What is the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist?

A therapist is someone who has a graduate degree in clinical psychology, thousands of hours of training post-degree with supervision from a licensed professional, and has passed the California licensing exam.  A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has gone to medical school, done a residency in psychiatry, and passed the medical board exam.  Only medical doctors (MD’s) can prescribe and manage medication.  Some psychiatrists also offer therapy along with medication management.

Should I take medication or go into psychotherapy?

Your medical doctor may or may not feel that medication would be of assistance to you.  In any case, research strongly supports the conclusion that medication in conjunction with therapy is far more effective than just medication alone.  If you would like to explore the option of medication, I can help you find a doctor to discuss this with you.  Therapy is not always easy, and it can be tempting to want to solve a problem with medication alone.  My clients in Los Angeles find that the hard work they do in therapy is well worth the reward of feeling much better about themselves and their lives.

What’s the difference between talking to a therapist or my best friend or family?

Talking to sympathetic friends and family members is a good idea!  Having a strong support system is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.  

Talking to a mental health professional should be a completely different experience from talking to a friend.  One of the main differences between therapy and talking to friends is that therapy is CONFIDENTIAL.  What you say in therapy, stays in therapy!  This is a legal mandate, though there are certain exceptions in cases of harm to yourself or others. Most importantly, your therapist will create a SAFE space for you- one that is completely non-judgmental.  Most of my clients find that this is a unique situation where they can freely explore things about themselves and their lives that they have not been able to do anywhere else.  Most of us carry around some shame about our shadow self- therapy is the safe and appropriate place to process those feelings.

What can I expect from therapy?

In addition to creating a safe and confidential space for you to explore your feelings and your relationships, therapy should give you TOOLS.  You should leave each therapy session with ideas and skills for managing your emotions and your relationships more effectively than you have in the past.  Therapy can be brief and goal oriented- just a few sessions to help make a decision, improve communication in a relationship, or clarify your goals.  We have process-oriented therapy techniques that can give you skills to improve your self-esteem or change a bad memory.  Therapy can also go deeper and explore the reasons you feel the way you do, or change long-standing overall patterns of behavior.  Many of my clients come into therapy with a small issue, and find they want to delve deeper and create new patterns for a more meaningful life.

How do I find a therapist that is right for me?

Choosing a therapist in Los Angeles can be confusing.  It is a good idea to peruse the website to get a feel for their style.  Notice if they have a degree from an accredited school and if they are licensed in your state.  Do they work with a certain population?  Do they have experience with your issue and demographic?  Do they have a particular orientation that makes sense to you?  It's always a good idea to talk to the therapist to get a feel for whether or not they are a good fit.  Many therapists offer a free consultation so that you can have an opportunity to talk to them before you commit.  Have some questions written down before you call- for example, "I am having problems with my teenager, would you want to see both of us, or only me?"  It might seem awkward talking on the phone the first time, but you will probably get a feeling for whether or not this would be a good person to see for an actual session.  In the end, you can usually trust your gut.

When I do a free phone consultation, we discuss your issues and how therapy can help you feel better.  Usually I will have some ideas that resonate with you and we will make an appointment to explore ways you can begin to feel better right away.  At your initial session you will get a much better idea of how we would work together, and can set up a regular appointment schedule if that works for you.  If you think that someone else might be a better fit, I will help you find another therapist who might better meet your needs.  Whether you decide to continue therapy or not, you will walk away from our initial session with tools to improve your mood and your relationships - it's a win-win!

Can you help me if I am not in Los Angeles?

Yes! I offer online therapy and have clients all over the state of California. If you are interested in coaching, I offer online coaching as well for anyone in or outside of California. Coaching and therapy are somewhat different, and if you have a diagnosable mental illness, therapy would be indicated. Coaching can often be effectively combined with therapy in these cases, and we can determine together what might work best for you. Either way, if you need therapy and you are not in California, I am happy to refer you to a therapist in your state. Please feel free to give me a call and we can discuss the differences between therapy and coaching, and which might be appropriate for your specific situation.

If you are ready to learn more about how therapy can help you feel better right now, call me at 323-999-1537 or email me at amy@thrivetherapyla.com. Or click on the button below to go directly to my online calendar.