Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of issues can we work on in therapy?
Oftentimes there are things we theoretically should be able to share with friends, family members, co-workers and lovers, but sometimes even those closest to us are not comfortable talking about difficult topics, and most are not experienced enough to do so competently. Thus, first and foremost, therapy should be a coveted opportunity to have ones very own sounding board and sacred space to open up in complete confidentiality.
Beyond that, therapy can be a way of exploring something really challenging, initiating personal growth, or beginning a path of self discovery. Topics may span areas as diverse as grief, depression, anxiety, trust, concentration, anger, fear, abuse, relationship problems, stress, family matters, work struggles, or questions of identity and meaning. This process could involve short-term immediate solutions, or long term psychological change. Throughout the process we explore the personal strengths you've already developed in your life, as well as new coping skills and areas you wish to improve.
How can I be sure if I really need therapy?
Therapeutic change comes from within you and your desire for change is ultimately the most important aspect of treatment. If for example, someone is “making” you come in, we won’t begin treatment until we’ve established your own personal therapeutic goals. Sometimes a goal might be really simple – improve interpersonal relationships, cope with overwhelming feelings of stress or sadness, extinguish suicidal ideation, or manage substance intake. Other times it might be necessary to open-mindedly explore less tangible areas, like meaning, sexuality, or happiness.
Also, it’s important to remember that in our fast-paced society rife with constant inundation of stimulation from the media and Internet, it’s extremely common for our problems to exist without our conscious recognition, and oftentimes, especially in long-term treatment, issues that have been bothering us and debilitating our growth for a long time surface in subtle ways.
I don’t want to open up to strangers.
Neither do I – well, sort of. The beauty of therapy is that you can open up to someone and tell them anything in the world – and it won’t have any ramifications on the rest of your life. Maybe you have embarrassing fears, maybe you’re having an affair, maybe you robbed a bank. As long as you’re not planning on hurting or exploiting anyone in the future, you can share anything with me.
And of course we’ll be strangers at first, and in some cases, it may take many weeks for you to be completely comfortable with me and trust me. But go ahead and take a look at my site, my picture, my experience, and try and get a feel for the kind of therapist I’ll be. Give me a call, and we can chat. Our initial phone consultation (15-20 minutes) is free, and it should basically be thought of as you interviewing me. You should get a relatively quick impression of whether or not you could see yourself opening up to me, and if it isn’t a good “fit,” I’ll try and help you find someone in your area.
What is therapy like?
Therapy is different for everyone. Depending on your needs and the level of structure called for in your treatment will greatly determine what the nature of the sessions. Generally speaking, you can expect to discuss events going on in your life right now, and possibly events in the past that may still be influencing the present. We usually explore relationships with significant people in your life, thought and behavioral patterns, emotions, and feelings, and of course, what you want to change.
As with anything we participate in, the more you put into treatment, the more you will get out of it. Sometimes opening up causes us to become very emotional, and sometimes individuals prefer to say very little. Sometimes movement is slow, and other times people are ready to make changes now. As a social worker, I am always thinking of ways in which the community affects people’s lives, and a primary goal for us will be to explore ways in which you can find support outside of the therapy room.
Give me a pill.
Science has come a long way in terms of understanding our brains and central nervous systems, and medications often play a fundamental role in improving people’s mental health. However, very few reputable studies have demonstrated long-term improvements with a meds-only approach, especially when looking at studies not put out by pharmaceutical companies. When one recognizes that medicated brains don't exist in some kind of isolated bubble, this isn't all that surprising. Many different things can affect our neuro-chemistry, from what we eat, to what's going on in our environments, to how much exercise we get, to how strong our friendships are, and, last but not least - or own thoughts and behavioral patterns. Therefore, most ethical mental health practitioners of all disciplines recommend individuals seek supplemental therapy if they are also on medication.
People don't really change.
Oh yes they most certainly do. Okay, a lot of current theorists do debate as to whether or not we can truly 'change,' as well as how 'happy' individuals are actually supposed to be, and what it means to 'heal.' Some are emphatic that major intrapsychic transformation is very possible, while others feel that all we're capable of is accepting ourselves the way we are and harnessing excellent coping skills. Regardless, through the examination of our strengths, weaknesses, and behavior patterns, and subsequent development of an appropriate treatment plan, together we can definitely work towards leading a more fulfilling life.