The path to therapy is often long

( dpa ) - Everyone is familiar with bad moods, love sickness and feeling low when going through a tough time in life.

Usually the clouds clear after a few days or weeks, but when life just doesn't return to normal for a long period of time, seeking professional help is advised, said Uschi Grob of the German professional association of psychologists in Berlin. Before starting therapy the patient should take time to consider the therapist.

It's important initially to recognize the right time for therapy.

"When a mood or feelings that are not really familiar continue to be a strain over a long period of time, help should be sought," Prof Rainer Richter, president of the German psychotherapy board in Berlin, said. The first step for most people is a conversation with a trusted friend or family doctor.

"Most doctors can address someone affected by these difficulties and give them a referral," Richter said. People who prefer to look on their own can turn to a local directory or ask their health insurance provider for a list of psychotherapists.

"It is advisable to ask beforehand about the various types of therapy," Richter said. The question of whether insurance covers the therapy is a factor in making a decision. Usually insurers and psychotherapists provide answers to coverage questions over the telephone.

Insurers don't always cover the costs. In those cases, patients must reckon with having to pay between half and all of the cost of a session.

"That sounds expensive at first, but treatment is still recommended for problems that the insurers don't recognize as illness," Fritz Propach, a psychologist and chairman of a Munich- based psychotherapy association, said.

Grob, who has a degree in psychology, recommends patients consider their own feelings when considering the choices of therapists.

"Successful treatment is only possible with mutual sympathy and confidence," Grob said. Patients are typically offered one to five hours of trial time in which all the patients' questions are answered so that a trusted relationship can take shape. If the feeling isn't right, people should continue shopping around for a therapist.

"They can continue trial sessions until they find the right therapists for them," Grob said. When that occurs, the psychotherapist puts forth a proposal, including a request for the insurer to take on the cost.

"Usually 25 sessions are approved and this can be extended if needed," she said.

Richter said many patients experience a clear improvement of their troubles after the first hour. The feeling of being able to open up can help unburden the soul. The point of a therapy is that the patient comes away doing consistently better. Brief lows after an especially difficult session are normal, however.

"If the patient steadily gets worse he or she should consider treatment alternatives," said Richter.

Whether the therapy leads to healing depends on the motivation of the patient.

"They must bring the will to change and work on it intensely," Grob said.

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