Ask a Therapist Anything – Part 1 of 3
I recently reached out to family and friends on Social Media giving them the opportunity to “Ask a Therapist Anything”. In my Blog posts I strive for as much transparency as possible and try to provide people with a glimpse into the often mysterious/private world of Therapy. I’ve written about why people decide to go (or not to go) to therapy, benefits of therapy, a little bit about what actually happens in my office, and more. I wondered, though, what questions people have about therapy that I may not have considered. The response I got when providing people with the opportunity to ask me anything was great….and I want to go ahead and jump right in to answering the questions. Although many of my answers are broadly true as it relates to therapy in general, keep in mind that the answers to these questions are from the perspective of one Therapist alone – ME. Ask the same questions to another Therapist and the answer might be a little bit different. Follow this 3-part series to hear the answer to the question about whether or not I’ve been to therapy myself along with a long list of other questions that I hope you’ll find intriguing.
1 – “How would you interact with a patient if you ran into them out in public?” – I love this question because for people who want to be really private about their therapy, it’s a real concern. As someone who gets out and about pretty frequently, running into and/or seeing the people I work with is inevitable and can be potentially awkward for my clients – especially if they are with family or friends. I usually make a point during my first session to let clients know that if I see them in public that I will not approach them. We’ll pass by one another – perhaps exchanging nothing more than a smile. The reason for this is primarily to protect the confidentiality of the people I work with. Another reason for this is that although the “therapeutic relationship” often allows for a solid connection between Therapist and Client, it is a relationship that for ethical reasons has clear structure and boundaries. The relationship stays within the 4 walls of the place where sessions take place and does not extend into personal or social situations. All that being said, when someone I work with feels comfortable approaching me, I’m always glad to say hi and to have a quick chat.
2 – “What is an example of action items a client could be expected to work on between sessions?” – I love this question, too, because I love giving homework – not homework like in the school sense, but work I might suggest a client do between meetings to put work done in therapy into action. Therapy typically only takes place one time each week for about an hour. This means that the real change is taking place in the 167 hours between sessions. Action items I might suggest are very different depending on the client, the presenting problem they are hoping to resolve, and their preferences. I might suggest reading material, journaling exercises, or communication strategies that can be practiced. As a Therapist with a strong Cognitive Behavioral approach (a model that puts a focus on the role of negative thinking in our distress), I sometimes have clients work on a thought log throughout the week that involves identifying negative/distorted thoughts and writing about the feelings it evoked, behaviors that resulted, and ways the initial thought could have been challenged or reframed in a more helpful/balanced kind of way. For someone dealing with anxiety, I might suggest exposure exercises that will help desensitize clients to certain stimuli. You can read more about how exposure therapy is used to treat anxiety, by clicking here.
3 – “Although the stigma seems to be decreasing, some people still think therapy is for ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’ people. What would you say to someone who was afraid to go to therapy because of how they might be perceived?” – As someone who advocates for therapy and for the powerful impact it can have on people’s lives, I hate the lingering stigma that still exists. That being said, I love that the stigma has been decreasing significantly over the last several years thanks to people (including many celebrities) being more open about their experiences in therapy and society becoming more educated on what therapy is all about and what kind of benefits it has to offer. What I might have to say to someone concerned about the stigma or how they might be perceived, would depend on their assumptions about therapy. If someone had the assumption that therapy was only for people dealing with serious “mental problems”, I would probably let them know a little bit more about the kind of people I work with. I’d tell them that nearly all of them are doing pretty well in life. They’re professionals, students, husbands/wives, parents, helpers, and entrepreneurs – and they’re in therapy to improve certain areas of their lives or to have a neutral/unbiased place to process stress, loss, unresolved issues, and a wide range of other things. To someone who “gets therapy” but who is just afraid of how they might be perceived, I’d explain that they have options. They can either choose to help decrease the stigma and encourage others to get the support they need by being open about their experience in therapy, or they can choose to keep the process entirely private and confidential. Therapists are legally bound to privacy. Most people who I’ve talked to that were concerned about how they might be perceived have been pleasantly surprised to find out that people in their lives were more supportive about them doing therapy than they had expected.
Read Part 2 – Ask a Therapist anything and stay tuned for part 3.
If you’re considering Therapy for yourself and are in Tampa, feel free to call/text 727-258-5231 or to send me a message. You can also request an appointment by clicking on the “Request Appointment” button on my home page.
Float on Counseling, LLC is located in the Carrollwood area of Tampa on North Dale Mabry Hwy.