Good news! You don’t have to lie on a couch and blame your mother for all life’s problems. Psychotherapy is the process of meeting with a therapist, if it’s with me – a psychologist, to resolve problematic issues through talk-therapy.
Through therapy, you will gain improved understanding of your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, learn skills to cope with your difficulties, and obtain guidance. It’s different from just talking to a friend because therapists are trained to utilize scientifically validated techniques to help you live a healthier and more content life. It’s an interactive process and depending on the therapists’ orientation (a fancy term for the way the therapist understands and treats your problems), both you and the therapist will be talking to some extent. For many people, just having a place to share their feelings openly, without fear of judgment, is helpful.
What To Expect in a Psychotherapy Session
Your first session with the therapist is often longer than typical sessions. During this session, the therapist will ask you many questions such as why you are seeking therapy and what your goals are for therapy. Just do your best to answer questions thoroughly. The therapist will review rules regarding confidentiality and their policies regarding cancellations, payments, etc.
You, too, should ask questions. Think about this first meeting as an interview…you are interviewing the therapist to assess whether or not they have what you are looking for. So, what are you looking for? You want a therapist who has experience treating your specific problem. You may also want to ask them about their schedule if you need specific appointment hours such as evenings or weekends. You’ll want to discuss fees (although you should probably make this inquiry when you call to set up the appointment). You shouldn’t feel pressured at the end of the session to make an appointment. If you need some time to think about it, or to interview other therapists, that’s completely acceptable.
What Therapy is Like with Me as Your Therapist
I have a waiting room that I share with other mental health providers. It’s like other waiting rooms – it has dated music playing and a stack of boring magazines that need to be purged. If you’ve forgotten your phone in the car or at home, you’ll pretend to read said magazines. But, I digress…
During the first meeting, I ask lots of questions to help me get to know you better and figure out if I’m the right person to help you. You should ask questions too and then we decide how to proceed. The options are: (1) you elect to not schedule a follow-up at that time or elect not to proceed with me at all (2) I don’t feel like I am a good fit for you so I refer you elsewhere or make other suggestions or (3) we both feel comfortable with proceeding and schedule a 45-minute follow up (some therapists schedule 60-minutes). Depending on how you’re functioning, we may meet as frequently as twice per week or as infrequently as a few times a year. Typically, however, clients start with weekly to biweekly sessions. During these sessions, I inquire about how you are “functioning.” By functioning, I want to know…how is your mood, are you taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, have you engaged in social events, are you able to concentrate at work, how are you managing stress, etc.
I use cognitive-behavioral therapy, so my clients learn new ways of thinking, behaving, and managing their emotions. One of my goals is that my clients learn coping skills that they can apply to other problems in the future. As my clients improve, together we decide upon the right time to decrease the frequency of sessions and eventually terminate therapy.