Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can therapy help me?  No one is immune to human suffering.  At some time in life, we all experience emotional pain or stress that feels overwhelming.  Maybe it is our own choices, reactions or behaviors that we don’t understand.  Maybe someone we care about died or left us.   Maybe it’s the experience of anxiety, panic attacks, or depression that brings distress.  Regardless—everyone can benefit from mental health intervention at some time in his or her life.  If we would allow medical treatment for our bodies, why wouldn’t we also allow for help with our mind and emotions?  All those who want to address healing of their mental state can be helped with therapy and/or psychotropic medications.  The motivation to change oneself or one’s reactions to difficult life conditions is the key to enabling successful therapy.

  2. What is the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a counselor?     A ‘psychiatrist’ is a physician who has completed medical school and specialized in the treatment of mental health disorders.  Psychiatrists and other medical doctors are the only practioners in Alabama who can prescribe medications.  ‘Clinical psychologists’ have doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) that are grounded in the science of human behavior and change using a wide range of different therapy interventions.  (See ‘Different Kinds of Therapy’).  Psychiatrists often work in collaboration with psychologists who provide the on-going therapy.  Research has demonstrated that it is the combination of psychotropic medications and therapy that usually leads to the most improvements.    ‘Counselors’ include other mental health professionals such as psychiatric nurses, social workers and licensed professional counselors (LPCs) who also treat mental health problems and usually have a master’s degree.  Your insurance provider may restrict the kind of mental health professional covered by your policy.

  3. If my depression or anxiety is genetic-can psychotherapy be of benefit?  Even if one’s mental health problem has a strong genetic basis, therapy is still important in developing new ways of coping and even changing old patterns.  Regardless of the cause of the problem-you reinforced the troublesome behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions over the years with habits such as negative thinking, low self-esteem and avoidance.  Medication may improve and stabilize mood, and even increase energy (impacting the genetic component); however it is in ‘therapy’ that one learns the new skills to replace the older, negative patterns.

  4. I’ve always been so strong, why can’t I just snap out of it? 
    No matter how strong, smart or successful you are, sooner or later all of us experience problems in life with which we need help.  Perhaps, it is the willingness to allow help from others that increases our own compassion for the problems and vulnerabilities of others.  Admitting our problems and accepting help promotes connection to the humanity of our fellow human sufferers. 

  5. Why isn’t talking to a close friend enough?   Talking to a friend is good.  In fact, having a dependable social support system is a key factor in managing life well.  However, sometimes we’d rather a friend, even a close friend, not know our deepest fears and vulnerabilities—shame can prevent us from sharing, keeping us isolated in pain.  Sometimes we avoid talking to friends because we don’t want to burden them.   Also, friends cannot really be objective—they can’t help but be biased and opinionated in their remarks.  Friends do not have the expertise to offer evidence-based interventions that are well practiced and understood by professional therapists.   Finally, many people have difficulties in forming or maintaining friendships and this is part of their problem.  These folks do not have the resource of deep friendships, and are isolated and in need of a trained person to listen with compassion and give helpful advice.

  6. Will therapy be in conflict with my religious beliefs?  Professional therapists understand that one’s spiritual foundation is a critical resource.  Therefore therapists are intentionally respectful of those beliefs and present interventions consistent with them.  If this question, or any such question, is important to you—be sure to ask it of your therapist in your first session.

  7. Isn’t it selfish to come and talk ‘just about me’, much less spend money this way on me?  Look at it this way—if you feel better and function better—who, besides your self will benefit?  Often one person’s improved mental health has a rippling, positive effect on others in their lives.  You can’t be of real benefit to others when you are feeling so badly. 

  8. Where can I find out more information about psychology and therapy? www.apahelpcenter.org

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