Answers to some common questions you may have about psychotherapy.
One of my favorite answers to this question is by James Bugental:
“Psychotherapy isn’t what you think. It isn’t a healing of an illness. It isn’t guidance from a wise counselor. It isn’t the mutual sharing of good friends. It isn’t learning esoteric knowledge. It isn’t being shown the error of one’s ways. It isn’t finding a new religion. . . .
It surprises many people because it is not primarily about your childhood . . . or about what has hurt or traumatized you . . . or about the germs in your body . . . or about destructive habits you’ve acquired . . . or about negative attitudes you carry . . . .
Psychotherapy is not what you think. It is about how you think. It calls attention to unrecognized assumptions in how you think. It makes a distinction between what you think about and how you do that thinking. It is less concerned with looking for causes to explain what you do and more concerned with discovering patterns in the meanings you make of what you’re doing.
Psychotherapy is about how you think. It is about how you live with your emotions. It is about the perspectives you bring to relating with the people who matter to you. It is about what you aspire to in your life and how you may unwittingly make it harder for yourself to reach those goals. It is about being helped to see that the change you seek is already latent within you. It is coming to recognize and appreciate the spark of something eternal that is your core.
Psychotherapy is not what you think; it is about how you live with yourself right now. “
 Bugental, J. F. T. (1999). Psychotherapy isn’t what you think. (p. 1). Pheonix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.
Therapy is an expense and an inconvenience that interrupts your busy life. The desire to come only as often as necessary is understandable. However, in order to experience any meaningful change, I recommend at least one session per week.
The frequency of meetings is important for several reasons, the full explanation of which would be quite long. However, broadly speaking, I would explain it in this way: If you are coming to therapy, you have likely sought relief from a variety of sources, none of which have worked. Simply trying to think differently, act differently, or cope with the pain, has not been not effective.
Therapy works differently than self-help measures. It changes not only your behavior, but the fundamental experience of yourself. This happens by altering your assumptions about the world that negatively impact your view of yourself and your relationships. It also occurs by changing automatic emotional reactions that prevent you from feeling comfortable, calm and in control.
These obstacles to happiness developed early on, and have been solidified over the years. In order to deactivate and unwind these entrenched processes, a consistent, reliable therapeutic relationship must be forged and continually reinforced. In my experience, meeting at least once a week is necessary to allow this type of relationship to develop.
The duration of therapy depends on what you wish to achieve, and how well you wish to know yourself. In the beginning you probably just want to feel better. Sometimes that can occur fairly quickly. However, a reduction of negative feelings and undesirable behaviors is only one step. In long-term therapy, we also aim to increase your positive experiences, because happiness is not merely the absence of misery.
We increase positive experiences by developing personality stability. This includes:
- Strength of identity: A sense of self-esteem; accuracy of self-appraisal; ability to experience the full spectrum of emotions with an underlying sense of OK-ness;
- Quality of relationships: The capacity to empathize with others, tolerate disagreement, appreciate the effect you may have on others, and experience close, intimate connections; and
- Self-direction: The pursuit of meaningful goals and experiences at home, at work and at play; an internal sense of right and wrong; and motivation to succeed.
No. As a psychologist, I help people through talk therapy and other interpersonal interventions. Psychiatrists prescribe medication for psychological and related issues. I do refer my patients to a psychiatrist if they wish to explore medication options. In certain situations, the proper medication, in conjunction with therapy, can be helpful .