Frequently Asked Questions
Paul Reidel - "Joy of Dance"
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SEEING A THERAPIST
"I consider myself to be an intelligent human being. Why should I have to go to a therapist to solve my problems instead of dealing with them my self?"
Of course most often you can, and do handle your own
problems adequately. However, when you find that your particular problem
has become overwhelming, and your mind is going in circles, then it
could be time to consider getting professional help. Similarly, if you
are experiencing recurring frustration, hurt, anxiety or fear in any
important relationship, and nothing you have done can seem to make a
difference, then you need help in getting unstuck. A professional helper
uses knowledge, skills, support and objectivity to help you. In the
final analysis, the therapist gives you tools that you can use for your
"What is the difference between counseling and psychotherapy?"
conversation these terms are often used to mean the same thing, but
there actually are important differences from a clinical standpoint.
Both practices involve helping people deal with or resolve issues of
importance, that affect their psychological well being. Counseling,
however, refers to a process more focused on resolving a particular
issue in a relatively short period of time. Psychotherapy, in contrast,
refers to a process that deals more fundamentally with the individualís
whole personality structure, and aims at more profound understanding and
change. Such a process is likely to require a greater investment of time
than would counseling, and therefore real motivation to do in-depth
"How do I know which type of professional helper is right for me?"
Counselors and psychotherapists come from various professional disciplines, including social work, psychology, psychiatry, educational counseling, pastoral counseling and psychoanalysis. All these backgrounds prepare their graduates to do this work, but with differing orientations and specializations. What is most important is that you feel that the person you are seeing respects you and is non-judgmental, inspires your confidence, and helps you to feel comfortable, rather than which of these disciplines they belong to.
However, should you need or want specialized services such as
psychological testing, or treatment for substance abuse or for an eating
disorder, you need to ensure that you locate a pratitioner with the
appropriate qualifications. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and only
they can prescribe medication, should this be necessary. Individuals who
need medication for their psychological problems are often followed by a
M.D. for their medication, as well as seeing a psychotherapist.
For further information concerning qualifications and
specializations, refer to the appropriate professional order (e.g. Ordre
professionnelle des Psychologues du Quebec, Ordre Professionnelle des
Travailleurs Sociaux du Quebec, etc.)
"How long will it take, and how often do I have to go?"
There is no simple answer to this question. The length of time required to achieve meaningful change depends on a number of variables, including: the depth, magnitude and persistence of the problem that brings you to the therapistís office, your own strength of motivation to work on it, your rapport with your therapist, the therapistís approach, and your own definition of improvement. You might resolve a fairly focused issue in a very few sessions; or, you might deal with deep and persistent personality issues over a period of several years. Some pratitioners use a short-term model; others are more open-ended or flexible depending on the needs of the client. As far as frequency is concerned, depending on your resources and need, you might have appointments once a week, or once every two weeks. Psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapies generally involve more frequent sessions. All of this will be negotiated in a first meeting.
My own approach
is open-ended, and the client is the one to decide when enough is enough
(though I will certainly give input). I usually see my clients on a
weekly or bi-weekly basis. While I consider once a week sessions
preferable for creating and maintaining a momentum in the therapy, this
schedule is not essential for progress. Key is the individualís
motivation, and their own assessment of what they want to accomplish.
"How will I know if itís helping me?"
You will know if and when:
Of course these changes donít
happen all together at the same time or to the same degree, but these
are the sorts of changes that mean that itís working for you. If none of
this happens, or you think that you are moving too slowly, it is
essential to discuss this in therapy. Remember, therapy doesnít happen
to you; rather, you are an active participant in the process, and
ultimately control the outcome.
"If I should decide to meet with you, what specific policies should I know about, and what should I expect in the first session?"