Navigating the process of seeking therapy can feel overwhelming, and the amount of information floating on the internet can be daunting to sift through. In the 2019 National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, just 19% of adults had received any mental health treatment in the previous 12 months (Terlizzi & Zablotsky, 2020). In a place like NYC, where options seem endless, finding the right practice and therapist can feel intimidating, not to mention tricky without clear direction.
That’s why we’ve pooled together your most Googled questions about therapy in NYC and answered them in a way that is clear and focused on providing you with the best-fit information to help you make an informed decision. The questions are broken into 3 categories: Questions About the Process, Questions About the Therapist, and Questions about the Logistics. Take a look below and explore each inquiry through the eyes of NYC therapists. You can also reach out to our practice, New York Behavioral Health (NYBH), to help answer any other questions you may have!
Questions About the Process
- Does therapy actually work?
It’s an age-old question and probably the one that’s at the forefront of anyone’s mind prior to seeking therapy for the first time. In short, the answer is yes. There is ample research to confirm the process of change and development that can arise out of therapy, and there are specific factors that contribute to successful outcomes. One study suggests that with success in implementing new behaviors in session, clients become increasingly motivated to resolve problems related to their intrapersonal and interpersonal functioning (Lambert & Vermeersch, 2002).
But not all therapy is created equal, and it is important that you are seeking out a practice or therapist that is best suited to address your needs! This can take some legwork on your part by looking into practices that work with the concerns you have. You will find that different offices follow different theories, use different models of therapy, and cater to different difficulties that one might be experiencing. Keep an eye open for therapists that outline working with clients who share your concerns, and don’t be afraid to “shop around” for the practice that feels right for you (and are currently accepting new clients). Once you’ve found a few that match your needs, reach out via phone or email. The first interaction will help answer additional questions you may have before choosing which practice to go with.
- What outcomes can I expect from therapy?
While this is something you want to discuss in depth with your therapist, and will be largely dependent on your reason for seeking therapy in the first place, there are some typical outcomes that are more commonly found across many modes of therapy. A greater sense of clarity and reduced stress around your presenting concern can often be expected. Increased self-awareness and empowerment around your circumstance can also be expected in many cases.
New perspectives and insight are general outcomes of therapy coupled with direction to help navigate a healthy path forward. Additionally, feeling more centered, balanced, and/or restored are all possible outcomes in treatment. A sense of healing and renewed quality of life are also hopeful goals to achieve in counseling. You will also almost always come out of counseling with new skills, techniques, and tools to help with coping and managing future challenges in between sessions and after therapy has concluded. The therapists at NYBH are skilled in developing a treatment plan that helps to achieve your desired outcomes from therapy.
- What do sessions and treatment “look like”?
Like much of therapy, sessions and treatment will look different for different clients. However, there are some defining features that most practices and therapists in NYC adhere to. The length of your session will typically be 45 minutes. In the first session, therapists conduct an intake interview which is a comprehensive set of questions that you go through together, which details experience about you presenting concerns, past experiences, as well as your family, medical, and social histories. All this information is taken into consideration and discussed in terms of treatment planning, which you will work on with your therapist in the following sessions.
In this time you will develop goals together that will help guide the sessions following. After treatment planning, you will work with your therapist on exploring presenting concerns, processing experiences, navigating change, untangling sticky situations, learning new skills, practicing techniques, making meaningful connections, drawing conclusions, challenging and/or accepting thoughts, and changing behaviors. As your treatment goals will be the guiding principles of growth and change, you and your therapist will check in regularly about your progress toward reaching desired outcomes, and can work on developing new goals throughout the process as growth is built upon.
- How do I know I should seek therapy?
There is no “one size fits all” model for when to seek therapy, and it is important to note that there are countless reasons someone would consider seeking professional support. Stress, anxiety, anger, conflict, feelings of depression, identity support, relationship/family issues, self-esteem, grief/loss, trauma, burnout, and life transitions, among several others, are all common reasons someone might seek therapy. In the same regard, you might have no idea what you are experiencing and you need help figuring out what might be taking place in order to get some resolved; this is also a very appropriate time to try therapy.
A good rule of thumb for many concerns is to recognize if it is causing clinically significant distress/impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning. If the presenting problem is hindering other areas of your life, reaching out for therapeutic support would be advised. As an overarching rule, it comes down to how you are feeling. If “off-balance,” “out of sorts,” “empty” or others like it come to mind, or you recognize that new feelings such as sadness, frustration, anger, or discontent are impeding your thoughts, behaviors, and ability to move through life in a way that feels comfortable for you, seeking therapy should become a priority.
Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?
Questions About the Therapist
- Are there different types of therapists?
Yes, many! Both in academic degree and in theory, practice, style, and approach. The variety of therapists, and especially those in NYC, speaks to their collective ability to reach the vast spectrum of individuals with unique needs. In the same way medical professionals have specific specialties they practice, mental health professionals adhere to a similar model.
Sticking to this thought, mental health professionals are also trained in the basics of many general therapeutic practices, in the same way doctors will go through hospital rotations to ensure they are trained broadly on all fronts of their work. Additionally, NYC houses some of the leading research institutes that are doing work on new and emerging practices, and it is a prime location to find an exact match for working with your specific needs. At NYBH, we have a team of psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors all working as qualified therapists to meet your therapeutic needs.
- How can I find the right therapist for me in NYC?
The best answer to offer here is to do your research, and don’t be afraid to call and ask! If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, feelings of depression, or something that might be considered more common among many individuals, many therapists are equipped to help here; looking for someone in your area or within your budget or healthcare network will help you narrow down a preference.
You may also want to consider those who might have a focus on a particular identity you hold, cultural and/or gender preferences, or other salient life experiences that a particular therapist might have expertise in. If you are experiencing something that is more complex, you can look into types of therapists that work with your symptoms. Therapists should not attempt to treat you if they recognize you are presenting with a concern outside of their scope of practice, and they should make appropriate referrals to someone who will be able to help.
So it is OK to not land in the same place you started, because at the very least, you will be assisted in finding the appropriate care for your needs. The therapeutic relationship is also a cornerstone of our work; if you find the relationship doesn’t “fit” for you, that’s OK too! Like any other relationship, it is important to feel comfortable just as you are, and that doesn’t always happen on the first try either. Be clear and honest with your therapist about your needs for support, and work together to navigate your best path forward for healing.
- Can I talk to my therapist about anything?
This is a great question, and an important one to note. You can, and should, talk to your therapist about what you’re experiencing, and shouldn’t hesitate to discuss intimate details that are important to you in your process if you think it would be helpful. However, opening up to someone you don’t know might not be easy, which is why therapists prioritize trust, rapport, and building the therapeutic relationship. It is important that you feel comfortable to disclose information, especially with the experiences that might be wrapped in the difficult-to-process feelings like shame, guilt, regret, hopelessness, and grief, to name a few.
A therapist should do whatever they can to ensure you feel safe and supported to disclose delicate details in a non-judgemental space. Confidentiality will also be discussed at length in the very beginning of your first meeting so you know what the therapist’s legal and ethical responsibilities are to report. As a general rule, the therapist will only breech confidentiality if they recognize there is a danger to you, a danger to others, or suspected child abuse or neglect. Though there are nuances around these, and it is important to get the full picture understanding with your therapist, everything you discuss should be maintained in the safety of your session.
- What if my therapist doesn’t understand or believe me?
This is a unique question with an answer that might surprise you; the truth is not the top priority in therapy, your experience is. Though there might be times when the therapist will challenge you to deepen your understanding or open your perspective, there will seldom be a time when a therapist says “I don’t believe you.” Rather, they will do everything in their power to make efforts to understand you, as this is a primary focus of the practice. The truth can be important for creating resolve, but the means to uncover it is a collaborative effort, rather than a combative one. You will often hear phrases like “I want to make sure I’m hearing you correctly…” “What I believe I’m hearing is…” and “Can you tell me a bit more so I ensure I understand…” You can head into your session knowing that the goal is to understand you, and you work with your therapist to reach it.
- Do therapists tell you what to do?
The short answer is no. You have the agency and autonomy to control your life and therapy is meant to increase or bolster that independence, not take from it. The therapist is not meant to be authoritative but rather collaborative. In fact, you will most likely spend a session or two developing a treatment plan together, with goals and objectives that fit your primary therapeutic concerns. And with this partnership dynamic, there will be a natural flow of guidance that comes from both you and your therapist.
The therapist will pay particular attention to where you take the conversation and where your thoughts/feelings land in session (this is you guiding the way), and then the therapist will take in this information and guide you down a path of clarifying and insight. This cyclical process is common, where force is eliminated from the equation, and direction is more appropriately inserted. Check out the NYBH team of therapists to find the right professional for you.
- What if I see my therapist in public?
This is one of the most common questions, especially in the social city of NYC. With this, you are entirely in control of the interaction. According to the American Psychological Association Code of Ethics, the therapist maintains responsibility to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the client (2017). Because of this, your therapist will never approach you in public, even if you have made eye contact and recognized each other. This is because the interaction could breach confidentiality and expose you to vulnerability in a situation that you didn’t wish to be in. However, approaching your therapist is entirely up to you. It is inevitable in NYC to run into people you know, and a passing kind word is always welcomed with the understanding that you are not in the confidential space of the therapy session. Be mindful of the situation and those in it; the interaction can also be discussed and processed in your next session together.
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Questions About the Logistics
- What does therapy cost?
The answer to this is a resounding “it depends.” Especially in NYC, where the variation of practice type, specialty, and therapist is so broad, a direct answer here would be inaccurate. A more appropriate response would be understanding how therapy can be paid for, and deciding what the best pay options are for you. You will typically see two buckets here: in-network providers and out-of-network providers. The network? Your health insurance. They might cover part of or the whole cost in either bucket, or nothing at all, so be sure to do your research. Sliding-scale and out of pocket options are also common, so talking to the prospective therapy practices to understand your financial commitment is important here. Many practices tier their pricing as well, often based on therapist experience. This offers more affordable options to seek help from qualified providers who are simply newer in the field.
- How long will therapy take?
This is also a gray-area question that can’t be answered in a simple statement. The determining factors are how complex your concerns are, what type of therapist/therapy you seek, what goals you set for yourself, and what progress is made each session, among others. Therapy is tailored to you and your needs, which should help to reassure you that you are expected to walk away having achieved the outcomes you were hoping for, or gained the tools you need to live more comfortably. Some therapy is brief, and will only be a matter of weeks, while other therapy is intense, and can be several years, with plenty of therapy landing somewhere in the middle. You also might only see your therapist once a week, but could see them more or less than that, again, depending on your needs. A somewhat defining line is that many sessions are blocked out for an hour’s time, but there is variation in this as well.
- Is there a difference between teletherapy and in-person?
Aside from the obvious difference of being in-person versus virtual, there are a few minor differences in these variations that have opened the door to client preference, which is a welcomed transition in the therapeutic community. The traditional in-person therapy will remain the “gold standard” for many therapists because the observance of the whole person, nonverbal communication, fully-secured confidentiality, and organic connection are all best facilitated in the same physical space.
However, virtual therapy has seemed to open-up an element of comfort for clients that they often feel more strongly in their own space, rather than in a therapy office. This has helped to encourage new clients who would have otherwise not sought therapy to give it a try with the addition of such personal security. But a looming concern for therapists in the virtual space is confidentiality, which they can only ensure on their side, not the client’s side. Though the differences are evident, therapy can happen successfully in both environments, and either option is viable to help you with your concerns. NYBH provides both teletherapy and in-person therapy to fit the unique needs of our clients.
- Is therapy in NYC different from other locations?
By nature of the city, there may be several newer or emerging fields of therapy specifically popping-up in NYC, but the standard practices of therapy are regulated by the state and most states hold similar regulations regarding rules of licensure and care. It is important to note that there may be variations in guidelines for treatment practices, intake processes, and elements of assessment that can differ from practice to practice; this is a flexibility that allows different therapy groups to customize the experience to suit client needs. With specific regard to the city, NYC houses many experts in specified care who can be named among the top therapists in the world. Ultimately, the uniqueness of all therapy is meant to meet the uniqueness of your needs.
There you have it! Your most Googled questions about therapy in NYC answered by NYC therapists themselves. A defining theme in the questions is that the answer often comes down to YOU. From the process, to the therapist, to the logistics, your unique concerns, needs, and attributes are the focus of quality therapy. Keep asking questions, doing research, and using this guide as a platform to get the answers you need. Quality therapy is out there for you, and finding the right fit will make all the difference. Don’t forget to check out the many options available to you at NYBH, and take a look at our FAQ page for more information!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders
American Psychological Association (2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of
conduct. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/ethics-code-2017.pdf
Lambert, M. J., & Vermeersch, D. A. (2002). Effectiveness of Psychotherapy. Encyclopedia of
Psychotherapy, 709-714. Elsevier Science.
Terlizzi, E. P., & Zablotsky, B. (2020). Mental Health Treatment Among Adults: United States,
2019. National Center for Health Statistics.