I am often asked to explain what therapy is all about. Here are my answers to the most frequently asked questions.
During Psychotherapy a trained professional will work with individuals to address their symptoms of mental illness, behavioural problems or personal growth. A significant part of the process involves your and your therapist sitting in a room and talking through issues, which is why it is often referred to as ‘talk therapy’. However, therapy is not just confined to talking. Your therapist will actively support you during and after the sessions, provide you with self-awareness exercises, and other forms of ‘homework’. You will also be encouraged to make active decisions about your life and apply the skills you learn in therapy in your everyday life.
Psychotherapy is different from counselling. Counselling helps with adjustment issues while psychotherapy is the treatment for specific types of clinical disorders (such as anxiety and depression).
A psychotherapist is any professional who is trained to treat people with emotional problems. Depending upon their academic degree, a psychotherapist can be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker (among others), and work with individuals, couples, groups or families. Psychotherapists do not provide psychotropic medication such as anti-depressants.
A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner with a degree in Psychiatry. Psychiatrists are also referred to as psychopharmacologists and provide mainly prescriptions and medication management. However, some psychiatrists may also practice psychotherapy.
A psychologist is a talk therapist who has also trained in psychological testing (e.g., the Rorschach test) and can conduct research protocols. Psychologists work with mental illness (clinical psychologists), adjustment issues (counselling psychologists), medical illness (psycho-oncologists) and so on.
One of the biggest misconceptions and stigmas surrounding counselling is that only ‘crazy people’ need it. But consider this: You visit a doctor when you fall ill. You take your car to the mechanic for repairs. You do this because these experts are better suited to help you solve these problems.
So seeing a trained expert for problems such as mood swings or fights with your spouse is not a sign of weakness or madness. Rather your decision to seek professional counselling is a sign of intelligence and courage – an excellent way to build success into your life.
Whether you choose to keep the counselling a secret or tell everyone about it is your call. But if you need help, SEEK OUT A PROFESSIONAL TODAY!
Both medication and therapy have been effectively used to treat and manage mental health issues. The type of treatment used depends on the nature of the problem. Medication is often prescribed for conditions with strong biological components such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or panic disorder.
Research suggests that use of medication and psychotherapy together may be the best approach, especially for more severe conditions. Medication offers relief from symptoms, and psychotherapy enables the individual to understand their condition better and provides them with mechanisms to deal with and manage their condition effectively. More often than not a combined approach offers the fastest, longest-lasting treatment.
Confidentiality is an unspoken commitment between the client and their therapist. Your therapist should at the very least verbally assure you that what you say in therapy sessions remains confidential. If you choose to hire me as your therapist, we will sign a Services Contract that ensures everything you tell me during our sessions remains absolutely confidential.
If you suffered a fracture or were diagnosed with a terminal illness, you wouldn’t think twice before you sought treatment! Your emotional problems are as debilitating as any physical illness and worth investing in.
Emotional problems prevent you from leading a functional life and consequently earning at par with your potential. Most people find that they can sustain jobs and earn better incomes after they have worked on their emotional issues.
A therapist’s fees are usually equivalent to the amount of time they spend with a client (typically a 60-minute session), and may, therefore, seem high. However, their fees are similar to any other trained medical, legal or business professional.
Most therapists would be happy to discuss the fee and find a way to make sessions more affordable by reducing duration or frequency.
Before you start treatment, your therapist may have you fill out certain forms to assess your mood. Depression, Anxiety or Personality Assessments may be conducted to help your therapist work on a treatment plan and evaluate your ongoing progress.
During a typical session, one of the first things your therapist will do is determine how you are feeling this week, as compared to previous weeks and if anything of significance occurred. They will ask you what problem you’d like to work on during the session. They will bridge the last therapy session to the current therapy session by asking you to reflect on the previous session. They will ask what self-help assignments you were able to do during the week and whether there is anything about the therapy that you would like to see changed.
Next, you and the therapist will discuss the problem(s) you have put on the agenda. Through a combination of problem-solving and assessment, they will work with you to gauge the accuracy of your thoughts and beliefs specific to the problem(s) you have raised. You will also learn new skills. You and the therapist will discuss how you can apply what you’ve learned during the session in your daily life.
As you discuss your problems and treatment plan with your therapist you will start feeling a sense of
empowerment. The goal of therapy is not exactly “cure”. But what you will experience is gradual symptom reduction and stability. Also, you can be quite certain that the longer you stay with unresolved personal problems the longer you will postpone feeling better.
There is no guarantee about how quickly you can resolve your problems. Some remain in therapy for just a brief time (6-8 sessions) while others with long-standing problems may choose to stay in therapy for many months.
After the first couple of sessions, your therapist will have a more informed idea of the number of sessions it may take for you to reach the goals you set at the first session. Initially, sessions are conducted once a week, unless you are in crisis and need sessions more often. As soon as you are feeling better and seem ready to start tapering therapy, you and your therapist might agree to try therapy once every two weeks, then once every three weeks. This more gradual tapering of sessions allows you to practice the skills you’ve learned while still in therapy.
Therapeutic relationships thrive when your therapist does not share intimate details of their life with you. It is this aspect of distance that allows your therapist to stay objective about your problems. Asking your therapist for their personal information or requesting to be added to their social networking will hamper your therapeutic relationship. Similarly, keeping in touch with therapist between sessions and continuously updating them about your problems disrupts the treatment process and reduces success in therapy.