6 Things Your Therapist Is and Isn’t

Individual Therapy

Whether you’ve decided to seek substance abuse counseling, anger management counseling, or individual therapy, the move to see a therapist can be both intimidating and empowering.

The first step towards real personal growth is acknowledging that you have issues to face, which can then free you up to eventually face them. Finding the strength to seek help is definitely a lot easier when you understand a little more about the person sitting in the other chair leading your individual therapy.

Here are six things that your therapist is and isn’t:

1 – Your Therapist ISN’T Dr. Phil

If your only experience with individual therapy is what you’ve seen or heard from Dr. Phil, you might be disappointed – or relieved!

Dr. Phil is known for giving people a solid dose of “Tell it like it is” truth. While this approach is sometimes necessary, Dr. Phil’s strategy is often more for television ratings than for fostering personal growth. That’s not to say he isn’t effective, but it is to say that your therapy sessions most likely won’t follow suit.

Those who genuinely desire change will value honesty from their counselors. Your therapist will absolutely be honest with you, but may not do so in a flashy, for-TV way. Therapists are trained to be non-judgmental, non-offensive, and non-confrontational.

That means that you won’t be made to feel inferior during a substance abuse counseling session, even if your therapist has to drop a few truth bombs.

2 – Your Therapist IS Interested in Your Health

There are certainly some therapists who charge a pretty hefty hourly fee. You might find yourself wondering if they actually care about you, or if they’re more concerned about filling out their next invoice.

Ultimately, you have to accept that becoming a skilled therapist takes a great deal of time, effort, and money. On top of that, operating a counseling business involves tons of expenses, like office space, insurance, continuing education, and more.

The reality is that most therapists aren’t in it for the money — they genuinely care about their patients.

This might not always seem like it. In fact, it might appear as if though your counselor is detached. Just remember that they have to keep some necessary emotional distance from your experiences in order to remain objective.

There is no way a professional therapist would sit across from people sharing their most painful memories or confront negative emotions through anger management counseling if they didn’t honestly want to help.

3 – Your Therapist ISN’T Perfect

It’s easy to imagine that someone who is paid to offer advice about relationships, substance abuse, anger management, trauma, and more must have their act together and live a life free from problems.

The reality is that therapists deal with their own issues and are far from perfect. You don’t expect your primary care physician to never get sick, so it’s unfair to expect perfection from your therapist.

The good news is that you can benefit from your therapist’s own problems. Of course, your counselor isn’t necessarily going to share their life story, but you’ll benefit from their success and failure using different problem-solving methods in their own lives, even if they dealt with issues different than your own.

Keep in mind that while therapists may share some of their life experiences with you, they will keep your session focused on you. Accepting that your therapist is a real person with struggles, hopes, and dreams not unlike your own offers the support of knowing that you’re not alone.

4 – Your Therapist IS Going to Talk About You (in Private)

You should expect confidentiality during your individual therapy sessions. Your counselor will work hard to ensure that you feel enough at ease to share personal details about your life, thoughts, and feelings. They would never do anything to violate that trust.

While you should expect privacy from your counseling sessions, you should also accept that you may come up in private conversations. Your therapist, of course, will never reveal identifying information, but they might discuss your situation with trained colleagues and mentors.

It’s common for therapists to bounce ideas around each other to determine the best approach to help you. You benefit greatly from this type of consultation; it’s like seeing several therapists without having to pay multiple bills.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that your privacy with a therapist isn’t absolute. If you discuss illegal activities, child abuse, or a desire to harm others, your therapist may have no choice but to report you to the proper authorities.

Make sure you understand your counselor’s limits before you bring up these kinds of topics, and always read through any confidentiality notices they give you before you sign.

5 – Your Therapist ISN’T Your Friend

It doesn’t take long to develop a connection with your therapist. After all, this is someone with whom you are sharing the deepest parts of yourself.

You may not go as far as to develop romantic feelings for your therapist, but it certainly is easy to start thinking of them as a friend. Some patients even use their individual therapy sessions to simply recap their weeks as if they were catching up with a friend.

A skilled therapist welcomes small talk or hearing about the mundane parts of your life. At the same time, your therapist wants to challenge you and work towards positive change. That may mean skipping the pleasantries sometimes and getting to work.

Professional therapists also know where to draw the line. That means you can’t expect them to attend your birthday party or even patronize your business. In many cases, your therapist may not even acknowledge you if your paths cross in public.

These instances aren’t to be rude, but to keep a professional distance that is ultimately in place to encourage your progress.

6 – Your Therapist IS Going to Make a Diagnosis

Due to the state of health insurance in the US, all patients undergoing therapy will likely receive a diagnosis, even if they don’t necessarily qualify for one. Insurance companies require some kind of diagnosis to pay their part of your therapy.

Without a diagnosis, you may be required to pay the entire bill out of pocket. Luckily, there are some general diagnoses that work for insurance purposes without backing you into a corner. Feel free to discuss your “diagnosis” with your therapist at any time.

Becoming a therapist and helping people with substance abuse counseling, anger management counseling, and individual therapy requires a lot of work. The men and women who become therapists end up wearing a lot of hats, but all that training will work to help you make positive changes in their patients’ lives.

Help Is Closer Than You Think

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Knowing what your therapist is and isn’t means you can be more comfortable seeking the help that you need.

If you’re dealing with substance abuse, anger issues, or would like individual counseling, you can benefit greatly from working with a licensed professional clinical counselor.

Vonique “Vo” Schmidt strives to customize an approach appropriate for your needs. Don’t let your mental health fall by the wayside. Explore your options and get a personalized plan today by calling 310-291-7837 or e-mailing vo@southbaylatherapy.com.