POTENTIAL BENEFITS & RISKS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
Like any healthcare service or treatment, there are both risks and benefits associated with mental health services. Clients have the right to be informed of such possible risks and benefits before giving their consent for treatment.
Potential Benefits Of Psychotherapy
There are a number of positive outcomes of psychotherapy. Benefits can result from both short term and long-term counseling. The degree to which benefits are experienced usually depends on such things as the specific issues or difficulties you hope to address and goals you have set and the degree of follow through with treatment.
Following is a list of some common benefits of psychotherapy. Some of these benefits may or may not apply to you at this time. This list Is not comprehensive; there are certainly other potential benefits not listed.
Commonly identified benefits of psychotherapy include improvement in ...
1. Your general mood. If you often feel sad you may feel more hopeful and positive; If often nervous or won edge," you may feel more relaxed; if often angry, you may feel less irritable or frustrated.
2. Your self esteem and self confidence. You may feel better able to accept personal limitations and recognize your strengths.
3. Your ability to set realistic goals and accomplish them.
4. Your ability to manage stressful life circumstances.
5. Your ability to manage strong emotional reactions such as anger, fear, or sadness.
6. Your ability to trust, feel dose to, and communicate your feelings, thoughts, and needs more openly to others.
7. Your ability to stop "problem behaviors" such as excessive drinking, eating, gambling, smoking, using drugs, unsafe sexual behavior, aggressive behavior, or other behaviors with which you may have been having difficulty.
8. Your ability to engage in healthier behaviors (changes you have wanted to make but felt unmotivated or unable to begin or continue) such as exercising regularly, following a more balanced diet, spending more time with family and friends, and just relaxing a bit more.
POTENTIAL RISKS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
Like any healthcare service, there are also potential risks associated with psychotherapy. Once again, this is not a comprehensive list; special circumstances may be associated with specific, unique risks. Similarly, not all of these risks apply to every client's situation.
Potential risks of psychotherapy include:
1. You may not experience improvement or movement toward achieving your goals. You and your therapist will monitor your progress closely. If you do not feel that progress is being made, you and/or your therapist may decide to change your treatment, discontinue treatment, or refer you to a different type of therapist, specialist, or program.
2. In the beginning some feelings or behaviors may get worse. For example, if you are trying to stop or reduce a certain behavior that you feel is "unhealthy" (e.g., excessive alcohol use), your desire to engage in the behavior may actually increase in the first 2 4 weeks. If you talk about a very upsetting life event (e.g., loss of a loved one, physical or sexual assault, a serious car accident, etc.) you may experience strong negative thoughts and emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, a sense of helplessness, or a belief that things will never get better. The intensity of these thoughts and feelings is usually temporary. You and your therapist can discuss the likelihood that these types of reactions will occur and help you identify ways of handling them. Learning how to best cope with such reactions is often an important part of therapy.
3. Important people in your life may not support your decision to be in therapy. Some people still have the belief that when someone is in therapy it means that he or she is "crazy" or "weak." Sometimes these individuals will tease or argue with the client. In more extreme circumstances, someone may stop associating with the person because they found out the he or she is in therapy. If you are concerned about others' reactions, tell your therapist. You can then discuss how and to whom you wish to disclose that you are in therapy.
4. If you expect to use your health insurance benefits to pay for therapy at some point in the future, you may want to find out if your insurance has a pre existing condition clause. Some health insurance companies deny coverage for the treatment of "pre existing conditions".
5. If you apply for a job that requires a security clearance, a in depth background check may be conducted. You and/or your therapist will probably be asked to provide information about your therapy. Your psychological treatment history may be cited as grounds for denying you employment.
6. If you are a member of the United States military forces, your Commanding Officer may require that you obtain approval for any civilian psychological services. You may want to consider what effect receiving services from an identified Lesbian and Gay service provider may have on your military standing.
7. You may develop strong positive feelings for your therapist and feel sad or distressed when therapy ends.
Strong positive feelings for your therapist are normal and usually helpful in developing a trusting therapeutic relationship (it's difficult to trust someone you don't like or enjoy talking to). Sometimes a client develops a sexual/romantic attraction to a therapist. These feelings are usually temporary and make sense. You will be discussing personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences with your therapist. This type of discussion often creates a feeling of closeness. So, when therapy is ending, it's natural that clients experience a sense of loss and sadness. Once again, such feelings are usually short lived, especially when excited about feeling better and meeting goals for change.
I encourage you to discuss any fears, concerns, or doubts you have with me, including specific risks and benefits not listed that may be associated with your situation.