by Phyllis L. Neumann, MS, MFT

When do you need therapy?

Simply stated, you might consider individual or couples therapy when your problems are getting in the way of feeling fulfilled and happy. Many people seek therapy when they are having problems with their relationship, their children, their job or are just stressed out or depressed and don't know why. Sometimes an incident may trigger a crisis situation, creating a sense of confusion, desperation or general panic. After several sessions, the immediate distress is usually alleviated. It is at that time that people usually decide either to leave therapy until another episode erupts, or to remain in therapy and begin long-term treatment to heal the more deep-seated problems that led to the crisis.

What can you expect from therapy?

People who seek help are primarily looking for someone who is compassionate and objective, who won't judge them or tell them they are wrong. Therapy is the process of looking inside yourself for the answers, rather than taking advice. A therapist may offer support by helping to make sense out of the problem - not giving advice or solutions. Many people have spent a lifetime doing what everyone else wants them to do. Therapy gives them a chance to find out what they want perhaps for the first time. Therapy is also a chance to express pent-up feelings or reveal hidden secrets.

How long does therapy take?

Therapy can take anywhere from several weeks to several years. It can often be a slow process because there are so many years of history and defense-building behind the problems. Clients may sometimes return for a few sessions after months, or even years, later just to get back on track.

How do you choose a therapist?

Choose a therapist as you would choose a close friend be selective. Get several recommendations from friends or doctors, or shop around yourself. Call several therapists on the phone. Interview them, and ask as many questions as you need, until you feel satisfied. Trust your initial impression. If you feel comfortable with that person on the phone, then set up an appointment. If you aren't comfortable with one therapist, call another. A highly recommended therapist may be perfect for your friend, but not for you.

How much does therapy cost?

Fees in the Half Moon Bay area generally range from $100-$170 per session. Psychiatrists tend to charge more because they are medical doctors and can prescribe medication. Sessions are usually scheduled on a weekly basis. Many insurance companies cover partial therapy costs. Non-profit social service agencies tend to use a sliding scale that is based upon your income. Group therapy can cost a lot less and can give you the benefit of not feeling alone with your problems.