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Frequently Asked Questions about Individual and Couples Therapy

Long before their first visit to a psychologist, folks wonder about many questions. They can range from the benign to the most urgent:

  • Am I going through normal stress or is my condition more serious, such as one that requires intervention by a professional?

  • Should I consider psychotherapy or shall I perhaps, take care of my symptoms through perhaps, more readily available medications?

  • What is the difference between a therapist, a social worker, and a psychologist

  • If I see a psychologist, will my condition become worse?

  • Will my psychotherapy sessions be covered by my insurance health provider?

  • Is online therapy effective and/or a good idea?


What is a mental health concern?

Mental health concerns are a wide range of concerns affecting changes in your mood, thinking and behavior. They can range from depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Uncomfortable feelings like sadness and grief are a natural part of life and living but when symptoms become debilitating, interfere with your ability to feel "normal" and affect your ability to function, like attending school or work or cause a retreat from your close relationships, they are common referred to as a mental health concern. ​Most mental illnesses don't improve on their own, and if untreated, a mental illness may get worse over time and cause serious problems.

Should I consider medication or psychotherapy? Should I see a psychiatrist or a psychologist?

Treatment is always a complex and personal choice. Generally, being treated with medication may not cure all the symptoms and distress that an individual or family may be going through. Some people consider medication as a "bandaid" or "cosmetic" solution to a complex issue and some cultures have taboos against taking pharmacological medications. While psychiatrists are mostly specialists of medication management, clinical psychologists are trained in the art of understanding and evaluating human behavior through psychotherapy. Whether a short-term struggle with a mental health concern or long-term and whether you choose to go down the pharmacological route or not, choosing a psychologist or psychotherapist to treat the root causes of your mental health concern can provide you with sustainable and positive health outcomes. 

Woebot: Is Online Therapy a Good Idea?

Mobile talk-apps and life-coaching apps are proliferating as traditional therapy proves more costly and sessions can generally, in comparison be harder to schedule. "None of the apps, however, is meant to replace traditional therapy. For legal and ethical reasons, the creators of therapy apps can't say their chatbots actually “treat” users because that would imply the practice of medicine. Many are free, others charge nominal fees. Woebot will set you back $39 a month after a two-week free trial." Read more about online therapy and efficacy:

The Growth of Skype/Telepsychology in Online Individual and Couples Counseling 

There are a lot of people suffering from a mental health condition who need therapy. There has been a growth of people choosing online methods of psychotherapy over traditional in-person psychotherapy; the reasons can be manifold - lack of mental health counselors in your area and perhaps, the risk of losing privacy in close-knit communities; living in a rural area and lack of expertise in the speciality area where you seek help (for example, a bicultural couple living in a community comprised mostly with folks from Euro-American backgrounds, or a bisexual teenager living in a country with serious repercussions to their life with "coming out," curious to explore their identity); convenience; busy lives with a lack of time to travel to your therapist's office; lack of health insurance; Sites like Pretty Padded Room, The Angry Therapist, Breakthrough, and Virtual Therapy Connect offer online therapy sessions. 

In seeking online psychotherapy, it is important for you as a potential client to enquire into the qualifications, expertise, and years of experience of your virtual counselor before you begin video chatting. While online therapy can have it's benefits, it is important to keep in mind that for some people online therapy is generally, not recommended such as people who may be struggling with addictions, those with serious mental illnesses or those with a history suicidal behavior, and others. The APA's guidelines urge online practitioners to take care protecting clients' data, and to familiarize themselves with state and international laws. In 2016, NPR carried a story about online psychotherapy and the struggles of both clients who need online therapy as well as therapists who want to help folks providing online therapy.

What is Couples Therapy?


Couples Therapy, also known as relationship counseling or marriage counseling, is a means to address future goals, resolve concerns and improve communication between intimate partners so they can better understand their own and their partners' needs. It also assists couples in addressing barriers affecting their ability to enjoy greater engagement with each other, emotionally or sexually.


Couples have many questions from couples' therapist, such as: Can we rebuild trust and repair distance after an affair?; Are we compatible enough to marry?; Is therapy right for me?; What to do if my partner is non-communicative and/or lies?; Are children involved in couples therapy?; What is the difference between couples' therapy and sex therapy?; What kind of problems do couples bring to couples' therapy?; How many sessions do we need for couples' therapy?; What do couples therapist do?, Is online couples counseling effective?, and so forth. A good introduction for couples therapy can be found at sites of Center for Addiction and Mental Health and Mayo Clinic. 

While couples therapy may involve some overlap with family therapy, it is generally different from family therapy; the latter can involve including in therapy other members of the family (children, parents, grandparents)  and helping all family members articulate their needs to effectively resolve the issue at hand. A good marriage and family therapist can also help your family: improve your interpersonal relationships, heal old hurts, rework troubled issues in your relationship, strengthen your emotional well-being, gain mindfulness and understanding around your reactions, and implement the necessary tools for you to be in control of your life.

Issues that families struggle with today can range from medical health issues (illness, aging, bipolar, cancer, and so forth) to behavioral health issues (attention-deficit, hoarding, substance abuse, and so forth). The National Institute of Mental Health has a brief section on family-focused therapy, which may be relevant.


Secrets for Successful Couples Counseling


Partners may come to therapy with two entirely different perspectives on the factors creating instability in their relationship. Trained couples therapists are skillful at navigating clients towards hope and a constructive path of engagement and problem-solving.


For example, Dr. Susan Heitler in her article, Couples Therapy: The Four Questions outlines some essential items for individuals to keep in mind to ensure the success of their couples therapy namely: setting the dialogue back to a collaborative track; focusing on attempts to find mutual understandings; learning anger management skills; focusing on your own learning and growth and easing on the urgency to change your partner; an understanding of how current day concerns arose in the first place; and the importance of couples counseling in conjunction perhaps, with individual counseling alone, so as not to be further isolated in your relationship.


In line with the latter, Dr. Daniel Tomasulo in his article Differences between individual, group, and couples therapy contrasts importance differences between individual therapy, primarily a self-reflective process focused on one's emotions and behaviors, and couples therapy, an exploration of your relationship alongside your partner. While I am a big proponent of deep psychological engagement afforded by individual psychotherapy, I do believe in the additional and invaluable benefits of couples therapy. For example, if one is in a relationship it is easy to get lost in one's own ideas and reality of the situation without taking into account how one's behavior might also be impacting one's partner. Incorporating two sets of data rather than one into a thoughtful discussion enables a couple towards more personal and mutual growth.

Couple’s therapy in the news


Couple’s Therapy Appears to Decrease PTSD Symptoms, Improve Relationship 


After the Happily Ever After: Why is falling in love so easy, but staying in love so hard? 


Does Couple’s Therapy Work? Keys to Success 


Bad Couples Therapy


Couples Therapists Confront the Stresses in their Field


Six Common Obstacles in Couples Therapy 


Happily ever after?


Depression and Empathy in Couples


How does depression affect marriage and relationships


Supporting a Partner with Depression


How to Support an Anxious Partner


When a Spouse has Anxiety


How to cope when your partner has depression or anxiety

Is online therapy/ phone therapy a good idea?


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