Do I need therapy?

July 10th, 2019

Do I Need Therapy If My Antidepressant Makes Me Feel Good?

That’s a good question, one that often comes our way. Antidepressant medications can alleviate the sad mood of depression and also improve your sleep and energy level. Your doctor was on the right track, however, by adding therapy to the treatment plan.

Family doctors and other primary care providers (PCP’s) write about four out of every five prescriptions for antidepressant medications. However, they do so after only a brief screening—they simply don’t have the time to make a full evaluation of all the factors that might be involved in your situation. Your PCP is likely to only spend a few minutes with you before prescribing an antidepressant.

In mental health, many conditions have overlapping symptoms. A psychotherapist will typically give you a full hour evaluation in your first session and determine if indeed it’s depression you’re dealing with, something in addition, or something else altogether. Even the first session, though, won’t be adequate to cover all the variables and issues, so your therapist may add or remove diagnoses in future sessions. Additionally, your therapist will be constantly monitoring the severity of symptoms.

Although you feel better now, which is of course welcome news, the medication your doctor prescribed will not help you learn coping strategies, nor will it help you identify any factors that might have contributed to your depression. We can easily get stuck in a cycle of feeling bad and negative thinking. Psychotherapy addresses the negative thinking part of the equation. Your therapist will also help you identify background issues that may have been lurking quietly until some stress hit, and then help you clarify what’s going on, and how to cope with the whole messy situation.

Research into treatment efficacy shows that the combination of medication plus psychotherapy reduces the likelihood of relapse and improves overall outcomes for moderate to severe depression. Although we’re happy to learn that you feel good now, please take the additional step of adding psychotherapy also.

David P. Levin, M.S., LPC
Staff Therapist, Behavioral Healthcare Consultants

June 6th, 2019

“The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow. For every challenge encountered there is opportunity for growth.” – Unknown

How can talking with a therapist help

May 28th, 2019

How Can Talking With a Therapist Help Me With My Problems?

Many people wonder how talking about their problems can actually help them get better. Talk therapy works in many ways! Individual therapists will have different styles and preferred methods, but they all have important tools to help you. Here are a few of the ways that “talk therapy” works.

1. Clarify the Issues: When you are burdened with many emotions, it can be hard to figure out how all your different problems fit together and create distress. A therapist can listen and help you sort out the issues. Getting clarity reduces a big problem to a few smaller ones.

2. A Safe Place to Tell Your Story: When you have a good listener, such as a professional therapist, you talk more. And as you narrate your life and its problems in a safe environment, you see it in a new perspective, and often just the telling of your story itself can lead you to new insights and resolutions.

3. Non-Judgmental Acceptance: Friends and acquaintances typically want to tell you what you’re doing wrong and give “advice” that doesn’t take into account the whole picture. Therapists listen carefully, make no judgments about your situation, and accept where you are in life. They build a bond of trust and openness, and then you can work out solutions.

4. Find Your Strengths: In the midst of troubles you might overlook your internal resources, knowledge, and experiences. Your therapist will help you identify your strengths and show you how to use them to solve your problems.

5. Accountability: Sometimes a therapist is an accountability partner for you. Some therapists work by prescribing certain behaviors, such as keeping a thought and emotion log or making sure that you spend some time each day in writing gratitudes or in physical activity.

6. Identify Patterns: Most therapists are good at noticing repeated patterns that you might be unaware of, patterns of thought or behavior that get you into problems. For instance, your therapist might observe that you tend to rise to a certain level at your job, but then you doubt yourself and back out. It’s the same process, but in different contexts of life.

7. Connect the Dots: Therapists can help you understand your current behavior, values, and thoughts in light of earlier (usually childhood) experiences. We learn what kind of people we have come to be by connecting the dots from our family of origin to our current situation in life. There’s always a “why” behind what we do, and it’s often discovered in therapy.

8. Identify Internal Process: Some therapists are particularly keen on asking what’s going on inside your head when your have certain problem situations. They will ask you about your internal images, exactly what you’re saying to yourself, and what you feel in your body. Then they help you make changes in these to get the outcomes you want.

9. Identify and Correct Faulty Thinking: All of us make thinking mistakes, but sometimes pervasive over-generalizations, all-or-nothing thinking, seeing only the negatives, exaggerations, and selective biases can get us into substantial emotional turmoil. Therapists listen carefully for these, and help you correct them.

10. Learning About the Psychological Structure of Your Problem: Therapy can be an educational experience; this is especially important with stress and many anxiety issues, where not knowing what in the world is going on with you greatly amplifies the anxiety. When you know what’s going on with your nervous system, memory, stress response, breathing, and other mind and body matters, you will, literally, begin to “breath more easily.”

David P. Levin, M.S., LPC, NBCCH
Staff Therapist for Behavioral Healthcare Consultants

Living Your Gifts and Passion

April 20th, 2019

By: David P. Levin, LPC

Last week, in addition to visiting my children and grandchildren in Colorado, I attended a workshop presented by Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Ft. Collins.

This workshop, “Living with Meaning and Purpose in Your Life,” had a different focus. It was not about supporting others in loss, but about maximizing our gifts in view of the limitations of our days. We have only so much time; how will we best use it to bring benefit to those around us?

In one exercise we drew a line to represent our lifespan. We placed a hash mark to indicate our current age, or position, on the timeline. I’m nearly 70, and my parents both lived well into their 90’s, so I made my hash mark at about the 3/4 point. Then Alan told us to place our end date at age 78, because that’s the average U.S. lifespan now. Ignore health, genetics, luck, and self-care; 78 is what we got for this exercise. Most of the 36 of us in the room were past the halfway mark, some of us very close to the mark. The point was to re-evaluate our lives with a sense of urgency and recognition of the reality of time.

I, however, did not take this negatively. My perspective is not that 80% of my life is in the rear-view mirror, but that I have 100% of my remaining time ahead. The experiences and learning of the past have formed me into who I am today. As a therapist and writer, I see myself in my prime years now. I make it my personal responsibility to use each day well, or as Kipling wrote in the poem “If”, it is to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.”

I gave a short presentation on Ikigai, a Japanese term for “one’s purpose in life.” I have used this on occasion with clients, and it complemented the workshop material. Below is one version of the Ikigai template:

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November 27th, 2012

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