Therapy Can Change Your Life

We all have something in our life that we want to change. If someone says there is nothing to change, this should be a problem in and of itself.

How do people create change in their lives? Altering thoughts, modifying behaviors, setting goals, and creating/maintaining relationships are all great catalysts. Therapy is a way to help facilitate these behaviors.

My goal as a therapist is to help hold you accountable on the changes you wish to make. I do this by asking about your goals and how you are coming along. I also help with creating ideas that will add to these change behaviors. Therapy is a short-term process, but can have very a very long lasting impact. Once you change your habits and learn more about yourself, your life will begin to improve. If you do even more homework by reading self help books and challenge yourself to achieve even greater goals, you will continue to grow as a person.

Clinical Psychotherapy

I often hear people saying that they do not want to have a clinical experience with therapy.  I am told that people of think of a sterile room with a cold therapist who only says “how does that make you feel?”  Another thought is that therapy is a procedure.

The client sits there and is changed…much as the idea of how a car is dropped off at a mechanic.  Again, this is not true.

Then what is therapy?

First of all, the client is in charge.  It is important to focus on what the client feels will be helpful.  Yes, the therapist may step-in from time to time, if needed.  The client needs to be working harder than the therapist.  By this, I mean therapy sessions are actually meetings where ideas are formulated.  It is then up to the client to practice, further research, and implement these ideas.  The harder the client works outside my office, the better his/her results.

I believe it is important to focus on the positives in life.  Yes, the client came to talk about problems and we will certainly cover that.  However, if we only talk about problems and ignore the good in life, that will not be helpful.  When I work with my clients, there is less of a focus on pathology and more of a focus on self-improvement.

So, is it clinical if you do a therapy session with me?  I don’t think so.  It is more about how we conduct our meetings and what mindsets we use!

“I Don’t Believe in Counseling”

I sometimes hear people say, “I don’t believe in counseling.” I can’t completely understand this statement.

Essentially, counseling consists of talking about problems and finding a better way to work through them. What is there to “not believe in?” The person does not believe in talking? Or suggestions or changing ways of thinking and behaving? If a person says they do not believe in medications, I can somewhat understand that.

Another criticism I hear is that a therapist is a “hired friend.” I must disagree with this one. Friends go to lunch, do a variety of activities together, and usually talk about things other than problems and feelings. A therapist usually does one 45 minute appointment per week and focuses only on the client by listening and helping the client find ways to get through the problem by using various theories, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Sex Therapy, and a variety of other techniques. When was the last time a friend did that? Would that be a very good friend? Not to mention…I charge each time a client comes to see me!

Clients often tell me they are quite frustrated because they tell their friend about their problem and their friend quits listening and then talks about themselves.  Therapy is designed to avoid this problem by letting the client talk about their concerns.

If we really look at the root of the statement “I don’t believe in therapy,” the person is most likely saying that they do not want to face his/her problem. Facing problems are difficult, especially when you come to a stranger’s office to do so. People often lead a life of suppressing the problem by avoiding talking about it, covering it with food, alcohol, sex addiction, or another maladaptive behavior and/or chemical.

If you find yourself saying “I don’t believe in therapy,” challenge yourself to find the root of your statement.

Rules for Fair Fighting: Couples Therapy

This is used in couples therapy to help my clients have productive conversations.  If you can follow these rules, you are much more likely to have productive discussions.

1. Decide upon a time of day and time limit before you begin and stick to it. Make this session last around 20 minutes-don’t overdo it. If you don’t finish in that allotted time, schedule another time the next day.

2. Decide how many “zaps” you’ll permit before you (or the other) walk out. A zap is a hurtful remark, an insult, a threat, a sarcastic dig and so on. Any attempt to threaten, shame or blame is another zap. When you get to the number agreed upon ahead of time, walk out.

3. Choose one problem per session and stick to the point. Have a session every day for awhile if you need it, but stick to one problem per session.

4. Stay in the present. Don’t bring up what happened 12 years or 12 days ago unless it very specifically relates to the present.

5. Own your own feelings. Avoid blaming your partner for your feelings- they are not anyone else’s.

6. Listen to the other person. You need both of your points of view to find an agreement for both of you.

7. Agree upon a solution that is good for both of you.

Shall I Begin Psychiatry or Counseling?

While often misidentified as the same, psychiatry and counseling are actually quite different. To begin, let me try and differentiate psychiatry from counseling.

Counseling is traditionally focused on the practice of “talk therapy,” or “psychotherapy.” That is, the process of working through problem/life issues by talking them through with a professional counselor. Such a professional will help clients to process their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, and will help clients to build strategies for improving their moods, lives and relationships.

Psychiatry (with some exceptions) is generally focused on helping individuals to overcome specific problem issues with medication.

Medication in Psychiatry Treatment

Psychiatric medications get their fair share of criticism. Critics, from licensed mental health professionals to Tom Cruise, have voiced their distrust and displeasure with psychiatric medications. Some claim that psychiatric meds are over prescribed, such as in the case of medicating to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in children. Others claim that psychiatric medications are unhealthy, or even addictive. Still, others suggest that psychiatric medications are no more effective than a placebo!

Criticisms are so widespread and diverse that, in fact, it is logically impossible for them all to be true (a medication can’t be both highly-addictive and a placebo).

A Balanced Approach to Psychiatry

Many persons battling with life challenges, such as anxiety and depression, do not require medication. Even many psychiatrists will attest that it’s best practice for a person to try and work through such issues with counseling, and without psychiatric meds (and, to blur things a little, some psychiatrists will provide counseling or “talk therapy” in addition to psychiatric services).

However, medications are helpful in some situations. For instance, medications may be helpful in the case of a chronic problem, one in which counseling has been tried but hasn’t provided adequate relief: Chronic depression or unmanageable symptoms of ADHD, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), or serious mental illnesses are just a few issues that can greatly benefit from psychiatry.

Second, medications can be helpful during the acute onset of severe symptoms; very commonly depression or anxiety. For instance, medication can be helpful after the loss of a loved one, or immediately following a personal tragedy or trauma, or during instances when a client/patient is so distraught that he or she cannot participate in counseling, and/or function in his or her daily life. At times like these, psychiatric medications (such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds) can be of great help and relief to a client.

Getting Started

We hope this article was helpful to you, and helped you to learn a little more about psychiatry and counseling, and what differentiates the two. Buck Black LCSW wrote a good article titled “Medication Vs. Counseling,” which is available in this blog. Mr. Black also provides Online Counseling to clients across the USA. This article was written by staff writers at Thrive Boston Counseling, 872 Massachusetts Ave, Ste 2-2, Cambridge, MA 02139, a counseling practice that also offers psychiatry services. Learn more at:

Is Counseling or Therapy Right for Me?

Counseling or Therapy in Lafayette Indiana is about working though life’s problems. You might be thinking that you can handle all of these problems yourself. Well, most of us need someone to bounce ideas off of.

This is even more helpful when that person is someone who is impartial, outside of the situation, and does not have an emotional investment in you. If you rely on friends, they will likely not tell you how it is because of fear that they will offend you!

So, you might be wondering if you have to be mentally ill in order to go to counseling. Not at all. Most of the people who come to see me are not mentally ill. Rather, the people who come to counseling are those who feel like they need some guidance, consultation, or education on a particular subject (often something related to how to manage teenagers, anger, anxiety or sexuality).

If you are still wondering if counseling is right for you, contact me to discuss things further.

Medication vs. Counseling

There is seldom a day that goes past where I don’t have a client who comes to me with a great concern that their medications are not working. Often, when I ask what they are doing for themselves, they develop a rather puzzled look on their face. Most of the time, they say that they just wait for the medication to take effect.

More and more, society is putting focus on medications while ignoring how people can change their mood and overall health with a few behavior changes. It is very easy to blame a chemical imbalance in the brain when one has a low and negative mood, or when a person does not have enough motivation to get a job or leave the house. When people have these problems, an overwhelming number of them focus on the perceived need for medications and then are displeased to find that these medications often do not fix the problem. Really, I can’t blame a person for feeling that they should take a medication when they have such a problem. We have a society that has a huge focus on medications and there are frequent prescription drug commercials on TV.

I want everyone to realize there is a need for medication in some cases. The current prescription medications are helpful for many people and lets them function. I think it is important to point out that people who take meds also need to take care of their mental health by looking at their thinking, how they interact with others, and their level of physical activity, as well as other lifestyle factors.

If people continue to place themselves in stressful environments, isolate themselves, have a great deal of negative thinking, and get little exercise, they will likely have minimal benefit from a medication only approach. How can one attain significant changes if they do not change their thinking and behaviors?

What does counseling have to offer that medication does not? Well, medication helps to decrease symptoms so that a person can function. Counseling helps a person identify the causes of these symptoms. Often, these causes are a result of some sort of a relationship problem. Sometimes feelings of depression and anger are stemming from ourselves because we concentrate on negative things and continue to be ourselves up. How can a person feel good if there is continued negative self talk and continued relationship problems which cause very stressful environments?

I want everyone to realize that there are chemical and behavioral (thinking and doing) sides to our problems. Not everyone needs medication. Many people can manage their emotions by participating in therapy and changing their thinking and behaviors.

I urge everyone to first give therapy a try. If that doesn’t work, or has little success, then there may be a need for medication in addition to therapy.

Why Pay for Health Care?

Money is a sensitive subject for most. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to save money or cringing when they have to spend money on health care. I will never forget when I worked at Wal-Mart while in school and seeing people get very angry when they thought they were charged one or two dollars more then they should have.

I think there is something that makes us think we should not have to spend money on our own health care or it should be very cheap. Where does this belief come from? I don’t know. It would be great if it were true. However, it is not free or even cheap in this country. I wish it were.

When the average person pays $1000 to fix their car, they normally don’t like it, but go ahead and do it because they need it to be fixed. After spending that money, they see the value in it and go on. Ironically, when a client spends just a fraction of this sum of money on health care, such as coming to counseling (Which most of my clients don’t spend any ways near $1000.) or going to a doctor, they don’t want to do it, complain, avoid it, try to get out of paying and so on.

What is wrong with this picture of people not seeing health care, such as counseling, as valuable as something like getting their car fixed? The car will last a few more years at best. When a person spends money on their own health, such as counseling, that will often last many years and often change their life for the long term. It is very possible that counseling will also benefit family, friends, and others.

Ask yourself if your mental health is worth a few hundred dollars…I know your car is likely worth many times more to you.

Family Therapy

Depending on the situation, family therapy is often one of the more helpful options. Think about this: We are all impacted by those around us. This means that we are all part of a system. If one person goes to therapy and changes, but the other family members (system) do not change, then how can we expect lasting results?

I encourage all of my clients to bring friends and family members to therapy. This will help to improve the environment for all. This also provides an opportunity for another person’s opinion and perspective to be brought into the room, which may shed new light on problems that are being worked on and point out progress that has been made.

Family therapy can be as simple as bringing one family member or bringing your entire household. I recognize that a person is not always comfortable discussing everything in front of their family members. That is why I often do some individual sessions as a chance to allow the client some privacy.

Family therapy is most helpful for:

  • Family communication problems
  • Children with behavior problems
  • A person who wants additional support in therapy
  • A person who needs therapy, but will not come alone

Nerves and First Visit

A lot of people are very nervous about their first visit to a therapist. Whether this is their first time in therapy or if this is the first visit to a new therapist, it can be very nerve-racking!

It may take some pressure off to realize that a first visit is a time for both client and therapist to get to know one another. There are no obligations at this point to have further sessions. If you like the therapist, then you can schedule a another appointment. If you do not care for the therapist, then you can let the therapist know that you do not feel it will be a good match and keep looking for someone who you think will be able to help you.

Doing anything the first time is often uncomfortable and difficult. Usually, with time, things get much easier. Be brave and make that first visit. Remember that it is your choice if you continue in therapy.