There is no single right way to engage in counseling, but these ideas are apt to help foster the attitudes and behaviors that will prove most useful. Following a few simple guidelines will help the psychologist to help you make the pieces fit back together more quickly.
While there are other mental health professionals who provide counseling services, psychologists typically receive the most training in both theory and the practice of psychotherapy, psychological assessment, and diagnosis. Furthermore, psychologists are recognized by insurance companies as qualified, independent providers of mental health services. Other types of therapists are often required by insurance companies to have their services supervised by psychologists.
In general, people seek the help of psychologists in dealing with anything that affects their emotional or mental state and changes in those states. People see a psychologist for many reasons including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, difficulty adjusting to a significant life change (marriage, birth of a child, new job, loss of a loved one, etc.), addictive behaviors, recovery from trauma, (serious accident, abuse), choosing a new career, spiritual issues, and psychological testing. People also seek the counsel of psychologists for performance enhancement, goal-setting and achievement, team building, and wellness planning.
Psychotherapy is a process by which you and a psychologist work together to resolve problems. In this cooperative relationship, the psychologist will draw upon his or her education, training, and personal experience to ask questions, interpret behavior, and suggest helpful courses of action. Your role as a client includes sharing your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relevant personal history as openly and honestly as possible, defining and stating what you want from therapy, and acting on knowledge gained during your counseling sessions. In your relationship with your psychologists, it is important that you feel understood. If you and your psychologist do not seem to "connect" discuss your feelings with him or her. If after sharing your concerns you still feel disconnected, ask for a referral.
The length of your treatment depends on many different factors including the severity of the problem, how long the problem has existed for you, your motivation to resolve the problem, the extent to which you actually make changes, how open and honest you are with yourself and your psychologist, your perception of the psychologist's caring and ability to help you, and the psychologist's actual skill as a therapist. Research shows that the average length of psychotherapy treatment is 6-10 sessions. The length of your treatment may also be affected by limits placed on the number of visits approved by your insurance company and your own ability to pay for therapy.
If you have insurance coverage for mental health services, your out-of-pocket expense may range from $20 to $50 per session for individual therapy. You may also need to meet a yearly deductible before your insurance company will pay for a portion of the fees. You should call your insurance company to verify your benefits before scheduling your first appointment.
Fees for individuals, couples, family, and group therapy may vary widely, so ask your psychologist what he or she charges for these and other psychological services. Remember, the average length of treatment is 6-10 sessions, so it is likely you will receive significant help in a relatively short period of time.
When you seek the help of a psychologist, everything you share with him or her is is legally protected as privileged information. However, there are three general situations in which your psychologist is legally required to share information with others: 1) the psychologist has reason to believe you are a danger to yourself and/or others (i.e., you might commit suicide or murder); 2) you are a child, a person with a developmental disability, or a dependent adult and the psychologist has reason to believe you have been abused; 3) the psychologist is ordered by a judge to give information. In any other situation, the psychologist is required to get your written consent before releasing confidential information. Remember, if an HMO or insurance company is helping you pay for services, your psychologist is often required to disclose your diagnosis, general concerns, goals, and prognosis in treatment to a representative or case manager at the insurance company. Whenever you have questions about the privacy of your concerns, discuss them openly with your psychologist.
Research on the effectiveness of psychotherapy supports the general statement that people who participate in psychotherapy report greater improvement in resolving their problems than people who do not participate in psychotherapy.
Remember, the psychologist with whom you work should be committed to helping you help yourself. If you feel your psychologist is not helpful to you, discuss your feelings and thoughts with her or him. If after sharing your concerns you continue to feel dissatisfied with the help you are receiving, ask the psychologist to refer you to another therapist with whom you might be a better match. You might also ask a close friend, your physician, your insurance company, or the Arizona Psychological Association for a referral.
There are several ways in which you might find a psychologist: