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Funda-Mental Health Resources for Pratt Students: FAQs

This guide provides resources and tips for Pratt students interested in improving their mental well-being or seeking professional mental health treatment.

What is therapy?

Psychotherapy (often just referred to as therapy) is the process of speaking with a mental health professional about your problems or concerns. The mental health professional listens with an objective ear and helps you learn more about yourself, and new ways of looking at situations.

How do I know if I need therapy?

Generally therapy is recommended whenever a person is grappling with a life, relationship or work issue or a specific mental health concern, and these issues are causing the individual a great deal of pain or upset for longer than a few days. As a student, the primary goal is to help you develop the skills and abilities to solve problems as they arise, in order to make the most of your academic experience.

Typical reasons to seek counseling include, but are not limited to:

- Academic Problems - Adjustment - Anxiety
- Career Problems - Dating Issues - Depression
- Domestic Abuse - Eating Issues - Family Problems
- Gender Identity - Homesickness - Interpersonal Problems
- Self-esteem Issues - Sexual Orientation - Spirituality
- Substance Abuse - Suicidal Thoughts  

Is therapy expensive?

At private practices, therapy can sometimes cost $100+ per session, but not to worry, there are always low-fee options available 

1. Are you a Pratt student? There is NO COST for counseling at Pratt. If you are not a student at Prattmost schools offer counseling services for their students that is included in their tuition fee. If it's not free, it's usually low-fee ($5-$25) or based on a sliding scale which is significantly less than a therapy session at a private agency.
2. Do you have insurance? Similar to the above, insurance companies will offer therapy (sometimes called Behavioral Health Services) for their patients. Depending on your insurance plan, the co-pay will vary, but again, it will still be less than what you would pay out of pocket at a private agency.
3. Do you have Medicaid? Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the United States and is increasingly playing a larger role in the reimbursement of substance use disorder services. Out of pocket costs will vary, but it's best to contact your local Medicaid office to determine your coverage. Additionally, New York State has moved Medicaid behavioral health services from a fee-for-service system into Managed Care. Medicaid Managed Care plans and Medicaid providers will work together with you to create a person-centered service system focused on recovery and on integrating physical and behavioral health to improve health outcomes - meaning: your PCP and Medicaid will also help direct you to the right behavioral health services.

What's the difference between a social worker vs. psychologist vs. psychiatrist vs. MFT vs. life coach?

A clinical social worker has at least a master's degree in social work and training to be able to evaluate and treat mental illnesses. In addition to psychotherapy, social workers can provide case management and hospital discharge planning as well as work as an advocate for patients and their family.

A psychologist has a doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) in psychology, which is the study of the mind and behaviors. Graduate school provides a psychologist an education in evaluating and treating mental and emotional disorders. After completing graduate school, a clinical psychologist completes an internship that lasts two to three years and provides further training in treatment methods, psychological theory, and behavioral therapy.

Licensed psychologists are qualified to do counseling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders. They are not, though, medical doctors. That means that, with the exception of a few states, psychologists cannot write prescriptions or perform medical procedures. Often a psychologist will work in association with a psychiatrist or other medical doctor who provides the medical treatment for mental illness while the psychologist provides the psychotherapy.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness. A psychiatrist's training starts with four years of medical school and is followed by a one-year internship and at least three years of specialized training as a psychiatric resident. A psychiatrist is trained to differentiate mental health problems from other underlying medical conditions that could present with psychiatric symptoms. They also monitor the effects of mental illness on other physical conditions (such as problems with the heart or high blood pressure), and the effects of medicines on the body (such as weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, sleep, and kidney or liver functioning).

As a doctor, a psychiatrist is licensed to write prescriptions. Many mental disorders -- such as depressionanxietyADHD, or bipolar disorder -- can be treated effectively with specific drugs. If you are working with a psychiatrist, a lot of the treatment may be focused on medication management. Sometimes medication alone is enough to treat the mental illness. Sometimes a combination of medication and psychotherapy or counseling is needed. If that is the case, the psychiatrist may provide the psychotherapy, or the psychiatrist may refer you to a counselor or other type of mental health professional.

A psychological counselor or Marriage and Family Therapist are both considered therapists and mental health professionals with a master's degree (MA) in psychology, counseling, or a related field. In order to be licensed, the professional counselor also needs two additional years' experience working with a qualified mental health professional after graduate school. A psychological counselor is qualified to evaluate and treat mental problems by providing counseling or psychotherapy. MFTs are unique because they are trained in both psychotherapy and family systems, which allows them to focus on understanding client symptoms in the context of the relational interactions that influence behavior. The problem does not define the client but rather is a symptom of his or her system.

While many life coaches seek specialized coach training and certification, there is no state board that requires this. In fact, anyone who wants to use the title of coach can do so because coaching is an unregulated industry at this time. Coaches work with people who are basically healthy and functional but not reaching their full potential. Coaching tends to focus on the present and future rather than the past, and help people identify their goals and the obstacles they are facing. Like therapy, coaching involves guidance and support but also places a great deal of emphasis on accountability, enabling people to do more than they might on their own. 

Is therapy only for crazy people?

Nope! You can be "normal" and seek counseling. When you want to get a haircut, you would go to a hair stylist or barber. When you want to get rid of a cold, you'd see a doctor. Likewise, when you want help with improving your mental health, you should see a mental health professional.

Getting counseling is not a sign of weakness but of strength – if you initiate counseling, it is evidence that you are taking charge of your own wellbeing. Many students have found counseling to be helpful when they are having trouble functioning here at Pratt.

It may feel daunting to share your experience with a stranger. Keep in mind, your therapist will establish a safe and structured environment where you can feel comfortable discussing your thoughts and feelings. The approach is non-judgmental and collaborative.

Therapists help clarify options, provide support and understanding, assist with setting goals, explore feelings and correct misconceptions.

How is therapy different than telling my problems to my friends or family?

Like a relationship with a loved one, seeing a therapist involves conversation, being vulnerable, and maybe receiving advice. These aspects are only a small part of what psychotherapy entails.

Only a therapist will have years of schooling and advanced degrees in human behavior, relationship dynamics and effective interventions to help improve your mental health without risking any damage to your personal relationships. 

Therapists are trained to listen in order to refrain from judgment; understand their clients; encourage independent thinking and self-reflection; and highlight their blind spots. They earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and sometimes a doctoral degree. 

Therapists are legally and ethically obligated to keep your secrets safe. This means that we’re more likely to dig deeper and unravel the layers of ourselves when we know that we can spill our secrets in a safe space. Therapists have no emotional stake in the situation, so they can provide unbiased guidance. 

With a therapist, you are paying him or her to listen and help you. The session belongs to you!

Here are some aspects of therapy that provide long-term value and go beyond the kind of chatting you could do with a friend:

  • Learning how to better manage emotions
  • Challenging negative beliefs that negatively affect your life
  • Learning new perspectives on situations and people
  • Learning how to improve good relationships and avoid toxic ones
  • Identifying negative and positive behaviors, decisions and patterns
  • Understanding how your past is affecting the present
  • Reducing symptoms of mental illness
  • Preventing the development of mental illnesses
  • Learning therapeutic techniques such as breathing techniques and journaling
  • Learning to be more authentic and understand who you are

I've had a prior negative experience with therapy.

Sometimes your initial experience with therapy doesn't go as you thought or hoped it would, which can be disappointing or discouraging.  There are multiple reasons this might be the case: talking about painful thoughts and feelings can be difficult; therapy may not offer the immediate relief you expected; your therapist was not the right fit; and sometimes it takes more time to better understand and work on your difficulties. 

Every therapist applies a specific methodology to their practice. You may want to seek a therapist who has experience in the most important issues you want to discuss, who practices a type of therapy different than your previous therapist, or commit to therapy for a longer time period. It's important to communicate your feelings about treatment with your therapist so that they can adjust, refer you to another therapist, or perhaps clarify things.

The Pratt Counseling Center is happy to talk to you about your experience and welcomes your feedback, so if you feel that a previous experience with counseling/therapy was dissatisfactory, you are encouraged to let them know and give counseling another try.