- Alisa Stamps
Dear Therapist: Answering the Questions You May Have Been Afraid to Ask…
I’m finding myself without many of my own words right now. Maybe it’s because I talk all day long or maybe it’s because words in this world have so much power and I don’t want to spew into the void. Whatever the case, I decided to write a different kind of blog this time around and in collaboration with Reya Care, answer questions that many of you may want to ask, but are afraid to about therapy.
These are actual questions that were taken from Reya Care’s website with the answers provided by myself. Enjoy.
1. “Dear Therapist: How often should I go to therapy? Once a week, biweekly, monthly? And how long should I expect to go for?”
My initial answer would be if it’s feasible to start out by going weekly. In my opinion, this allows for the rapport to be built more solidly and allows also for more forward therapeutic movement. To me, biweekly turning into more of a check-in rather than deep clinical work. I think after a while it might be time to move to biweekly or even monthly sessions, but I would definitely encourage you to to have this discussion with your therapist. Where you feel you might be, and where your therapist feels you might be, may be two different places.
Another suggestion that I would offer, is to not put a time-frame on when you expect to be “done” with therapy. The process looks really different for everybody—for some it may just be several months, for others it might be several years. Try to trust the process and just go along with it. Remember there are two of you in this relationship, and when it’s a solid relationship it forms a mutual partnership. It’s the space to mirror the type of communication styles that we are striving for, that can then be carried into our other relationships outside of the session walls.
2. “Dear Therapist: I am looking for a therapist but don’t know what type I should look for. Are there differences between certain licenses or degrees?”
This is a little bit complicated to answer. There are various types of trained therapists that can provide therapy and some of those include: licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, and licensed professional counselors. Each type comes with their own training and qualification requirements but all can definitely do the essential thing of providing individual therapy.
I am a licensed clinical social worker. What I love about that is the clinical expertise I was trained in, in combination with the social justice component. Clinical social workers were taught to not only think about things at a micro level, but also a macro and systems level. I believe that this expansion of view really allows for me to be a more in-depth clinician.
The type of clinician that you choose to go with is really everybody’s own preference. Just know that in whatever direction you head, your mental health care professional has most definitely had the training that they need to be able to help you to the best of their abilities.
3. “Dear Therapist: There are so many therapeutic styles out there, how do I know which type of therapy is right for me?”
So here’s what I would say, when you begin to look around for a therapist. Definitely make appointments to have a phone consultation with them to ask them about their therapeutic style. See how the chemistry feels, even if it’s over the phone, you can generally get a sense of whether or not you might match well with the person on the other end. And this goes for therapists as well as clients. The first couple of sessions are all about figuring out if it feels like a good fit.
I would also offer the idea of doing something that may feel a bit uncomfortable for you. If you are typically a person who lives in your head, switching it up with a therapist that mainly focuses on the body or where emotions and feelings live in the body, might actually be to your benefit.
4. “Dear Therapist: Therapy is expensive and an investment. How can I talk to my therapist about a cost that feels comfortable to me?”
I hear you on this one! Therapist is a financial investment, but remember it is a financial investment in yourself and your well-being. Conversations around money can be very tricky to have, but I would encourage you to be as honest with your therapist as possible. Some of the best sessions that I’ve had with clients have stemmed from a discussion around what we thought was just going to be about money.
I will also say that I do reserve some sliding scale spots for clients, and I’m always willing to work with folks so that finances do not become a barrier to therapy. A lot of therapists will also offer what’s called a superbill, or monthly invoice, that you can submit to your insurance company if you have out of network benefits and or reimbursement. These are questions that can be asked and discussed in your initial phone consultation.
5. “Dear Therapist: My last session felt uncomfortable. How do I give my therapist the feedback that something from last session didn’t feel quite right?”
So how do we give our therapists feedback? I would say honestly and authentically. I always appreciate when clients bring something really real to the session, that we can then explore together. Rupture is part of any relationship, but the beauty part is that in the therapist/client relationship we get to rupture and then repair perhaps in a way that we’ve never been able to do before.