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 own benefit.
 

"What is the difference between counseling and psychotherapy?"

             In ordinary 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 self-examination.
 

"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:   

  •       You are understanding your own motives and internal conflicts in a new and clearer way

  •        You are feeling more accepting of who you are

  •        You are more able to control strong emotions and impulses

  •        You are making reasonable choices and following through on them

  •        You are relating to others more comfortably

  •        You are feeling more optimistic about your future

           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?" 

  •        I use the first meeting to learn as much as possible about the clientís presenting problem, to explain what my approach would be, and to explore the match between us. Fees and frequency of meetings will be discussed and agreed upon, and any particular questions about my approach answered.

  •        My cancellation policy requires at least 24 hours notice under normal circumstances, otherwise the client retains financial responsibility for the missed session. (Extreme or extenuating circumstances would of course be exempted from the application of this policy).

  •        My sessions last for a 60 minute hour.

  •        I believe that my client should have the  primary responsibility for deciding on the material that is to be discussed in a session; my responsibility is to respond to whatever subject is raised in a helpful manner, directed toward promoting  understanding of underlying issues that contribute to the existence of a problem or conflict, and definition of steps toward change.