Richard Nikla, MA, LMHC, CAP, ICADC
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor
West Coast Behavioral Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is behavioral therapy and psychotherapy?

Behavioral therapy is a process of talk therapy that strives to change a person’s behavior by eliminating undesirable behavior and reinforcing good behavior. When a person goes into therapy with some type of undesirable behavior, the therapist develops a relationship with that client that is directed toward a goal of decreasing or eliminating the symptom of the undesirable behavior and reinforcing positive behaviors. Through this process it is beneficial for the therapist and client to develop a positive mutual understanding and awareness that will lead the client to their goal. A positive therapeutic relationship should be established to bring light to how the existing undesirable behavior originated and the effect the behaviors has had on the client's personal and social interactions as well as  health.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines psychotherapy as “a way to treat people with a mental disorder by helping them understand their illness”. Psychotherapy can improve a person’s life-styles by identifying issues that may create obstacles in their life. Through psychotherapy people can learn to live a more fulfilling life through understanding how their past and present feelings, thoughts, actions, experiences and their future expectations shape their emotions, as well as personal and social interactions. Through the therapeutic relationship the client and therapist explore ways that the client can build a better life.
Behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are used to accomplish similar goals, and through a positive development of a therapeutic relationship a framework for building a positive structure and process of recovery is established.

2. Will therapy work for me?
There are many types of therapies and some therapies are preferred for different disorders. The key to benefiting from therapy and living a desired life style is being able to deal with stressful situations when they occur. To deal with these stressful situations, it is beneficial to develop a lifestyle that will condition our state of mind to rebound from the stressful situations as fast as possible. The therapeutic relationship built between the client and therapist is important in developing this structure. This structure allows the client to continue to build his or her desired life style with the tools that were developed in the therapeutic relationship. Although we are talking about mental health, physical health is a significant factor that helps us control stressful situations. Exercises, yoga, eating healthy and fostering a healthy environment are very important to developing mental health.  

3.  What makes us who we are?

Who we are depends to a large part on who are parents are as well as the makeup of our genes. Genes make up a blueprint of our body and provide the structure of who we are.  Our bodies are made of cells, chromosomes, DNA, genes, and proteins as well as chemicals and elements. This structure is called a genome. But that is not the whole picture. As we continue to grow our environment shapes who we are. Our DNA combines with protein and through a chemical interaction with the environment defining our traits and characteristics.  Genes are expressed in two was. 

Biological and behavioral characteristics can be one way genes are expressed in specific patterns of heredity and traits.  Examples of biological characteristics are hair, eye and skin color, as well as medical problems such as depression, diabetes and cancer.  Examples of behavioral characteristics are facial expressions, moods, manor of walking or a predisposition to mental illness. 

Genes that make up the entire characteristic of our biological structure and determine specific traits are called genotypes.  These are inherited.  Examples of genotypes are  body characteristics and skin color.

The second way genes are expressed is through the observed characteristic of our bodies and behavior and is called phenotype. For example some people may have dark brown hair, but over time the hair color changes and light brown or blond. People may also change their mannerisms or not exhibit certain mental or physical illnesses as others in the same family.

 
The process of environmental interaction with genes takes place in the epigenome. The epigenome, outside of the genome, influences gene expression by chemical interaction with the genes initiated by environmental factors. Research through The National Genome Project is leading to new medications and treatments to decrease severe health and psychiatric problems.

Phenotypes and genotypes can be controlled by genes turning on or off (gene expression) depending on our environment and our reaction to the environment. The study of gene expression and the genome is called Epigenetics. The effects of gene expression can be visible in identical twins, people that live healthy life-styles, people with unhealthy life-styles, or those that use mind altering substances.  Epigenetics can also be affected by other environmental factors.  These effects can cause changes in- behavior and moods possibly leading to mental illness as well as medical problems including diabetes or cancer. These changes can affect future generations. The other effect of epigenetics is that by living healthy life styles gene expression can create a more fulfilling life with a tendency to have less health problems with a tendency to have less health problems.



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Richard Nikla, LMHC
2100 Constitution Blvd Unit 125
Sarasota, FL 34231

5462 Grand Blvd Suite 104
New Port Richey FL 34652

(941) 780-6939
rnikla@wcbtherapy.com
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