Questions about Therapy

Why start therapy?

There are a variety of reasons to go into therapy.  Perhaps you’re experiencing overt symptoms such as depression, anxiety or extended grief. Perhaps your relationships are chaotic or unfulfilling. Perhaps you feel stuck and unsatisfied with the direction of your life. People come to therapy for many reasons.

Coming to therapy is an opportunity to learn concrete ways to move forward. Some people learn coping and problem solving skills that immediately help them manage guilt, shame, doubt, sadness anxiety or despair.  These skills can also improve relationship difficulties and increase stress management.

However, the greatest gift of therapy is the process of removing the barriers of psychological defenses, increasing mindfulness and improving the ability to connect with ourselves and other people.  The therapy office is a place to have emotionally corrective experiences that translate into day-to-day life.  This is how you relieve symptoms, improve self-esteem and resolve unresolved childhood issues.

People engaged in psychotherapy work towards self -improvement, develop insight and awareness and take ownership of their lives.

What happens in a therapy session?

A therapy session has many tasks embedded in a fifty-minute time frame.  The activities that take place within a session typically vary with client goals and needs.  Clients develop a treatment plan with the therapist to address the issues that brought them to treatment.  A typical session starts with a brief check-in and homework review.

Then, the session proceeds to working on a specific issue identified during check-in and homework review.  The work may involve processing something with the therapist directly or reviewing/learning new skills. The therapist may spend part of the session teaching specific mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation or interpersonal effectiveness skills that the client can use to manage various problems.  The client may role play these skills during session with the therapist and practice them for homework.  Session time is also used to connect, validate and process the weekly or past intrusions and learn how to adaptively deal with the information in an adaptive way.

A typical therapy session lasts 50 minutes and occurs on a weekly basis.  However, sessions can be longer and more frequent depending on the work being done in session.  Typically, trauma work can be done more quickly in longer sessions.  People who need extra help learning coping skills typically need an additional group or individual session every week.

It is important that the client takes time between sessions to practice skills and to reflect on the content of the session. For therapy to “work,” the client must be an active participant inside and outside the session.

How can a therapist help me?

Therapy offers a number of benefits both short-term and long-term.  A therapist can teach you coping skills for managing symptoms.  Therapy can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. Many people find therapy to be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, and the hassles of daily life. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:

  • Improve relationships by learning specific relationship skills
  • Learn coping skills for depression, anxiety, anger and stress
  • Resolve childhood issues and past trauma
  • Improve listening and communication skills
  • Break self-defeating behaviors such as addiction and codependency
  • Discover new problem solving skills.
  • Improving self-acceptance and self-esteem

If you aren’t sure what your goals are for therapy, your first task is to figure that out. It may take several sessions before a direction is clarified. During the course of therapy your goals may change. However, establishing a direction for therapy will help you get the most out of the experience.