Counseling Frequently Asked Questions
When should you seek therapy?
You may want to seek therapy if you are struggling with long-standing patterns of emotional distress or interpersonal problems. If you are coping with past or current trauma or abuse, significant deprivation, or are suffering from a diagnosable condition such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health disorder.
What is the difference between Counseling and Therapy?
Counseling and psychotherapy have many similarities and a few specific differences. Counseling focuses on present problems or situations, and/or specific situations or behaviors. Counselors offer support, education, and guidance to help clients to identify and find their own solutions to current situations and challenges. Counseling tends to be shorter term than therapy and focuses on actions and behaviors.
Psychotherapy is more focused on chronic or recurrent problems, with the goal of healing root issues such as trauma or childhood wounds and family of origin issues. Psychotherapy is big picture-oriented, looking at overall patterns of feelings and behaviors. The goal of therapy is personal growth and emotional freedom, with an in-depth focus on feelings, thoughts, and personal experiences.
Psychotherapy tends to be more long-term working toward full resolution and healing. It may involve psychological testing and assessments.
Most therapists offer both counseling and in-depth psychotherapy as there is often much overlap in the two processes.
When should you seek counseling?
You may want to seek counseling if you are addressing specific issues or short-term problems. If you would like to learn coping skills to manage stress, or more effective relationship and conflict resolution skills, counseling can be very helpful.
Some areas where counseling can be warranted are in dealing with life transitions such as a new job or relocation, marital or family problems, a divorce or separation, addiction issues, or for help in navigating grief and loss.
Why working with a Catholic therapist matters?
Every therapist has beliefs and standards that they adhere to and that come to play in their work with clients. But values and standards in our culture and in the field of psychology have changed significantly over the years, some for the better, and many for the worse.
A Catholic therapist adheres to time-honored values and ethics as defined by the Magisterium of the Catholic church. These values and standards have not changed over time but remain immutable. For instance, the belief in the intrinsic value of the human person, and the sanctity of marriage and sexuality are examples of those values that are safeguarded by Holy Mother Church.
In addition, a Catholic therapist recognizes that God is the ultimate healer, and as professionals, we are His instruments that help to facilitate that healing process. A Catholic therapist integrates prayer and the power of the sacraments into the therapeutic process to effect deep and lasting healing. As God’s instruments, the goal is to transfer a reliance on the therapist and therapeutic process, onto God and a sacramental life of grace.
How should I choose a counselor or therapist?
When choosing a therapist or counselor, it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in the person you choose. Choosing a therapist that has been screened for faithful adherence to the teachings of the Catholic church is a good start to be sure the therapist shares your values and will not lead you, or your child, astray.
It may take a session or two to determine if you and your therapist are a good fit. Most therapists will offer a short phone call for you to ask questions to see if you are comfortable working with them. It’s ok to interview more than one therapist to see with whom you feel most comfortable.
Are Catholic therapists funded by the Catholic church?
No. The Catholic church does not offer counseling or therapy and does not fund or underwrite therapy.
What are the fees for therapy/counseling?
Each therapist or counselor is independent and sets his or her own fees. You should discuss upfront what the fees are and if the therapist/counselor accepts your insurance or will provide you with receipts for out-of-network coverage.
Do therapists prescribe medication?
Only medical doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe medication. A therapist or counselor can help to evaluate if you would benefit from medication and may refer you to a psychiatrist or a nurse practitioner. Many psychiatrists and nurse practitioners offer only medication management and not therapy, so in most cases, you would see a doctor for your medications and another therapist for therapy.
If I am taking medication, do I still need to see a therapist?
Medication may be used to help manage symptoms such as anxiety or depression but does not generally cure those conditions. It is important to work with a qualified therapist to resolve the root problems that may be causing your depression or anxiety.
Certain disorders, like bipolar disorder or psychiatric conditions, like schizophrenia often require medication in addition to psychotherapy.
How are counseling and therapy different from coaching?
Whereas counseling and therapy are problem-oriented and focused on the past and the present, as described above, coaching is focused forward toward setting and achieving goals. Coaching presupposes healthy emotional functioning and is a powerful vehicle to improve and effect positive change for the future. A coach will help you to set goals that suit your personal calling and help you devise and stay focused on a plan to make those goals a reality.
How is Catholic therapy/counseling different than spiritual direction?
As described above, therapy and counseling focus on problem-solving and resolution of emotional and psychological distress.
Spiritual direction is focused on growing in your relationship with God and the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in your life. A Catholic therapist may offer some spiritual guidance in the course of therapy but are generally not trained spiritual directors.
Can I work with a spiritual director instead of or concurrent with therapy?
If you are struggling with emotional and psychological distress, working with a trained therapist or counselor is important. Most spiritual directors are not trained in psychology and spiritual direction is not a substitute for therapy or counseling.
You may benefit from working with a spiritual director, while also working in therapy or counseling. A spiritual director can help you to find meaning and spiritual strength as painful issues are dealt with in therapy.