Jonathan Simons, Psy.D.
Psychotherapist, Woodland Hills, CA
How do I know if I need therapy?
In all likelihood if you’re perusing this, or any other counseling oriented website, you’re very open to seeking therapy or may have already made the decision to seek therapy. But if you’re still unsure, ask yourself these questions:
Am I having difficulty with a decision in my life?
Am I having difficulty sleeping?
Am I having rampant or rapid thoughts?
Am I functioning optimally?
Do I feel lost?
Does something just feel like it’s missing?
If the answer to any of these questions, or any variation of these questions, is even remotely yes, you will benefit from therapy.
What can I expect from therapy?
Ostensibly people come to therapy to feel better. Often they have sought medical treatment only to find that there is nothing physically “wrong” and so a decision may be made to explore psychological issues. Regardless of what initially brings a person to therapy, the goal is to feel better. This may come in the form of emotionally unburdening one’s self (getting it all “out there”), symptom reduction by cognitively or behaviorally changing a troubling pattern, or longer term work geared toward developing deeper insight or delving into one’s unique relationship with his/her existence.
What happens in the first session?
Naturally a first session is an introduction. It allows me to get a sense of who you are and of course what brings you to therapy. But it is also an opportunity for you to get a sense of me and whether you feel we are a good “fit” for your therapeutic endeavor. Basically we are getting to know each other and this may take a couple of sessions. Very often, people leave their first session realizing that they’ve put off seeking therapy far too long.
How long will therapy take?
When someone new comes to my yoga classes, I tell them that their body didn’t stiffen up overnight, so it won’t loosen up overnight either. Furthermore, the loosening up process is not perfectly progressive nor is it without some discomfort. You may come to therapy with a particular issue to work through, crises to resolve, or behavior to address. These goals can often be accomplished in 6-12 sessions. I also have clients whom I have seen for many years, people interested in deeper work. You may be thinking that these people are crazy and need a lot of help. In fact, quite the contrary. Long term therapy clients are typically emotionally very healthy and they value their time to explore many facets of their lives. I also have people who come and go. People often come to therapy to work on an issue, reach their goal, and then months or even years later come back to deal with something else. Bottom line, it’s your life and the choice is always yours. Just know you may cry a little, but also, hopefully, laugh a lot.
How long do sessions last and how often will I see you?
One session is approximately 50 minutes and a general rule of thumb is once a week. Sometimes people come more than weekly, but only when they recognize that this may be helpful. Rarely have I taken the initiative to recommend greater than weekly sessions. I also have people who I see every other week or even monthly. However, these are typically longer term clients and I don’t recommend this initially.
Am I covered by my health insurance policy? Should I even use my health insurance?
Each health insurance carrier differs in its coverage of mental health needs. Furthermore, your particular policy may or may not include this kind of coverage.
Whether you use this coverage even if you have it, this is a touchy subject. When a third party is involved you lose a degree of confidentiality. In other words, the fact that you are seeking therapy is part of your medical records and depending upon your coverage, details of your therapy may also become part of your records.
Using insurance often involves authorization for treatment and continually requesting additional sessions. Furthermore, using insurance requires a medical diagnosis which makes many people uncomfortable and may not even adequately address why you have sought therapy.
How would yoga benefit me and how does it differ from psychotherapy?
Here in America the vast practice of yoga has largely come to be associated with the physical practice. In that regard, it is wonderful exercise that strengthens the entire body while greatly improving flexibility. Additionally, every system of the body is improved and it is well known that physical exercise improves mood. But with the physical practice of yoga comes an extraordinary meditative experience that can allow for deep introspection and profound relaxation. Yoga is often considered a physical portal into one’s inner world where one can find his or her authentic self and allow that self to flourish.
What if I’m not very flexible or physically fit?
Even the most “proficient” yogi started with his or her first practice. In the truest sense, yoga is for every body and everybody can benefit from this practice. Weather young or old; slim or carrying some extra pounds; physically fit or just starting an exercise program; yoga has remarkable benefits. All one needs is a willingness to try; a patient teacher; and an open heart that isn’t attached to being perfect.