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Explains what talking therapies are, what happens during therapy, how to get the most from therapy and how to find a therapist.

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Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems.

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Simply talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help.

While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different.

Benefits of talking therapies

Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example.

Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. The thought of being able to solve your problems by taking a pill each day can sound appealing.

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If only it was that easy! Mental and emotional problems have multiple causes, and medication is not a one-stop cure. Medication may help ease certain symptoms, but it comes with side effects. Therapy can be time consuming and challenging, as uncomfortable emotions and thoughts often arise as part of the treatment process. However, therapy provides long-lasting benefits beyond symptom relief. Therapy gives you the tools for transforming your life—for relating better to others, building the life you want for yourself, and coping with whatever curveballs are thrown your way.

FACT: We all have our blind spots.

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Intelligence has nothing to do with it. He or she will give you an experienced outside perspective and help you gain insight into yourself so you can make better choices. FACT: Therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and want to learn tools and techniques to become more self-confident and emotionally balanced. FACT: While exploring family relationships can sometimes clarify thoughts and behaviors later in life, that is not the sole focus of therapy. The primary focus is what you need to change—unhealthy patterns and symptoms in your life.

Therapy is not about blaming your parents or dwelling on the past.

Learn how to choose the right therapist, get the most out of your therapy or counseling sessions, and evaluate your treatment progress.

FACT: Therapy is hard work. Improvement in therapy comes from taking a hard look at yourself and your life, and taking responsibility for your own actions. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery.

Experience matters. One of the main reasons for seeing a therapist, rather than simply talking to a friend, is experience.

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Look for a therapist who is experienced in treating the problems that you have. Often, therapists have special areas of focus, such as depression or eating disorders. And for some problems, such as trauma or PTSD, seeing a specialist is absolutely essential. Learn about different treatment orientations. Many therapists practice a blend of orientations. Check licensing.

Regulatory boards vary by state and profession.

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Also check for complaints against the therapist. Trust your gut. A good therapist will respect this choice and should never pressure you or make you feel guilty. Ask yourself the following questions:. There are so many types of therapies and therapists; it might feel a little overwhelming to get started. Just remember that no one type of therapy is best; it all depends on your individual preferences and needs. It is true that certain techniques are more useful than others in dealing with specific types of problems phobias, for example.

The philosophy behind the therapy is much less important than the relationship between you and your therapist.

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If you feel comfortable and trusting in that relationship, the model of therapy, like your car, is just the vehicle that will help you move forward to a more fulfilling life. This will happen regardless of the circumstances that brought you to therapy. This approach gives the therapist many powerful tools. However, they often have a general orientation that guides them. Individual therapy. Individual therapy explores negative thoughts and feelings, as well as the harmful or self-destructive behaviors that might accompany them.

Individual therapy may delve into the underlying causes of current problems such as unhealthy relationship patterns or a traumatic experience from your pastbut the primary focus is on making positive changes in the present. Family therapy.

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Family therapy involves treating more than one member of the family at the same time to help the family resolve conflicts and improve interaction. It is often based on the premise that families are a system.

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If one role in the family changes, all are affected and need to change their behaviors as well. Group therapy. Group therapy is facilitated by a professional therapist, and involves a group of peers working on the same problem, such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse, for example. Group therapy can be a valuable place to practice social dynamics in a safe environment and find inspiration and ideas from peers who are struggling with the same issues.

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Couples therapy marriage counseling. Couples therapy involves the two people in a committed relationship. People go to couples therapy to learn how to work through their differences, communicate better and problem-solve challenges in the relationship. The following types of mental health professionals have advanced training in therapy and are certified by their respective boards.

Many professional organizations provide online searches for qualified professionals. However, keep in mind that lay counselors—members of the clergy, life coaches, etc. Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology Ph. Social worker. Marriage and family therapist.

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A psychiatrist is a physician M. Because they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Every therapist is different, but there are usually some similarities in how therapy is structured. Normally, sessions will last about an hour, and take place around once a week. Although for more intensive therapy, they may be scheduled more often. Expect a good fit between you and your therapist. You may need to see one or more therapists until you feel understood and accepted.

Therapy is a partnership.

Talking is good for you

Both you and your therapist contribute to the healing process. Therapy should feel like a collaboration. Therapy will not always feel pleasant. Painful memories, frustrations or feelings might surface. This is a normal part of therapy and your therapist will guide you through this process.

Be sure to communicate with your therapist about how you are feeling. Therapy should be a safe place. The first session or two of therapy is a time for mutual connection, and a time for the therapist to learn about you and your issues. The therapist may ask for a mental and physical health history.

Together, you can set goals and benchmarks that you can use to measure your progress along the way. This is also an important time for you to evaluate your connection with your therapist. Do you feel like your therapist cares about your situation, and is invested in your recovery? Do you feel comfortable asking questions and sharing sensitive information? How long your therapy lasts depends on many factors.

You may have complicated issues, or a relatively straightforward problem that you want to address. Some therapy treatment types are short term, while others may last longer. Practically, your insurance coverage might limit you. However, discussing the length of therapy is important to bring up with your therapist at the beginning.