’re unsure of who you are. Understanding ourselves better can help us break maladaptive patterns of behavior or allow us to give ourselves more grace.
  9. Your support network is diminished or nonexistent. Everyone needs someone to talk to and process with. Therapy is a great place to receive the validation and support that you deserve.
  10. Nothing else has helped. You’ve tried exercising. You’ve tried meditation. You even tried reading that crazy self-help book your Aunt recommended. But, nothing seems to give you relief.

If any or all of these are ringing a bell, then you should consider finding a therapist.

Georgia HOPE offers in-home and online therapy for a multitude of presenting problems including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression & other Mood Disorders
  • ADHD/ADD
  • PTSD
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Substance Use
  • Eating Disorders
  • And more!

How Online Therapy Sessions Have Changed in Recent Years

Change in online therapy

Websites offering in-depth information and advice related to medical conditions are not a new concept. Where there is a medical condition, there is a website with information that can be a great resource as people seek to learn more about for what ails them. Websites dedicated to mental health are no exception. In recent years sites offering online therapy sessions have evolved quite a bit.

Online therapy, also known as e-therapy, e-counseling or cyber-counseling, has grown from a predominate email and forum-based style of communication to being able to receive real-time care simply by logging onto your laptop, PC or mobile device. While, for the sake of convenience, many people still enjoy a text-based style of online therapy sessions, the progression of technology now allows for therapists to offer HIPPA compliant, real-time video and audio-based therapy sessions.

For some patients, this can offer many advantages including the convenience of meeting from the comfort of their own home or office.  There can also be considerable financial savings as web-based therapy sessions are typically less expensive than meeting at a therapist’s office.

Another aspect of online therapy that has changed is how and where patients are logging on. Gone are the days where you are limited to reading a forum or entering a chat room from your home PC. As of 2016 internet usage on mobile devices surpassed desktop-based internet browsing. That means that more and more people are using the internet in ways and in locations that were previously not accessible.  Therapy sessions online can now be held in real time using your mobile device. Quite simply, that means that as long as you can access the web via Wi-Fi or your mobile network, you can now meet with your therapist through video or audio chats through secure, HIPPA compliant providers.

For many people, the idea of addressing their mental health can be overwhelming at times. The option of online therapy presents an opportunity to reach a larger number of people who may not be as open to the idea of treatment by going through the traditional channels. Advancements in web technology have brought us to a point where meetings and conversations can be had virtually anytime and anyplace, which allows patients to select an environment that is familiar and comfortable to them.

According to a 2016 study the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. The advancement of web-based treatment options has opened the doors to reach more people who can benefit from therapy like never before. Patients and therapists can select a system for communication that works best for them, which can ultimately lead to better treatment results.

Top 5 Advantages of Depression Therapy Online

online depression therapy

The digital age has changed many of our behaviors over the last 3 decades. Shopping can be done with the click of a mouse. Continued education and higher learning can be achieved from a virtual classroom right in our living rooms. Medical information and advice are accessible like never before.

These advances in technology and the increased availability of information present many advantages, even when it comes to our mental health. If you or someone you know are one of the millions of people battling depression, here are several reasons to consider seeking depression therapy online.

Learn more about Online Depression Therapy with gaHOPE.org

Convenience – Online therapy has many advantages when it comes to convenience. It allows you and your therapist the ability to correspond at different times. In many cases, scheduling can be done conveniently through a website or mobile app. If you can’t make your appointment this week simply log on and reschedule for a time that you are available.

If you happen to live in a remote or rural area or have a disability that makes it difficult to travel, online therapy treatments may be a solution if you do not have a practice near you. For people that travel frequently for work and do not have a consistent schedule at home, a web-based provider with flexible schedules can be a great solution.

Whether you are home, traveling or even on your lunch break at work, you are only a few clicks away from a mental health expert.

Affordability – Studies have shown that online therapy sessions are more affordable than going to a physical office. You can minimize travel expenses such as gas and parking fees.  Many doctors and therapists will also pass on the savings that come with reduced overhead costs typically associated with paying for an office lease, staff and the operating costs associated with a brick and mortar location.

Anonymity – Some people feel that discussing mental health and attending therapy is a taboo topic and view treatment as a stigma. This may make some people reluctant to speak about their depression in a face to face setting for fear of judgment.

Online therapy for depression offers a higher level of anonymity that can help break down that barrier and allow people to feel more comfortable about discussing their feelings.

East to initiate – The process of scheduling an online therapy session is typically easy to set up and you can often start receiving treatment faster than going to a conventional practice. The process of getting started is as easy as setting up an online profile.

It is an educational tool – Information is widely available on the web, which can sometimes make finding sound advice feel overwhelming. Having access to dedicated mental health experts can not only help treat people living with depression, they can also be a valuable resource of information for maintaining and improving their mental health.

Learn more about Online Depression Therapy with gaHOPE.org

Carpe Diem or Seize the Day Before It Seizes You…

By: David Baker, LPC
Clinical Director
Georgia HOPE

 

As I’ve said before I realize this blog is available to anyone who wants to read it and I try to keep it relevant to anyone who reads it – helpers, people seeking help from helpers, the general public. Hopefully this post will be relevant to all those audiences as well, but it is admittedly focused more on helpers this time. However, keep reading if you would like a “behind the scenes” glimpse of a few of the challenges helpers face on a daily basis.

I would like to say this post is going to be about time management (and mostly it is), but in the interest of transparency it is really going to be about more than just that. You’ll see what I mean in a minute…

I think one of the most difficult challenges for me as a helper (and maybe for others of you as well) is being present when I am sitting with someone to whom I’m providing help or with whom I’m completing an assessment.  I often find that my mind is on a million different things like: “Did I get all the paperwork signed?”, “Am I late for my next appointment?”, “Was there an authorization for this appointment?”, “Will I have time to finish all my notes today if I try to schedule one more appointment?” etc. There are many obligations we face as helpers and they can often distract us from what we all want to do – provide help!

I am not the poster child for organizational skills and the concept of managing time in my mind is akin to trying to hold five pounds of loose sand in one hand without losing any. But I have learned a few things over the years about prioritizing the helping process which have improved my ability to focus on the person sitting in front of me who has come to me for help. The most important thing I’ve learned is that what I make my priority is what I will spend my time doing.

I have learned that there are three priorities I have to pay attention to every day. And if I pay attention to them every day, then at least my professional life as a helper stays mostly organized so that I am able to stay focused on the people to whom I am providing help. They are:

  1. I need to help the people I am supposed to be helping
  2. I need to document that I have helped the people that I am supposed to be helping
  3. And I need to make sure that my company gets paid for the help I provide so that I get paid for the help that I provide.

Let me tackle the third priority first because it is probably the most controversial. I like helping people. It is why I have spent a lot of time learning how to help and what kinds of help work best. This is why I got into this field in the first place. If I could do therapy for free (and without the paperwork…), I probably would because I like it. Unfortunately, like so many helpers, I have not had the financial freedom to do a lot of “pro bono” work. The truth for most of us, is that we need to get paid for what we do. More than that, we should get paid for what we do because we have put a lot of time and effort into learning what we know so that we can provide the help we provide.

Add to this that most companies who provide mental health services operate on very thin financial margins – reimbursement for services from insurance companies have not risen in many years, but service costs continue to go up. So being as efficient as possible in service delivery is really important so that we can afford to continue to provide help. And efficiency has some benefits:

  • Obviously, the benefit to a mental health services company is it helps the financial bottom line.
  • The benefit to helpers is that being efficient in providing help reduces the amount work hours staff have to put in outside the face to face help they are providing.
  • And finally, and most importantly, the benefit to the people we help is that there is very strong incentive to make sure that the helped are included in all aspects of the help they receive – there is a lot of research that supports the efficacy of this.

So helpers have to pay attention to things like whether the service they are providing has a payer and whether they are being efficient in scheduling appointments (more on that in a minute) and whether they’ve completed all the documentation needed for a payer to pay (more on that in a minute). We do all of this because we want to be able to keep helping people!

So with #3 out of the way let me go back to the first priorityhelping the people I am responsible for helping. Practically speaking this means every day I need to make sure that I have scheduled appointments with the people I need to see that day and that I have an idea of what I am going to do at each appointment. Sounds simple enough, but we all know that life is not always simple. There are always unexpected “fires to put out” that interrupt our perfectly laid out plans. That is why we need to schedule for the “fires” too. I can guarantee you that if you do not have a schedule for the day, than you will not accomplish that schedule. I will go even further to say that if you do not have a next appointment scheduled for all the people that you are helping, the likelihood is pretty low that you will see them as often as you want or need to. So if you want to make sure you are on time and have the time to “put out the fires” that invariably come up, then have a schedule which allows you time for your regular appointments and also for the “fires”. The best way to do that is to schedule so that you to get ahead and stay ahead. In the helping profession being ahead is a requirement if you want to stay caught up. Or said another way don’t put off till tomorrow what you could have done yesterday. Trust me, you are going to need any “extra” time you can get.

Finally (and sort of out of order), we come to the second priority – documenting the help that is provided. Some helpers may say “If I provided the help I was supposed to provide, why does it matter whether I write it down? I did my job didn’t I?Or Why is my helper so stuck on writing down with me what we did in our session today? Isn’t it enough that we did stuff that helped me today?” The most obvious answer to these questions is that if it is not documented, then (as I mentioned in the third priority) the provider doesn’t get paid for the help they provided – insurance companies need a record to justify payment. Put more simply if it did not get written down then it did not “officially” happen. But there are some other equally important reasons for documenting:

  • Documenting collaboratively between the helper and the helped ensures that the helper and helped are on the same page about how the helping is going and that the help is the right help.
  • It also removes the unnecessary “mystery” around what the helper is writing down and includes the perspective of the helped in their own record.
  • Documentation records the “story” of progress that is being made through the provided help. That’s important because the story of progress helps the helper and the helped to know when help is no longer needed.
  • And a final reason for documentation is that it helps both the helper and the helped remember what happened in the last session and what might need to happen this session. I don’t know about you, but for me without something like a note to jog my memory I have a hard time remembering the help I provided the previous session and how it was received. For me that difficulty is multiplied by the number of people I am responsible for helping each week. And we need to remember so that we know how to plan for the next session.

There are many other good reasons for documenting what goes on when help is being provided. The point of this post is that paying attention to documentation like the other two priorities should not be an additional “chore” to the help you provide.  It is an integral part of the help you provide. Paying attention to all three of these priorities is helping.

There’s no guarantee that if you to address each of these priorities everyday that you will live a stress-free professional life – I’m not sure if that’s even possible. However, if you give equal importance to each of these priorities every day, it’s very possible that you will find that most of what you need to get done each day is getting done and that the person you are helping is actually getting helped because you are able to the pay attention to them you should be paying. That sounds like a win-win to me!

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