What is Psychotherapy?
Therapy refers to treatment for psychological or behavioral problems. Therapists and clients work together to understand and change problems by improving areas of life where there is dissatisfaction. The focus is generally on changing ineffective or unhelpful patterns of thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors. This includes focusing on you and your relationships; both from the past and present (including how you relate to your therapist). People can make changes by examining both conscious (easily-accessible) and unconscious (outside of awareness) factors that may be contributing to distress, processing these experiences, better understanding them, and making more meaningful choices in the future. Depending on your goals and the kind of treatment, therapy can be very broad or very specific in nature.
Who Can Benefit?
Therapy, sometimes also called counseling, can help many different people. However, sometimes stigma or myths about therapy can get in the way of people asking for help. In fact, psychotherapy has been found to be beneficial for all kinds of people all over the world. Please do not let stereotypes or misconceptions stand in the way. We understand having someone you can talk with in an open and honest way can be both intimidating and at the same time rewarding. Please feel free to ask if you have questions or concerns about the process.
What to Expect?
The first sessions are typically thought of as an initial consultation phase. This often takes 1-3 sessions to get a good idea of what kinds of problems are present and what are the goals for treatment. Usually, the first session involves going over necessary expectations and paperwork (please see POLICIES section) and then the initial interviews begin. Once there is better understanding of the problems and focus of treatment, how to proceed is discussed and agreed upon, then the process shifts toward psychotherapy. Therapy can look and feel very different depending on the goals and type of treatment involved. If at the end of the initial sessions it does not seem like we can help you with your situation, then we will be glad to make a referral to another professional to help meet your needs.
How Long Does Therapy Last?
Therapy is a highly unique and personalized process. Some problems can be resolved in only a few sessions while others can take much longer. Sometimes people stay in therapy long after the original concerns have resolved because they find it valuable. Others are satisfied with brief treatments and are welcome to return in the future. It is important to remember you can stop at any time. Factors affecting the length of treatment include: goals for therapy (e.g. symptom relief vs. personal growth), motivation, severity and history of problems, current stressors, and other influences such as family environment and previous life experiences (e.g. trauma, quality of relationships). At the onset it is important to discuss what your goals are and what you expect out of care. This can help you avoid an unhelpful psychotherapy experience.
Does Therapy Work?
40 years of research on psychotherapy shows in many cases it is very helpful. While it does not work with everyone 100% of the time, studies show that therapy is generally helpful for about 80% of people who seek help as opposed to those who do not (Asay & Lambert, 1999; Wampold, 2001). These findings have been replicated many times and psychotherapy is often at least as effective as medications for many problems. For some difficulties medications and psychotherapy may be recommended.
What about Different Approaches?
In general most established psychotherapies are about equally helpful in terms of effectiveness in treating problems. This includes therapists who are well trained in psychoanalytic/dynamic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic-existential, and family systems perspectives. For some specific problems, particular treatments have been shown to be more effective than others (e.g. behavior therapy for phobias). Determining the best approach for you is something to discuss with your therapist and depends on what is a good fit for you. We have specialized, advanced training in multiple approaches and will help you make the best decision to fit your goals, needs, and preferences.
How to Choose a Therapist?
Therapy is a very unique kind of relationship. It is focused on you and your emotional needs, not the typical “back-and-forth” kind of relationship most people have with one another where one person’s needs are attended to and then the other. Therefore, choosing a therapist can be a very important decision. Some important questions to ask yourself are: Did you feel comfortable with this person after meeting them? Did you feel listened to, respected, and understood? Do they seem to be professional and well-trained? Does it seem like they can help you with your problems? Would you consider referring a friend or family member to them? If the answer is no to one or more of these questions, then consider seeking another opinion or referral.