Life is filled with ups and downs for all of us. Navigating inevitable challenges of everyday life can be difficult. Through psychotherapy, psychologists help people of all ages live happier, healthier and more satisfying lives.
What is psychotherapy?
In psychotherapy, psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people develop healthier, more effective ways of living. There are many approaches to psychotherapy — including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal and other kinds of talk therapy — that help individuals work through problems. In my practice, I incorporate a variety of approaches that are tailored to each person’s situation and goals. I have been trained in many different therapy modalities, which means I can combine innovative techniques with traditional methodologies.
Psychotherapy is collaborative. It is based on the relationship between you and me. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with me, someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. We work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that keep you from feeling your best. Psychotherapy is designed to help you to learn new skills so you can better cope with whatever challenges arise in the future.
When should you consider psychotherapy?
Because of the many misconceptions about psychotherapy, you may be reluctant to try it . Even if you know the realities instead of the myths, you may feel nervous about trying it yourself.
Making your first appointment
You may feel nervous about contacting me. That is normal. But having the courage to overcome that anxiety and make a call is the first step in the process of empowering yourself. Just the decision to call, and following through with it, can bring a sense of relief and put you on a more positive path.
I understand how difficult it can be to make initial contact. The first call is something new for you, but it’s something I handle regularly. Leave a message with your name, your contact number and why you are calling.
Keep an open mind. Even if you’re skeptical about psychotherapy or are just going because someone told you to, be willing to give it a try. Be willing to be open and honest so you can take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about yourself.
What should I expect?
It’s normal to feel a little awkward or nervous at first. Psychologists have experience setting the tone and getting things started. I am trained to guide each session in effective ways to help you get closer to your goals.
Sitting face to face with you, I may start off by acknowledging the courage it takes to start psychotherapy. I may also go over logistical matters, such as fees, how to make or cancel an appointment, and confidentiality. We then may shift into discussing demographic information and your background.
Then I may ask a question like, “What brought you here today?” or “What made you decide to come in now rather than a month or a year ago?” It helps to identify your problem, even if you’re not sure why you have it or how to handle it. For example, you might feel angry or sad without knowing what’s causing your feelings or how to stop feeling that way. If the problem is too painful to talk about, it is important for us to get to know each other better so that you can feel more comfortable. It’s OK for you to say that you are not ready to talk about something just yet.
I am likely to want to know about your own and your family’s history of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety or similar issues. We may also explore how your problem is affecting your everyday life. I will ask questions like whether you’ve noticed any changes in your sleeping habits, appetite or other behaviors. I will also want to know what kind of social support you have, so I will ask about your family, friends and coworkers.
It’s important not to rush this process, which may take more than one session. While guiding you through the process, I prefer that you set the pace when it comes to telling your story. As you gain trust in me and the process, you may be willing to share things you didn’t feel comfortable answering at first.
Once I have taken a history, the two of us work together to create a treatment plan. This collaborative goal-setting is important, because both of us need to be invested in achieving your goals. I may write down the goals and read them back to you, so you’re both clear about what you’ll be working on.
At the end of your first session, I may have suggestions for immediate action.
By the end of the first few sessions, you will have a new understanding of your problem, a game plan and a new sense of hope
What should I expect as I continue psychotherapy?
As your psychotherapy goes on, you’ll continue the process of building a trusting, therapeutic relationship with me.
As part of the ongoing getting-to-know-you process, I may want to do some type of assessment. Psychologists are trained to administer and interpret tests that can help to determine depth of depression, identify important personality characteristics, uncover unhealthy coping, and assess particular symptoms.
You and I will also keep exploring your problems through talking. For some people, just being able to talk freely about a problem brings relief. In the early stages, I will help you clarify what’s troubling you. You’ll then move into a problem-solving phase, working with me to find alternative ways of thinking, behaving and managing your feelings. We might role-play new behaviors during your sessions and do homework to practice new skills in between. As you go along, we will assess your progress and determine whether your original goals need to be reformulated or expanded.
In some cases, I may suggest involving others. If you’re having relationship problems, for instance, having a spouse or partner join you in a session can be helpful. As you begin to resolve the problem that brought you to psychotherapy, you’ll also be learning new skills that will help you see yourself and the world differently. You’ll learn how to distinguish between situations you can change and those you can’t and how to focus on improving the things within your control.
You’ll also learn resilience, which will help you better cope with future challenges. A 2006 study of treatment for depression and anxiety, for example, found that the cognitive and behavioral approaches used in psychotherapy have an enduring effect that reduces the risk of symptoms returning even after treatment ends..
Soon you’ll have a new perspective and new ways of thinking and behaving.
How can I make the most of psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is different from medical or dental treatments, where patients typically sit passively while professionals work on them and tell them their diagnosis and treatment plans. Psychotherapy isn’t about a psychologist telling you what to do. It’s an active collaboration between you and the psychologist.
In fact, hundreds of studies have found that a very important part of what makes psychotherapy work is the collaborative relationship between the psychologist and patient, also known as a therapeutic alliance. The therapeutic alliance is what happens when the psychologist and patient work together to achieve the patient’s goals.
Be an active, engaged participant in psychotherapy. Help set goals for treatment.
Because behavior change is difficult, practice is also key. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns of thought and behavior, so stay mindful between sessions. Notice how you’re reacting to things and take what you learn in sessions and apply it to real-life situations. When you bring what you’ve learned between sessions back to the session, that information can inform what happens in my office to further help you. Through regular practice, you’ll consolidate the gains you’ve made, get through psychotherapy quicker and maintain your progress after you’re done.
Should I worry about confidentiality?
Psychologists consider maintaining your privacy extremely important. It is a part of our professional code of ethics. More importantly, it is a condition of our professional license.
To make your psychotherapy as effective as possible, be open and honest about your private thoughts and behaviors.
Assessing psychotherapy’s effectiveness
Some people wonder why they can’t just talk about their problems with family members or friends. Or even with the wall! Psychologists offer more than someplace to vent. Psychologists have years of training and experience that help people improve their lives. And there is significant evidence showing that psychotherapy is a very effective treatment.
How effective is psychotherapy?
Hundreds of studies have found that psychotherapy helps people make positive changes in their lives.
The average person who engages in psychotherapy is better off by the end of treatment than 80 percent of those who don’t receive treatment at all.
Knowing when you’re done
You might think that undergoing psychotherapy means committing to years of weekly treatment. Not so. Psychotherapy isn’t a lifetime commitment.