What to Expect in Therapy

Listen Tell Me More: Episode 3

(Music fades in) If you’ve ever struggled with depression, anxiety or relationships and feel you might finally be able to reach out for help, today’s podcast is for you. (Music picks up)

There’s no better time than right now to take that all important first step to better mental health. I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us all learn more about what to expect in therapy and how to find the right therapist for you.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you today.

DON: Thank you Susan, as always it’s a pleasure.

SUSAN: Don, for a lot of people therapy may seem like a completely foreign process where they will have to share parts of themselves that they’ve never really shared with anyone before (music fades out). Talk us through how therapy actually works so people will know what to expect.

DON: Sure, good therapy provides a safe and creative space where people can explore their problems and issues. Most importantly it opens a space and time to be heard, acknowledged and understood. And that’s what we want out of life. We want to be acknowledged and understood. And let me know say this too Susan, it’s not like what you see on TV or in the movies, sometimes they get it close but most often they don’t. The other thing too is that psychiatry and psychology have done a monumental job – this is something that I say all the time – they’ve done a monumental job out of making things a little more complicated than they need to be. The therapeutic process itself, it sheds light on how we are who we are and gives people a greater understanding about living as fully, mindfully and compassionately as possible. Therapy enables people to explore their lives and be open to the choices that are available to them. Whatever the reasons are that people choose therapy, it means taking a greater more truthful look at ourselves. Through closer exploration of our anxieties, fears, hopes and dreams, therapy is a life-changing opportunity to transform our attitudes towards living and really makes some life-long changes.

SUSAN: Everyone is different, how does a person go about finding the right therapist for their needs? How do they pick that professional they can comfortable enough with to share all those personal and very private issues?

DON: As I tell my students and supervisees it’s all about the relationship. In real-estate Susan, as you know it’s location, location, location. In therapy, it’s the relationship, relationship, relationship. It takes real courage for someone to reach out and share their most intimate fears, darkest shadows and their hopes and dreams. A good therapist wants to build a relationship with you – not just provide a quick fix or give you homework that you could’ve gleaned from in any self help book. A good therapist sees you as a whole person, not just a set of symptoms or worse yet, a diagnosis. For me, good mental health starts with a strong therapeutic relationship and ends with a person creating a life worth living.

SUSAN: Are there any guidelines that suggest how long this relationship should last?

DON: As much as it is about the relationship Susan, there are some boundaries, and a good therapist will establish these with you from the first session on. How to contact them between appointments, fees treatment planning if needed and – the million dollar question – how long am I going to be in therapy? Everyone is different. There is no one-size-fits-all nor should there be. Let me give you an example, you go to the doctor and you get an antibiotic and if you’re like me after a few days maybe a week you start to feel better and you start to question – do I really need to take this for 14 days and the answer is yes! You do. Therapy is no longer a forever thing. Let’s get that straight. On the other hand if you start out and you’re making progress and then you stop abruptly – let’s go back to that antibiotic example – what is going to happen there? It’s most likely your issues and problems are going to circle back around on you. Just like life itself, it has a beginning, middle and an end and a good therapist will discuss how the course of therapy will run in that first session or two.

SUSAN: From your experience Don, as a licensed psychotherapist, do people always know what their problems are when they start to talk about them? Do they often think they have an issue in one area when it really might be something else?

DON: That’s a great question and the long answer is yes and no, spoken like a true therapist right. But life is like that. Everyone is different and we’re all the better for that. Some folks come into therapy with a very driven agenda and that can be helpful but it can also reflect on why their relationships in the real world sometimes feel strained, rushed or even distant. Some folks look to therapy as ways of gaining better meaning into their issues and some people want to use therapy as way to figure out what’s wrong with the world or with their family and that may signal someone who doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of choice or even life itself. We all don’t do pain or change very well. It’s how we’re built and as a result we create false narratives around how and who we are. That’s an extremely creative process and one that obviously doesn’t happen overnight. So channeling that creativity into designing a new narrative is something I strive to do with every client I work with. I believe a strength based approach while acknowledging limitations but not bowing to them is the most creative and mindful way for therapists to engage others.

SUSAN: How can intervention at a critical time in a person’s life and the right treatment plan change lives?

DON: It’s so important for people to take that first step and it is an act of courage. But if you think about it this way Susan, if I am pushed up against a brick wall and I am face-to-face with that brick wall I can’t see up, I can’t see down, I can’t see to either side of me, all I can see are these bricks in front of me and that feels hopeless. By taking that step, and engaging with a therapist in creating a meaningful relationship, a creating a meaning therapeutic relationship, means taking a step back from that wall. Being able to get some perspective on this problem and this issue – having someone walk along side of you and help guide you through the process, well that’s life changing.

SUSAN: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks for helping guide us through the steps to live our very best life. (Music fades in)

DON: Thank you for having me Susan.

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

How to Find the Right Therapist for Mental Health Treatment

Listen to episode 2 of the podcast – Tell Me More – transcript:

(Music fades in) Nearly one in five US adults live with a mental illness that’s more than 51 million people according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Music picks up) And while millions of people could benefit from treatment, estimates suggest only half the people living with a mental illness actually get the help they need. What’s causing this problem and how do we fix it? That’s our topic today.

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us understand and overcome the barriers to mental health treatment.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you. (Music fades out)

DON: It’s a pleasure to be with you as well Susan.

SUSAN: Don, what are some of the hurdles – the immediate hurdles – to getting good, potentially life-altering and in some cases life-saving, mental health treatment today?

DON: Wow! That is a great question and so timely. Right now we’re at a cross roads. Promoting health and wellness for all is so important as we emerge from this pandemic. In fact, an adult conversation around the subject of mental health is long overdue. With the growing availability of telehealth, obviously accessibility is becoming somewhat less of an issue, but there remain problems associated with affordability and stigma. Often people think, “hey you know what, I’ll just suck it up. I’ll power through this. I’m just being lazy or I just need to get my act together. I’ll wait and see if things get worse.” Well, guess what? They don’t get any better. Often times, these things won’t improve over time. They won’t improve on their own and as helpful – sometimes – as friends and family can be, they usually give us advice – things we already know. Having an objective, non-judgmental, third party is essential when discussing your fears and anxieties.

The other piece is affordability. Some folks don’t have insurance but those who do, may actually be surprised that mental health is not covered in full OR may not be in their plans altogether. Of course self pay is always an option, but finding the right therapist – finding a therapist who can offer a generous sliding scale is key.

SUSAN: What are some of the steps a person can take to actually get through that maze and then getting the help that they need?

DON: Yeah, let’s talk about that because it takes – it’s an act of courage for someone to pick up the phone and call a complete stranger and make that first appointment. So ask questions – lots of them! Find a therapist who feels like a good fit. How long have they been a therapist? Ask about their experience with the issues your facing? Ask about how flexible scheduling is with them? Make an informed decision. Remember, choosing a therapist means taking the first step toward a better life and you want to choose wisely.

SUSAN: Is there a big difference in the types of therapy available online?

DON: Absolutely, Yes! Yes, yes, yes. Most everyone went online after the pandemic hit. Some of these practitioners and agencies were new to telehealth because they always operated out of an office before. At eTalkTherapy, we’ve been doing this since 2017. I started it toward the end of 2017, and of course when the pandemic hit, we were already established to be able to provide quality telehealth for all of Pennsylvanians. Telehealth providers should always be up front about their pricing, which insurances they accept and offer therapy through a HIPAA compliant portal or by phone. Ask questions, how long have they been doing telehealth, avoid services that offer subscriptions and therapy packages through texting or email. That’s one of the many things that separate eTalkTherapy with the other services that are out there right now. We’re a local, private practice. Not some big tech company with a text-based app. We conduct our sessions on live video streaming on a HIPAA secure platform. Susan, I can’t emphasize this enough, real therapy is not done through texting or email with complicated subscriptions and automated responses and there are some really significant ethical issues for those companies who practice this kind of service. At eTalkTherapy, we provide you with one-on-one therapy just like a traditional, in-office appointment. You’ll see a licensed counselor or a mental health therapist.

SUSAN: Don, if we haven’t been touched by this ourselves yet, is it safe to say that just about everyone knows someone in their family or circle of friends whose dealt with a mental health issue? I mean, how can we support someone we love when they are struggling and do we always see that struggle?

DON: I’m a big fan of Fred Rogers, Susan, and Mr. Roger’s always told us; he always said, look to the helpers. Look for the helpers in times of trouble or worry. Be patient and listen without trying to fix it. Be a parent, sibling, friend and/or partner first. Don’t try to be their therapist. Most of all, be kind. Everyone is experiencing this time very differently, and we should act accordingly with love, kindness and patience. The struggle is not always visible but it is there. (Music fades in)

SUSAN: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks so much for helping guide us through these mental health challenges to live our very best lives.

DON: Thank you Susan, it was a pleasure.

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

Tell Me More Podcast - Episode 1

Stopping the Stigma of Mental Illness

Listen to Episode 1 of our new podcast – Tell Me More

For more than a year, Americans and people from all over the world have dealt with a global pandemic and much of our fear centered on what would happen to us or our loved ones if we contracted covid-19 and had to face its potentially life threatening effects. But now with vaccinations in the United States on a roll many of us are now confronting something else – the effect of the pandemic on our mental health.

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com who can help us all sort through this unprecedented time in our lives.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you today.

DON: Thank you Susan. It is a pleasure to be with you as well.

SUSAN: Don, Some of us have lost loved ones, some of us have lost jobs and incomes and some have lingering effects of a disease that literally ravaged the world and sent us into quarantine for weeks and isolation for months. So, then is it okay – is it expected of us to have a broad range of emotions right now?

DON: Absolutely Susan! It would be more unusual for anyone right now to say that they weren’t feeling stressed or frustrated, sad or anxious. We’re facing issues that are unprecedented for our modern times and this has and will undoubtedly create new challenges for how we understand and treat mental health – not only in our country but globally as well. Susan the next wave of this pandemic will not be treated with vaccines or antibiotics the next wave will include mild to severe levels of trauma, depression and anxiety and if that’s left untreated it’s only going to get worse. In fact, we’re starting to see it right now. So talking about mental health, furthering the conversation and gaining access to affordable treatment options is more important than ever. There will be years of wellness issues; scars that will run deep; and questions that will not just go away over time. In short, it’s okay to feel the way you are feeling right now, but it’s what you do with those feelings that counts.

SUSAN: How do we start, Don, to find our way back to either where we once were – where many people think they’d like to get back to – or maybe to an even better place?

DON: okay so let’s start there. You’ve been hearing for a long time now (at least a year plus) that we’re all in the same boat, but nothing can be further from the truth. Everyone is different. Everyone’s situation is different. We are all NOT in the same boat. We’re in the same storm. Some people have big yachts, others have canoes, some are simply floating in a raft or life jacket just trying to keep their head above water. We’re not ALL in the same boat physically, emotionally or spiritually – so one size does not fit all. Also let’s be frank here, there will never be a return to quote/unquote normal. Some things will go back to a recognizable baseline, but this pandemic has been a real game changer. The liberating thing about that – don’t want to make it sound like all doom and gloom – the liberating thing about that is, is that we get to create a new baseline, a new normal if you will. For some, that sounds freeing. It just becomes a question of how do I make that happen. But for others, for most of us, it sounds like change, and you know as well as I do that we as humans do not do change very well. We talk a good game, but the unknown can make us anxious, unsettled or afraid. So the two keys will be acknowledging and being mindful of our mental health strengths and those limitations, but most importantly, taking steps to create a new and healthy baseline.

SUSAN: For the person out there who might me listening right now who maybe isn’t sure if they want to talk to somebody yet but is looking for some practical things that they can do on their own just to start – where do they start?

DON: Sometimes the simplest acts can have the biggest impact. The fields of psychiatry and psychology have made things monumentally more complex than they need to be. So let’s start with some basics – deep breathing and grounding techniques – they’re straight forward and they take only a few minutes to do. In fact Susan, if anyone would like to email me at etalktherapy@gmail.com I’ll gladly send them the basic instructions, free of charge, on how to implement deep breathing and grounding techniques into their daily routine. These two things are extraordinarily important when it comes to how we deal with stress and anxiety and depression. Making that mind body connection is so important right now – we’re all trying to heal from this pandemic and deep breathing and grounding techniques are two keys to help with that healing process.

SUSAN: Now, beyond those steps that people can do on their own or start on their own, what can you offer if someone is looking for more direction and more help?

DON: Sure, at eTalkTherapy, we offer 15 to 20 minute free phone consultations with any one of our therapists, me included. Our highly trained and experienced therapists are available to answer questions regarding the therapy process, how to get started, and therapy options. You can go to eTalkTherapy.com for details, fill out the free consultation form, it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s convenient and since 2017 we’ve been providing Pennsylvania with affordable and private live online therapy or phone therapy. Look going to a therapy session doesn’t mean having to leave your house these days. The pandemic saw to that, but finding an experienced therapist who is a good fit for your needs – sometimes that’s a completely different story. At eTalkTherapy we want to create a meaningful relationship with you along with addressing your symptoms and issues. We want to help every client we work with create a life worth living – more important now than ever.

**Closing music**

SUSAN: All right! Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks for helping guide us through these challenging times.

DON: Thank you Susan. It’s been a pleasure and until we talk again, I wish you and everybody listening good health.

**Music picks up**

SUSAN: Thank you so much!

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

**Music ends**

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness in the Wake of Covid

Promoting Change and Self-Care

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and this is a year in which it seems more vital than ever to look at our lives and to check in with ourselves to see how we’re doing. Now that Covid-19 cases in America finally seem to be in a steady decline and the smoke is clearing, so to speak, it seems like good timing to focus on the mental and emotional fallout from it all.

It’s been 14 months since the country started its Covid lockdowns, and I just wanted to invite you to take a moment with me and really think about the past year. Covid-19 was a really big deal (and very much so remains a big deal in many parts of the world). Let’s start with the physical aspect of the illness. Chances are, you knew someone with Covid-19. Maybe that person skated through it was like it was no big deal, or maybe that person was out of commission for a couple of weeks, or maybe they even had to be hospitalized. That person may not have made it through. And if you didn’t know them personally, chances are very good that you know someone who has lost someone – or very nearly lost someone – from this illness. You yourself may even have been struck with it. Maybe it was just a bothersome cough or a sore throat. Maybe you were in the hospital. Maybe you became a “long-hauler.” Maybe you were afraid you weren’t going to be able to pull through.

That’s a lot to carry, isn’t it? And that’s only one aspect of very many. That’s just the physical aspect. There’s the economic aspect. Maybe your business was shut down, and you were forced to put your livelihood on hold. Maybe you lost your job.  Maybe your hours were cut, and you had to pinch pennies in a way that was very frightening to you. Perhaps you would have liked to go to work, but your children had to learn virtually from home and there was no one to take care of them while you worked, so you had to cut your own hours.

There’s the emotional aspect, as well. Or maybe you were incredibly lonely. Maybe you were grateful to have not gotten Covid-19, but you felt a terrible isolation. You were tired of seeing people’s faces on a screen. You missed touching other people, getting hugs. Not being able to see their faces and how they felt as you saw them in person from a distance. Physical isolation is a very real thing, and it is a very valid emotion to feel afraid, sad, and depressed because of it. And there was fear involved – a lot of fear. Who would we become as a society after this? You may wonder if you can trust this person, that news source, the next-door neighbor? What will happen if we get the vaccine? What will happen if we don’t?

No matter how someone was affected by Covid-19, no one can say they were not affected by it. And it can sometimes be very painful to go through a traumatic event like this one – to really feel all of your feelings, to take the time to marvel at this journey: the difficulties of it, the struggle of it, and to look at the person you’ve come to be at this point because of it.

If you are struggling in this very hard time, please reach out to talk to someone. Our website https://etalktherapy.com/ can point you to treatment options that can work best for you.

It can be a cliché to say that “we’re all in this together,” and I don’t know if that saying really applies. Yes, we are all experiencing the same event together, but each in our own way – ways that may be very similar to others, and some that are very different. It is true, however, that we are not alone.

The theme for this year’s awareness month, hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Health, is “You Are Not Alone.” You can visit their site here (https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month) for more resources and help if you find your mental health concerns are getting insurmountable and to help you begin the process of unpacking this very difficult year.

Here’s hoping that each day gets better and better!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.