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From Freud’s Couch to Your Fingertips

Exploring therapy options for New Yorkers

By Alexa Pipia & Alison Kanski  |  @a_pipia  & @alisonkanski

May 12, 2015


As easy as it is to hail a cab in New York City, it’s even easier to become overwhelmed with stress. City dwellers feel the burden of long workdays, relationship troubles, commuting woes and the dread of paying next month’s rent. With thousands of psychologists, counselors and social workers practicing in the five boroughs and at least four different forms of therapy, New Yorkers have a high chance of finding a therapist that fits their lifestyle.

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Individual Therapy

This is what usually comes to mind when people think of therapy. In-person individual therapy focuses on building trust between a therapist and a client. Depending on the therapist and the severity of the patient’s problems, sessions can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. Those without mental illness seeking therapy can meet with a therapist as often as twice-weekly or simply on an as-needed basis. One of the benefits of individual therapy is the therapist’s ability to read a client’s body cues along with what they’re speaking about.

“In person, you’re able to get people’s body language,” said Jackie Lavelle, a mental health counselor. “Which is very important because patients don’t tell you the whole truth.”

Group Therapy

Less expensive than individual therapy, group therapy benefits those who are looking to connect with others who have similar issues as themselves, or those who have a concern with their relationships and how others perceive them. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous use the group therapy method. There are number of other therapists in New York City who use this method and there are groups for almost any topic imaginable.

“The most exciting moments are when someone hears something about themselves that they are not facing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Schretzman, a clinical social worker and therapist.

Dr. Schretzman holds closed group sessions in which she invites clients from her one-on-one sessions to speak in a small group, usually no more than 12 people, who are all strangers. She chooses not to have topic discussions, letting the group speak of their concerns while she moderates and makes sure no client overpowers another.

Phone/Video Therapy

Phone and video therapy is an option for those who can’t commit to coming to an office every week. Many therapists offer flexible phone and video calls for their clients. Especially for those who travel often or work unusual hours, phone and video therapy offers stability to the client’s therapy schedule. Phone and video therapy is also helpful for the socially anxious who are uncomfortable speaking in-person to a therapist, but who still want and need the benefits of therapy.

“I completely would’ve thought that phone therapy would lose a lot because you don’t have that direct personal connection,” said Dr. Niall Geoghegan, a psychologist who uses phone and video therapy. “This doesn’t seem to be losing anything.”

Many of Dr. Geoghegan’s clients work with him because of distance or frequent traveling. He also gives his in-person clients the option to use phone or video calls if they can’t make it to his office. He conducts his in-person and phone/video sessions identically and hasn’t noticed a difference in effectiveness for his clients.

Text Therapy

            The newest form of therapy allows even the busiest New Yorker to improve his or her mental wellness. Text therapy started in 2011 by the New York-based company Talkspace. Users are connected to a licensed therapist who they are able to text at their leisure.

            “It’s so much easier for clients because it gets people to say things they wouldn’t say face to face,” said Dr. Scott Christnelly, a Talkspace therapist.

Because this method is new, not a lot of research has come out about its effectiveness. The amount of texts a user can send are unlimited, but it is up to the therapist how often he or she chooses to respond to clients.

Though each kind of therapist may believe their method is the best in the field, it depends on the client and what they’re comfortable with. “The things that aren’t working in your life are the best to figure out,” said Dr. Schertzman. “Therapy is for you to help yourself.”

 

Though each kind of therapist may believe their method is the best in the field, it depends on the client and what they’re comfortable with. “The things that aren’t working in your life are the best to figure out,” said Dr. Schertzman. “Therapy is for you to help yourself.”

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CityMind explores mental health in New York City. The articles produce reflect the mental health concerns of particular communities, explores access to quality care and delves into larger social issues concerning stigmatization. The stories are New York based but reflect the larger issues of mental health nationwide. We hope the project will serve both as a news source and a resource.

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