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What Does Therapy Really Look Like?

Therapy, for a lot of people, sounds like a serious and scary thing; a place you don’t want to be. But that’s an unfortunate misconception!

I’m not a therapist myself, but have been to therapy at a few points in my life. I’m also blessed to be the administrative assistant and receptionist for Heritage Family Counseling Services. Meeting with my own therapist and working alongside several others has allowed me to better understand what therapy really looks like and why it can be so beneficial. But I recognize that there can be confusion about the therapeutic process. So, in an effort to shed light and help erase the stigma surrounding mental health, let’s take a look at some of the common myths, questions, and concerns people have about going to therapy:

#1 Therapy is only for people with serious psychological problems.

While it’s true that therapy is a highly recommended treatment for those struggling with disorders like manic depression or schizophrenia, those aren’t the only reasons people seek out therapy. It’s often the everyday struggles we all face – conflict in relationships, stress at work, or simply needing someone to help us process through difficult emotions. Each one of us has baggage or stressors in our life.

Whatever the reason for it, seemingly big or small, therapy is a safe and judgment-free space for you to process and heal. Therapy is not just to “pick up the broken pieces,” but to help prevent

#2 Will “talking about my feelings” really help?

While developing a greater understanding of emotions is often a part of therapy, there is much more involved.  Every person and circumstance is different and there are a variety of therapy methods to connect with each unique situation.

Several studies have shown Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be the most effective form of treatment for those struggling with anxiety and depression. And based on 25 years of research from the American Psychological Association, Emotionally Focused Therapy is approximately 75% effective for couples even in high-stress situations.

Somatic Experiencing is one of the most beneficial types of therapy for victims of trauma or high stress. Not only does it help individuals heal from their psychological and physical traumas, but it helps train the body to process those memories and experiences in a much less destructive way.  Somatic Experiencing supports regulation of the autonomic nervous system. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a step-by-step, comprehensive approach to therapy that uses external stimuli like eye movements, hand tapping, and sounds to maximize treatment. It integrates elements of cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential and body-centered therapies.

Play therapy is another great method, specifically geared towards children. It allows little ones to express themselves and communicate their thoughts and feelings in a way that’s fun and familiar to them – playing! Instead of just sitting on a couch, these sessions are typically in a playroom filled with games and toys, not just for their enjoyment, but for a trained therapist to utilize in helping the child process their experiences, learn new behaviors, problem solve, and learn about healthy relationships.

#3 I’m better off just speaking to a friend - someone that actually knows me.

Having a healthy group of friends around you is a blessing. And processing life with them can be extremely helpful and encouraging! But there are unique benefits to visiting with a therapist in addition to walking through life with your friends.

A therapist is a trained professional - an expert on mental health and helping you navigate difficult relationships or emotions. A friend is often limited on the advice they can give or the help they can offer. Your friends might even be experiencing the crisis with you, whereas a therapist is removed from your circumstances. This allows them to have a larger, unbiased perspective on the situation, helping you to see things more clearly and perhaps in a new light.

#4 How much does it really cost?

Affordability is a big factor when considering therapy, and understandably so. Thankfully, there are several payment options available.

Most health insurance plans will cover at least a portion of your therapy sessions. Typically, a copay is required at the time of service or a deductible must be met first. It is often helpful to call your insurance and ask a representative for your plan’s behavioral/mental health benefits. When you find a therapist that accepts your insurance and who you think would be a good fit, feel free to ask them any questions you have regarding payment, so you know ahead of time what your responsibility will be. Sometimes that amount is the same as your regular primary care physician office visit copay.

If you don’t have or want to use your insurance, there’s usually an option to pay privately (or out-of-pocket). There are some benefits to consider with this option. First, many therapists have reduced rates or use a sliding scale based on income and circumstances for private-pay sessions. If your insurance plan has a high deductible, paying privately can sometimes be less expensive than paying the insurance company’s “allowable rate.” Your out-of-pocket therapy expenses can usually be paid through HSA or Flex-Spending accounts if available.

Another thing to note is that insurance companies require a mental health diagnosis to go on your medical record before they’ll cover any costs. Although your medical record is subject to HIPAA privacy standards, some people prefer not to have a mental health diagnosis on their medical record. Paying privately means no diagnosis is reported to your insurance, no hassle with claims and deductibles, and often more flexibility and shorter waiting lists for an appointment.

Phew. That’s a lot of money jargon. In a nutshell - there’s flexibility with costs and payment that hopefully accommodates your needs.

#5 I just want to feel safe and comfortable.

It is important to feel safe and comfortable in therapy.  In fact, it’s imperative for your healing and growth. At Heritage Family Counseling, we strive to make the environment as safe and comfortable for you as possible.  You are welcome to come early and relax in our lobby. Help yourself to a hot beverage or a soda pop; listen to music, read a book, or even take a little nap.

Your therapist’s office won’t feel like a doctor’s office. In fact, it will look and feel similar to a cozy living room. It is highly important to have a good fit with your therapist.  We have a variety of therapists at Heritage, and we would be happy to help you find the right fit.

Therapy should be a safe place for healing and growth, and our desire is for our clients to find hope through healing.  If you think you or a loved one might benefit from therapy, feel free to give us a call.


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