What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, often referred to simply as counseling or therapy, is a professional form of treatment geared toward alleviating mental health diagnoses and more broadly emotional stressors people may be struggling through. It is typically provided by psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, or even psychiatrists. There are a number of unlicensed people calling themselves therapists or “coaches” but consumers should be wary of the fact that they may not have the training and credentials appropriate to treat the issues desired. Psychotherapy is a recognized service by most insurance plans and is typically a covered benefit in most health plans, provided that it is offered by a licensed and credentialed person. Probably the most common issues that bring people into psychotherapy are depression, anxiety, and relationship issues. Others seek out specialized providers who may have expertise in the issues they seek such as: addiction, ADHD, PTSD and trauma, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and many more. The goal of psychotherapy is to help people resolve stressors and life issues or alleviate specific mental health problems.

Why is the First Appointment so Different?

The first session you have in psychotherapy is often referred to as a diagnostic intake. This session serves a number of purposes. For many people, including the therapist, one of the main objectives during the first session is to assess and diagnosis what may be producing symptoms with a person. The provider will complete a thorough assessment exploring a number of areas including relationship history, family history, medical history, substance use, and a great many specific mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, OCD, panic attacks, PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and many more.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the diagnosis often drives the treatment plan. Knowing what is going on and what needs to be treated will determine the direction of psychotherapy. Typically, at the end of the first session, the provider will discuss with you what possible diagnoses may be occurring and suggest a course of therapy to address those issues. Together with the provider, goals are established which will guide the course of psychotherapy. Goals might include reducing depression, improving self-esteem, learning to be more assertive, improving communication skills, or any number of other goals.

The other important variable that occurs during the first session is the assessment of fit with the provider. Clients get a chance to get a sense of the provider’s personality, style, and approach to working on things and determine if they feel a connection and believe they will be able to develop trust with the provider and open up about issues, feelings, and thoughts. Likewise, the provider is also assessing the goodness of fit. They are making sure they feel they have the expertise and knowledge to treat the assessed problems and making sure the client is reasonably invested and has realistic expectations about what can be accomplished.

How is Psychotherapy Paid For?

Historically, psychotherapy was not covered by most insurance companies and people had to pay out of pocket for these services. Mental health is now a well-recognized medical condition and has achieved the status of being a necessary part of almost all health plans. Through the 1980-1990’s there were many plans who still put limitations on the number of sessions provided (10-20 sessions per year), but mental health parity laws have largely done away with those limitations and people are able to be seen as often as is medically necessary. Although some plans still categorize psychological services as a specialty service that may come with a higher copay, most plans have put it on par with seeing your family doctor and only have a standard copay. High deductible plans have put a strain on some people seeking any type of medical care, but the coverage for psychotherapy is available on nearly all plans and should not pose any barriers to accessing care.

How Do You Know When to Stop Psychotherapy?

Most people will end up terminating services when they have accomplished the treatment goals established at the beginning or feel they have received significant or total alleviation of their mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Providers will often discuss progress and re-evaluate goals periodically to ensure the course is correct and determine if it is getting close to time to wrap up. Generally, sessions occur more frequently in the beginning (once a week) and are spaced out as progress and gains occur (every 2-3 weeks). Psychotherapy is often about obtaining tools and skills in session and having time to practice them in real life. As skills are integrated and operating more automatically, there is less need to be seen as frequently as mastery begins to occur. Some clients enjoy a slower termination and may do a maintenance schedule of being seen once every 1-2 months to ensure they don’t slide back into old bad habits.

If you are interested in exploring your issues and trying psychotherapy, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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