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, the client, 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?
I am a licensed clinical psychologist. That means I went to school to get a Bachelor’s Degree, a Masters Degree and Doctoral Degree, all in psychology. I completed 3000 hours of clinical experience, passed two licensing exams, and have to complete 36 units of continuing education every two years to maintain my license.
What theories and approaches do you use?
My approach is a combination of ideas I’ve found to be the most effective after more than 20 years in the field. I combine a psychodynamic/developmental framework with positive psychology, a trauma-informed perspective, and cognitive-behavioral applications. I tailor a treatment plan to each individual client’s needs. In other words: I think the story you bring into the room—your family background, relationship history, school, work, friends, systemic experiences, all the ways you learned to be in the world—have an impact on how you feel and think now. Most of what we do that doesn’t work for us is a learned thought pattern or behavior. Often when we learned it, it was useful, maybe even necessary for our survival. Human beings are adaptive creatures. But perhaps now those strategies don’t work as well, and we need to do something different. Psychodynamic and developmental models help us understand how that happened. Positive psychology gives us hope; trauma-informed care brings our intersectional lived experience into the room. Cognitive-behavioral models help us identify and adjust our strategies to make them work for who we are today. Used together, these approaches create a robust framework designed to deeply 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 treatment plan that works best for you.
How often will we meet, and how long will we work together?
The standard of care for psychotherapy is once a week, for a 45 – 50 minute session. Most clients choose that model. Some people come in more than once a week, every other week or once a month, depending on the issues they want to address. Clients who start at the once-a-week model often transition to less frequent meetings over time.
Some people go to therapy regularly, off and on throughout their lives. Having it in place is a coping strategy they actively use. 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.
People address a wide range of concerns in therapy. When setting up a website, consultants tell psychologists to use the words “anxiety and depression” in their tags. Those are the most frequently searched terms when it comes to therapy, and many people have worries that fall into those categories. Ultimately, people come in to talk about their lives. They talk about their connections, their partners, spouses, children, colleagues, family and friends. They talk about stressors, like work and money, finding motivation, staying healthy, cultural pressures 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 they stay to address other, deeper issues because they enjoy the therapeutic process. There isn’t a “right” thing to use therapy for, and how you use it may change over time.