What is therapy exactly?
This is an opportunity for you to engage with a trained professional, when you are grappling with issues in your life that require an outside perspective--one you cannot glean from your family and friends. Or you may be too ashamed / embarrassed / guilty / worried to share these thoughts or concerns with someone you know. You are also assured that whatever you reveal will remain confidential.
How can I be sure what I say will remain confidential? And under what circumstances would it not be?
Everything you say in a therapist's office stays in that office. The only time your clinician would be mandated to reveal what you shared would be if you were at risk to yourself or someone else.
How do I know I might need this kind of help?
If you feel you cannot function (i.e. go to school, to work, take care of your basic needs, socialize, etc.), you may require some outside help. A fresh, neutral, professional viewpoint may help you see yourself more clearly, and help you to realize that, qualitatively, your life could be improved.
What are the signs of depression?
When your sleeping and eating patterns become disturbed; your concentration is faulty; you have no energy; things that once gave you pleasure hold no interest for you; you feel guilty all the time; you are thinking of hurting yourself or someone else. These are the basic signs. A more complete list would be shared with you by your clinician.
What are the signs of anxiety?
Inability to get to sleep / stay asleep. Elevated stress in anticipation of some event. Thoughts racing. Feeling jumpy, including exhibiting a high startle response. Difficulty concentrating and focusing, because you are plagued by uncontrollable intrusive thoughts. Feeling out of control.
What are the signs of an eating disorder?
Obsessed with numbers (calories, weight, BMI). Obsessed with food. Restricting vs. binging. Comparing yourself to others physically. Excessive exercise. Certain "rules" that you must follow. Often accompanied by OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and a high level of perfectionism.
If I chose to go into treatment, how long can I expect it to last?
I am a big believer in short-term therapy (6-12 fifty minute sessions). This way the client can implement what he or she has learned in life, as opposed to simply talking about it in the vacuum of the therapist's office. In the case of more entrenched issues (i.e. an eating disorder), the symptoms may take some time to get under control, before the thinking behind the behavior can be addressed. In either case, a client can return to treatment at any time, to refuel and gauge how far they have come, and how they want to continue.
How much will it cost? What if I don't have insurance? Do all types of insurance cover treatment? What is a sliding scale?
The cost of your treatment depends on whether your health insurance has a mental health component. It also depends on whether the treater accepts insurance. Some policies give you a list of approved clinicians. Some treaters ask that you pay out of pocket. But if their customary fee (i.e. 125-150 for 50 minutes, depending on whether the person is an MSW, Ph.D, Psy.D, etc.; an MD/psychiatrist will cost more) is too much for you to pay, they may adjust their fee down, to make it more affordable for you.
What if I feel that the therapist is not a good fit for me?
I think one should interview several clinicians, until one finds someone he or she is comfortable with--and perhaps you already know that you would prefer a female, or someone more mature. You are the consumer, and you have a right to feel good with this person, with whom you are going to form a pivotal relationship. Referrals are a good way to meet a therapist you can trust; these could come from a friend, or through your insurance company.
How is the best way to find a clinician?
As noted above, getting a referral from a source you trust, and who perhaps knows you well, is the best way to begin.
I don't want to take medication--are there more holistic methods to explore?
Today many treaters would like you to explore other types of coping tools for your personal arsenal: meditation; guided imagery; yoga; deep breathing; journaling; music (listening, playing); exercise; calling a close friend. There is no one way to address the issue of one's mental health--we weave a tapestry of ways to help ourselves.