People who have not participated in mental health counseling often do not know what to expect during psychotherapy sessions. You might not be familiar with the different kinds of approaches, philosophies, and techniques used by mental health practitioners. Finding a counselor who is a “good fit” for you will make your psychotherapeutic process more effective.
Some counselors offer a free first session. This allows you to “shop around” and be selective. Become familiar with the counselor’s website and make a list of questions to ask during your initial email or telephone contact and first meeting.
You can think about mental health counseling as a personal journey with a beginning, a middle, and an end. You might not know where the journey will lead, what you might discover or encounter, or what you will learn. A good psychotherapist will accompany you during your journey, offering nonjudgmental caring, support, and guidance, and teaching new skills.
My method integrates humanistic psychology, family systems, and practical creativity.
Humanistic psychology supports your healing and personal growth by building on your strengths, focusing on meaning, potential, transformation, self-determination, resilience, motivation, talent development, competence, responsibility, and self-actualization. Client centered humanistic psychology provides a holistic (mind - body - spirit, individual - familial - social - physical - spiritual) view of the individual.
Humanistic psychology also studies creativity. Enhanced facility with creativity can contribute to successful life transitions and positive changes in everyday life. The creative process can be used to define problems, reflect on issues, incubate ideas, and implement solutions. Creativity is used by individuals who make positive changes in relationships, gain skills in parenting, succeed at school or work, contribute to innovation in business, or respond productively to crisis - such as successful adjustment to divorce.
Family systems thinking (sometimes referred to as marriage and family therapy) recognizes that each individual participates in multiple relationships. Individuals, couples, families, societies, schools, and work environments have patterns of behavior that influence individuals and are influenced by individuals. But, these patterns can be changed!
In general, with my clients, the psychotherapeutic process goes like this…
First, we will meet for a 50 minute free session during which you'll share information about issues that bring you to therapy. I'll ask questions about these issues to gain more understanding about your situation. I will explain what approaches would be the best for your issues. Then, we can decide whether to continue working together.
If we decide to go forward, I usually suggest making 4 weeks of appointments in advance so as to secure your appointment time. It's easier to remember a regular weekly time and you'll get into the rhythm of psychotherapeutic "flow" - where insights, pattern recognition, more awareness, and empowerment becomes a regular part of your life. If you are traveling or live outside of the Seattle area, we can utilize telemental health, meeting for online video conference sessions through Skype or icouch (also works with smart phones). Video conferencing can also work for many individuals in many different situations, including someone who is chronically ill, a parent who cannot leave home occasionally due to caring for a sick child, or individuals who do not want to struggle with rush hour traffic or the time required for a long commute. Video conferencing works well for folks who have busy schedules.
Some of our work together will involve looking at how your family of origin (parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.) and other significant past relationships contributed to your issues. We might explore major life events and traumas that could be having a lasting impact on you. Initially, your descriptions of family and events might be more intellectual. We would work towards gaining recognition of emotions that were involved and how your self concept was formed, integrating thinking and feeling. At the same time, you would learn skills to become more effective at coping with issues and events in your daily life.
Creativity is involved in that we will rewrite your life story so that the past does not rigidly determine and limit your present and your future. You will form a clear vision of how you want your life to be and make a plan on how to accomplish that, taking gradual steps to accomplish your goals.
Depending on what seems appropriate for you, as an individual, we might eventually use art making or sand tray, breathing exercises, visualization, or personal mythology - to gain insight and move towards your goals. These methods are usually used later, with the first few sessions devoted to me gathering information and gaining understanding of your life, accompanied by traditional "talk therapy" where I offer you nonjudgmental support, caring, and compassion. Psychotherapy can function as a container for your internal process, in that I will "hold" your experience so that you feel safe to explore, experience, understand, and take action.
Sometimes I recommend clients undertake certain kinds of "body work" that might include yoga, meditation, walking daily, massage, Chinese healing touch, or engagement in sports. The body/mind/spirit connection is powerful and body work can support, strengthen, and hasten your healing.
Again, this depends on the individual. Sometimes body work feels too similar to previous traumas and is not advisable until much later.
Sometimes I integrate care with your personal physician. I also sometimes recommend clients consult a naturopathic doctor as certain food allergies/sensitivities can strongly influence behavior, emotions, and sleep patterns.
Your care will be individualized for you because you are unique.
Depending on your situation and what you want to accomplish, we might work together weekly for 3 to 6 months to a year, and then schedule appointments every two weeks, then monthly, until you decide to conclude our work together. Of course, you can terminate psychotherapy at any time. This is your decision and a place for you to exercise power.
Generally, before clients conclude psychotherapy, we meet once to review the issues you came with and articulate what you've accomplished, how you've changed, and what your new goals are. The skills you learn in psychotherapy can be applied to challenges you encounter in the future. In a way, you will carry your own healer within you wherever you go - so that you will continue to heal and grow!
Your first free session will be 50 minutes. Usually, the 2nd appointment (the intake appointment) is 80 minutes long. Some clients prefer all appointments be 80 minutes long as longer appointments allow clients more time to bring up issues, explore issues more fully, experience and process painful emotions that might arise, find resolution, make action plans, and feel "finished." This is your decision and this decision will empower you.
I can bill insurance as an out-of-network provider. Whatever fees are not covered by insurance are then billed to you. Some clients use medical savings accounts to pay fees. Sometimes, fees count towards deductibles on insurance policies.
Billing insurance requires a diagnosis that will remain part of your permanent record. Some clients want to protect their privacy by not billing insurance. Sometimes clients do want the financial advantages of billing insurance. This will be your decision. Generally, if I do bill insurance, I give a "mild" diagnosis that is related to some transitory situation so that the client is not identified as severely or chronically mentally ill. These are important issues to consider and discuss with your psychotherapist.
The location of your psychotherapist's office can also affect confidentiality. Unfortunately, there is still social stigma attached to seeking mental health services - even though this is a sign of strength. If you want to avoid people knowing you are engaged in mental health counseling - and you do not want to meet people you might know in a psychotherapist's waiting room or parking lot, then select a counselor that has different entrances and exits for clients, no waiting room, and a parking lot that is shared with a variety of businesses. My private practice office has this kind of confidential location.
I hope all of this information is not too overwhelming. You can use the information I provided about my practice to formulate questions to ask counselors that you interview. As you select a psychotherapist and begin working together, keep asking questions about the process. If you express your needs clearly, you are more likely to get your needs met. If you understand the mental health counseling process, you can participate more fully.
If you have further questions or desire additional information, please feel free to contact me.
Take good care of yourself.
Kind regards, Dr. Benyshek
Dr. Benyshek is a devoted psychotherapist and marriage counselor, a professional artist, and an internationally renowned researcher on contemporary artists as shamans.