What you need to know in order to really get what you want out of therapy

One of the things that is particularly striking to me about being a therapist, is the number of people that don’t really know how to best take advantage of the service. It seems as if it’s easier for the average consumer to educate him or herself about how best to buy a cell phone, than to work well with a therapist.

So, from the other side of things, the therapist’s side, I thought that I might offer a little input.

Take a good look

My first piece of advice for you would be to encourage you to do a thorough job finding a therapist. If I were looking for a therapist, I would try to find someone that impressed me as smart and warm. It helps to find a therapist who loves their work. Like any profession, there is a wide range of skill levels, abilities and talents. Finding someone who “has their head in the game” so to speak, is really in your best interest.

Second, don’t pick a therapist based on your zip code!

I am always amazed that people choose their therapist based on who turned up when they searched their insurance company website. While a convenient location, time, and low out of pocket cost are vital concerns for some people, don’t let that artificially narrow your options if you don’t have to. This is the professional whose advice and insight you are relying on. It is a very important choice.

Before using your insurance

Before using your insurance, consider carefully whether you are really willing to pay what I call “the hidden costs”. These are the costs that your insurance company may not tell you, even in their fine print. Ask yourself if you are really willing to trust the intimate details of your private life in the hands of an insurance company employee. As the outsourcing of insurance industry jobs increases, keep in mind that workers all over the world have unregulated access to your personal information.

Insurance companies require a psychiatric diagnosis in order to pay a claim. Consider carefully whether you want that as a part of your medical record, for the ramifications can be many and unexpected. More than a few of my clients were unable to obtain health insurance coverage outside of a group plan because they previously used their benefits for couples counseling. If you really want the inside scoop on how bad some insurance companies are with your personal information, ask a therapist who has done a lot of insurance work and the stories about ethical violations that you will hear will make your hair stand on end!

Why you need to protect your privacy

Recently I opened my office mail. Although I am no longer contracted with any insurance companies, I received a pile of re-imbursment checks and other personal data. None of these checks were for patients that I am seeing. My office is in a large office building which contains many psychotherapists. Perhaps someone at a major insurance company decided to save postage and send all the claims form all the therapists in my building to me. The paperwork that was included contained names, addresses, social security numbers, and diagnostic codes of twenty three people whom I don’t know. When I called the insurance company, the provider relations representative sounded completely unconcerned. In fact, no one ever followed up with me about this. Do you really trust your personal life with large corporations? If so, go ahead and use your insurance.

Buy this magic elixir!

Beware the “quick fix”. The insurance industry, big pharmaceutical companies, and Madison Avenue ad executives have put a lot of time, money and effort into perpetuating the myth that there is a simple, easy, instant solution to every problem. It is true that some simple issues can be addressed in 6 or 8 sessions, but a real lasting solution usually takes longer. A bigger investment of time and money, can pay off greater dividends over the long term. Would you be willing to go to therapy for a year, if it could substantially improve the course of your life? Be honest with yourself. Do you really only need a band aid? Or is there a bigger healing task at hand.

On television, there are ads that say “lose 20 pounds in two weeks”. Anyone who has really been successful at weight loss will honestly tell you that those pounds will come back fast if you don’t really grow and change who you are. Like cutting a weed with long roots, sometimes emotional habits can reappear if a person really has not received enough therapy. Some problems are simple to solve. Others require you to change who you are.

To learn more about therapy and how I work, click here.

Read part 2 of this blog post.