Relationships

How Regular Counseling Can Enrich Your Life

When you think about professional counseling, you probably think in terms of serious mental health issues, but almost anyone can benefit from counseling.

Clinical psychologist Frances E. Reinker, Ph.D., says therapy can be useful in treating a number of personal, relationship and spiritual concerns, or to achieve self-growth. “Therapy provides a safe environment to discuss and work through a broad range of issues people may need to confront in their lives.”

People have always sought the counsel of teachers, clergy and elders, but modern living can leave us disconnected from those relationships. You may want to talk to someone, but have concerns about how it will appear.

“People do not want to think of themselves as weak or that something is wrong with them,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Amanda Deverich. “People do not want to be that vulnerable. For therapy to be effective, people must engage authentically, which exposes a certain amount of vulnerability. This precious openness is why the relationship with the therapist is key. The relationship must be safe. There is the concern of what others will think.”

It’s worth getting beyond the perceived stigma. Therapists are trained as impartial listeners.
They can provide fresh perspective and help you to nourish your mind-body connection.

“Therapy can have a positive impact on emotional and physical well-being,” says Dr. Reinker. “Interventions that target the brain have a positive impact on the body. Many of the current mind-body interventions, such as mindfulness meditation and stress reduction skills are able to alleviate pain and symptoms caused by other medical disorders. Therapists have found that many of these mind-body interventions are quite useful for those with chronic medical conditions.”

If you have a major life dilemma, therapy won’t provide a quick fix. It’s a process—a commitment to understanding yourself better and approaching life mindfully. Some people may need more frequent visits than others. Reinker says she has an open door policy for past clients who want to come in for a session or two without needing weekly sessions.

“I once had a supervisor say he thought therapy ought to be like a dentist or doctor visit; a check-up should be required once a year,” shares Ms. Deverich. “Based upon advances in behavioral science, I believe a wellness visit would benefit many who accept a suboptimal existence because they do not know how to affect change in their lives. I do have a few clients who come back once every year or a little more to kick-start change again in their lives. They know how to maximize therapy.”

Choosing Your Path
The first step is to find a qualified therapist. Ask around, beginning with your primary care doctor. According to Reinker, a good therapist won’t mind answering a few questions over the phone.
If you don’t click, keep searching.

“Look for a therapist who understands, has unconditional positive regard for you, and provides feedback you value,” says Deverich. “There are many styles that may help determine which therapist you will relate to best. A solution-focused therapist is less interested in processing the past and more interested in creating change fast. A person-centered therapist is interested in hearing you and helping you process your thoughts.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, Marketplace plans must cover mental health services such as psychotherapy and counseling. These plans can’t deny coverage for pre-existing mental health conditions, nor can they impose lifetime or yearly dollar limits for mental health services. For more information visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/mental-health-substance-abuse-coverage

• Psychiatrist: medical doctor trained to treat mental illness.
• Psychologist: has a doctorate in psychology.
• Licensed professional counselor: has a master’s degree in psychology, counseling or related field.
• Mental health counselor: has a master’s degree plus supervised clinical work experience and is trained to provide counseling.
• Marital and family therapist: has a master’s degree plus training in marital and family therapy.
To verify credentials, contact your state’s psychological association.