What to expect when your doctor recommends counseling

Your doctor is concerned about your total health: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. At times, stress, anxiety, loss or depression related to your job, relationships, a medical condition, or the death of a loved one, including a pet, may leave you feeling that you are not coping well. Anxiety, or problems with “nerves,” causes many people to go to their doctor because they experience shortness of breath or become light-headed.

Chronic irritability, increased levels of frustration, changes in eating or sleep patterns can be symptoms of anxiety, depression or stress. Stress can also cause physical symptoms such as increased heart rate.

When doctors recommend counseling it is not because they think that their patients are “crazy.” Doctors know that whatever affects our emotions can have an impact on our bodies.

The truth is that depression is the fourth most significant cause of suffering and disability worldwide. Twenty million Americans currently suffer from depression. Depression affects nearly twice as many women as men. Depression can even be an unwelcome side effect of many prescription medications.

Perhaps your doctor recommended medication. It is important to remember that your brain is an organ in your body much like your heart. We would not consider persons with high blood pressure to be weak or “flawed” because they take medication. Persons who take medication for depression, stress or anxiety are not weak but rather are experiencing a change in an organ of the body which effects emotions. Research shows that the combination of medication and counseling helps people get better faster. This may be the reason your doctor has recommended counseling for you.

Psychotherapy, which is another word for counseling, can help you to identify the causes of your problems and then help you to develop strategies to prevent many emotional problems from recurring. Anything that is discussed in the counseling session is strictly confidential. Your first session will likely focus on talking about the reason you are seeking counseling and goals for therapy. A family member may accompany you if it would enable you to feel more comfortable. With your permission, Dr. Oliverio will communicate with your doctor about your progress in counseling.

People often confuse psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. A psychologist holds a doctoral degree in psychology and is independently licensed to counsel patients. A psychiatrist is a physician who can prescribe medication. A psychotherapist is generally a clinical social worker who holds a bachelors or masters degree.