What Is Therapy Really?

What is therapy, really?

Therapy is a fascinating process. It is first and foremost a safe space; a relationship designed to address the issues you bring to the table. It is an intentional working partnership, with clearly articulated goals, and ways to evaluate progress toward them. At its best, therapy is collaboration between therapist and client(s), a team working together to address specific concerns. There are as many styles of therapy as there are therapists, but at its core, growth toward a healthier self is the goal of psychotherapy.

Okay, but what kind of therapist are you?

blackshirtI am a licensed clinical psychologist. That means I went to school to get a Bachelor’s Degree, a Masters Degree and Doctoral Degree in psychology. I completed 3000 hours of clinical experience, took two licensing exams, and have to complete 36 units of continuing education every two years to maintain my license.

What kind of theories do you use?

My approach is psychodynamic and developmental, with a cognitive-behavioral application. I think the history you come into the room with—your family background, your relationship experiences, school, work, friends, all the ways you learned to be in the world—have an impact on how you function now. Most of what we do that doesn’t work for us is a learned thought pattern or behavior. Typically when we learned it, it was useful, maybe even necessary, for our survival. Human beings are adaptive creatures. But now, those strategies just don’t work as well, and we need to do something else. Psychodynamic and developmental models help us understand how that happened. Cognitive-behavioral approaches help us identify and adjust those strategies to make them work for who we are today. Used together, they create a robust system designed to really understand ourselves and make positive, lasting changes in our lives.

So, how do you actually work?

I consider myself to be a “consumer-oriented provider.” That means I tailor my approach to the person sitting in front of me. Some clients want homework assignments, journaling, books and websites to look at. Others say, “Welllll…I’d really rather not think about you except for the hour I’m in your office.” …and everywhere in between. When we work together we will establish a pattern that works best for you.

How often will we meet?

The standard of care is once a week, for a 45 – 50 minute session. Most clients choose that model. However, the realities of finances and scheduling lead some clients to come in every other week, or even once a month. Clients who start at the once-a-week model often transition to less frequent meetings over time.

I have a unique occupation: It is ultimately my job to make myself obsolete. My goal is to provide scaffolding to clients, an external support structure that carries them until they feel ready to stand on their own again. Some people will continue therapy off and on throughout their lives. Having it in place is a coping strategy they actively employ. Others come in for a short time, as little as few months, then move on. If you and I meet, we will talk about what model makes sense to address the concerns you have within the realities of your day-to-day life.

handwithplant

People use therapy to address a wide range of concerns. When setting up a website, consultants tell psychologists to use the words “anxiety and depression” in their pages. Those are the most frequently searched terms when it comes to therapy, and many people have issues that fall into those categories. Most people come in to talk about their lives. They talk about relationships, with partners, spouses, children, colleagues, family and friends. They talk about stressors, like kids, work and money, finding motivation, staying healthy, or struggling to strike a balance in their busy lives. Some people come in to talk about trauma they’ve experienced, violence, sexual assault, or other difficult issues. Some clients come in because they feel lost, and are looking for a safe space to find themselves again. People sometimes find that what they came in for initially resolves fairly quickly, and stay to address other deeper issues because they enjoy the process. There isn’t a “right” thing to use therapy for, and how you use it may change over time.