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Will Therapy Help Me?
Therapy and counseling are sought for numerous reasons: an immediate problem, mandate from a government agency, personal self-exploration, among others. Usually this question is asked when someone feels they already need some kind of help, but aren't sure if their problems are either normal, will go away, or are capable of self-solution. I have noticed that people will live with a lot of pain before they seek help from someone. Going to see a therapist is a sign of personal strength and wisdom, a recognition of the importance you give to yourself and your well-being.
The stigma of seeking psychological help is unfortunately part of what we are typically taught in this society, but in therapy you will find acceptance, as well as, hopefully, the help you desire. Of course, you can always try self-evaluation inventories found in numerous magazines or books. But I've found that many people need an expert to help guide them through all the misinformation, myths, nostrums, and other often well-meaning but confusing ideas about what is or isn't helpful.
The bottom line is that if you bothered by problems with emotions or behaviors, if your ability (as Freud once noted) to love and to work are being negatively affected, then you may need some kind of mental health intervention. Millions of people seek or have sought this kind of help, with very positive results.
Will therapy work for me? Psychotherapy has been reported to help many individuals suffering from mental or relational distress or mental disorder. The American Psychological Association (APA) has gathered a number of research results in an article, "The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy".
Yet, no treatment is for everybody. No provider will be able to help everyone they meet. Furthermore, there are potential ill effects from therapy. Not everyone experiences them, but they consist primarily of increased emotional distress, although this is usually temporarly, and is followed by greater feelings of well-being. This should be discussed with any clinician you meet with, if you are unduly concerned. After you have met and discussed your situation, the therapist will have a better idea of how he or she can potentially help you, how long that might take, and what you can expect from such an outcome.
I confidently can say that I feel I have helped the vast majority of people I have worked with. Even years later, I have heard from former clients who wanted to express how the work they did helped them through a particularly rough patch in their life.
Choosing a therapist is a very personal decision. From my standpoint, a therapist should be professional, honest, easy to understand, non-judgmental, and non-punitive. There may be some special quality or characteristic you desire in a therapist. Try to give the new therapy relationship a little time before you make up your mind about whether it's for you or not. Give feedback to your therapist, and see how you feel about the dialogue that ensues. Listen to your feelings.
Therapy can be challenging and even at times seem threatening. The quality of the feedback from the therapist, the safety he or she provides, will probably go a long way in helping you decide whether that therapist is right for you or not.
The length of therapy is determined by a number of factors, including the needs of the client, the assessment by the therapist of the client's needs, the ability of the client to attend treatment, financial considerations, the amount of time the problems have persisted, etc. Popular culture has given many people the idea that therapy will take months and years, or never even end.
However, research on frequency of therapy treatment shows repeatedly that most people see a therapist for from one to two sessions up to three to six months. Outcome research shows that a majority of patients feel helped within this general time period. Individuals who need or want therapy for longer periods will discuss this situation with their therapist. Longer treatments occur for a variety of reasons, including anything from serious mental illness or ongoing environmental stressors, to a commitment on the part of the patient to more intensive, self-examining personality change and self-awareness.
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