FAQs About Therapy
Updated: Sep 3
Maybe you've never been to therapy before, and you don't even know where to begin. Maybe you have had poor experiences in therapy before, and you're hesitant to try again. We know you've got lots of questions about therapy, therapists, and the therapeutic process so this blog post will hopefully answer all your frequently asked questions!
What is therapy?
Therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, is the process of meeting with a therapist to resolve problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues, and/or somatic responses (sensations in the body).
The ultimate goal in therapy is to become the healthiest version of yourself and create more meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in your life. Therapy is a place to process your feelings and experiences, understand yourself better, improve relationships, understand and address mental health concerns, and develop a variety of skills.
What is a therapist?
A therapist is a licensed mental health professional. There are various kinds of therapists with different educational backgrounds (LCSW, LCPC, LMFT, etc.), but they all have at least a Master's level of education. Upon graduation, therapists are required to work under clinical supervision (provided by a independently licensed therapist) for at least two years until they become independently licensed. Therapists are also required to have continuing education after receiving their license, in order to improve upon their clinical skills and stay up-to-date in the field.
Do I need therapy?
We might be a little biased, but we believe that everybody will need therapy at some point. And yes, that means even we as therapists should be going to therapy! More specifically, you might need therapy if you've tried to address you concerns on your own, but have made minimal progress. You might need therapy if you don't feel that you have adequate support systems in your life. Chances are, if you're asking yourself if you might need therapy, the answer is probably "yes!" And we truly believe that there's no shame in needing therapy!
Does therapy work?
Absolutely! But the mere act of coming to therapy will probably not solve all of your problems. A lot of the good stuff is the work that you do in between sessions, under the guidance of your therapist. They will likely provide you with suggestions of skills, activities, exercises or "homework" that will really expedite your growth process.
We hear a lot of clients say that it gets harder before it gets better. Honestly, it's not easy coming to someone and opening up the figurative can of worms. It can be painful and difficult, but we truly believe it pays off in the end.
What is therapy like? What happens in therapy?
At the beginning of a session, the therapist typically invites you to share what’s been going on in your life, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, or whether there are any goals you’d like to discuss. You’ll be invited to speak openly, without fear of judgment. Our most productive sessions happen when you come with an agenda, or things that you wanted to address in therapy that day.
Some therapists (like myself) may give clients some homework to complete after a session.
A good therapist will tailor the therapeutic experience to you, and different therapists who specialize in unique modalities will bring their approach into the session. Bottom line, our goal is to listen and help find solutions to the challenges you are facing.
What if I feel nervous?
It's completely normal and understandable if you are feeling a little nervous, particularly in the first session! It can be hard and intimidating to skip all the superficial pleasantries and hop straight into the deep stuff with someone you've never met before. But rest assured, your therapist will be compassionate and understanding about how hard it can be, and will do their best to put you at ease.
How long is a session?
This varies, but standard sessions are between 45-50 minutes long.
What does a therapist do?
Good therapists use evidence-based practices, which means they are using modalities that are research-proven to be effective. They prioritize a solid therapeutic alliance built on trust and respect. They encourage the client's independence; we are one of the rare professions that try to work ourselves out of a job! A good therapist understands that you are the expert on you and your life, and they are trained to guide you with the clinical information and skills that they bring to the table. They are empathetic, have solid listening skills, and leave you feeling heard/understood.
How often do you meet with a therapist?
This is very individualized. However, most of our clients come in weekly or bi-weekly initially. A client with more severe struggles, or someone in crisis, might elect to come in twice a week until they are more stabilized. Over time, clients are able to gradually decrease their sessions. Some of our clients like to continue for "maintenance" sessions (monthly, or even less frequently).
How many sessions is typical?
This varies dramatically. Treatment type and duration should be individually tailored to you and your needs. Some clients are looking for quick solution-focused sessions to address very targeted problems, and they may only need a couple sessions. On the other hand, some clients have deeply rooted issues and seek out modalities that tend to last longer (even years). The majority of clients are somewhere in the middle, with 6 to 12 sessions being a reasonable middle ground.
Are therapists covered by insurance?
There are therapists who are in-network, meaning that they accept insurance. There are also therapists who choose to be out-of-network, meaning that clients self-pay for services.
Should I take medication?
This is such a personal decision, and we make it a priority to respect our clients' wishes on this. Some clients are able to make the changes they are wanting with therapy alone, and do not need medication. Other clients need medication (whether it be temporary or more long-term) to really be able to gain traction.
We will say, however, that medication alone (without therapy) is not our top recommendation.
What if I don’t think my therapist is a good fit?
That's okay! Therapists understand that we may be a great fit for some clients, and not a great fit for others. Our recommendation is just to give it a couple sessions to see if you warm up and the relationship "clicks," but it's absolutely okay to keep looking until you find the right fit. I personally tell my clients that I care more about them getting the support and help they need than I care about me being the right fit for them.
What is confidential in therapy?
Therapists are bound to confidentiality in session, with some exceptions. The most common exceptions are if we believe the client to be a danger to self or others, or if there is abuse or neglect of children, the elderly, or those with disabilities. In those cases, we are mandatory reporters, and will have to make a formal report.
We hope you found this information helpful, and will continue to update this page as you reach out to us and ask questions, so keep checking back!
Carrie Nicholes is a Maryland Board approved Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (LCSW-C) and the founder of Cedar Counseling & Wellness. Recognized as one of the top therapists in Annapolis, she has a lifelong passion for teaching people tools to improve their lives.