Commonly Asked Questions By Potential Clients

What is psychotherapy?
How is psychotherapy different from talking with friends and family?
How often are appointments scheduled?
How long can I expect to be in therapy?
If I have unsure or negative feelings about my therapy or therapist, what should I do?
What makes therapy successful?
Will I be pressured to take medication?

 

What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy, also referred to as counseling or therapy, is a special process designed to help people work through any number of concerns or problems they may be experiencing in life. Some people go to therapy when they are dealing with a particular crisis, such as the end of a relationship, a death, or being fired from a job. Others seek therapy to help them understand feelings or behavior patterns that may be creating difficulties in their lives. Many people also go to therapy for personal growth and self-understanding. Some people who have unresolved issues from the past use therapy to find ways to make peace with their experiences and move on to healthier and happier lives. People with medical issues such as chronic pain or a cancer diagnosis, find that therapy can help with physical, as well as emotional, functioning. Couples go to therapy to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other, determine compatibility, and/or enjoy their relationship at a deeper level. Families may participate in therapy when they are experiencing ongoing conflicts that seem to have no solution.

In short, people use psychotherapy to deal with many common and uncommon life issues and transitions. When feelings become overwhelming or when you feel stuck, psychotherapy can help. The relationship between psychotherapist and client involves collaboration, trust, and acceptance. When you work together to understand your emotions, you can learn new and alternative ways of making long-term changes in your life.

How is psychotherapy different from talking with friends and family?
Many people wonder what psychotherapists can offer them that their closest friends and family members cannot. There are many times when a good heart-to-heart talk with a friend can do wonders for cheering up one's mood and can even bring a new perspective to a problem. You are truly lucky if you have people in your life with whom you can talk. No matter how much they care for you, however, your most cherished friends and family cannot always be neutral when it comes to offering support or advice. They may be affected by whatever decisions you make or they may not understand all of the issues involved. You may not tell them everything you are thinking or feeling. You may want some privacy for talking about certain issues or you may want to discuss problems involving family or friends.

Simply put, a psychotherapist listens to you objectively, with as little bias as possible. A psychotherapist is trained to listen in a special way and to offer direct, honest feedback in a setting characterized by warmth and support. With a psychotherapist, you are less likely to hold back from sharing all of your thoughts and feelings. When you are experiencing ongoing depression or anxiety, or you find yourself facing the same kinds of problems over and over, talking with a psychotherapist can help you understand at a deeper level what is really going on. Therapy is a time for you to focus on yourself without being concerned about taking up someone's time and without worrying that your secrets might become tomorrow's news.

How often are appointments scheduled?
Most people go to therapy once a week, at least initially. Twice-weekly appointments often work well when you need extra support or when you want to focus intensively on issues. Going to therapy once a week does not mean you are "less crazy" than someone who goes twice a week. At different times, people have different needs in therapy. I can help you figure out what works best for you. Later, you may begin phasing out therapy by scheduling appointments once every two weeks or once a month. You can always go back to more frequent appointments if you need more support later.

How long can I expect to be in therapy?
This depends on a number of things. Your goals and expectations of therapy play an important role in determining how long you stay in therapy. Some people feel they have reached a desired understanding and change in their lives after several sessions. Others may take longer to feel this. There is no right or wrong length of time to be in therapy. Since you can always learn more about yourself, you may want to continue with therapy until you feel you have reached a point where you have gained all that you can. At this time, you may decide to stop therapy. Talking with me about the decision to end therapy is almost as important as the decision to begin therapy. There can be times when therapy may seem to slow down, just before important issues come up. Sometimes the desire to quit therapy may be an indication of an underlying avoidance of a long-standing issue. Whether the decision to terminate is logical and pragmatic, or hasty and spontaneous, speaking openly and honestly with me is recommended.

If I have unsure or negative feelings about my therapy or therapist, what should I do?
Honest and open communication is what therapy is all about. Talking with me, being open and honest about your feelings is an important part of the therapeutic process. It can be more difficult to share negative or unsure feelings about therapy itself than to talk about issues and events that happened outside of the therapy office. If you are concerned about hurting or insulting me, it may help to know that I am trained to deal with these types of conversations. A professional therapist will welcome your honesty and want to know more about your feelings.

You may experience sharing your real feelings with your therapist as an opportunity or breakthrough in the therapeutic relationship. Your relationship with me can be described as a microcosm of the other relationships in your life. In other words, how you act with me is usually how you act with other people in your life. If you avoid discussing uncomfortable issues with me, chances are you tend to avoid talking about difficult things with everyone else.

Therapy can be a good place to practice new ways of relating to people. Bringing up any unsure or negative feelings about therapy or about your relationship with me may take some bravery on your part, but the results can be worth it. After discussing your concerns with me, you may have a new understanding of things or you may feel reassured about something that was bothering you. If you continue to be dissatisfied or unhappy with the process, you can always end therapy and seek help elsewhere. I will gladly give you the names of other therapists whom you can contact for an appointment.

What makes therapy successful?
I believe that two of the most important factors in successful therapy are the “fit” between you and your therapist and that you have the right expectations of therapy. If you view me as a warm, open-minded, competent, trustworthy individual, who has your best interests at heart, chances are that you are already off to a good start in therapy. Finding a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and respect can take time. Not everyone "clicks" with the same people; this is true for friends and it is true for therapists and clients as well.

The more clearly you understand how therapy works and what you can expect from it, the more likely you are to have a successful therapy experience. When you first start therapy, you may find yourself experiencing a "honeymoon" period, where everything seems to be going well and you feel very comfortable and eager to go to your appointments. Usually, this period will come to an end at some point. You may start feeling like nothing is really getting better after all. You may become disenchanted with me, drag your feet to sessions, cancel appointments more frequently, or keep secrets from me.

Often these are signs that your problems have begun to show up in your therapy sessions. This is actually a good thing since these problems are the reason you sought therapy in the first place. As uncomfortable or painful as it may be to communicate negative feelings to me, or even to attend regular therapy appointments, try your best to do so. The more honest you are about your feelings at this stage of therapy and the more willing you are to face them, the better the chance that we will be able to get to the root of your concerns and work toward their resolution.

One person's measure of successful therapy may differ from another person's. As a general rule, as long as you sense that you are getting something from your therapy, you can be fairly certain that you are on the right track.


Will I be pressured to take medication?

No. Taking medication is an individual and very personal decision. It is not something to take lightly. Medication is discussed only as a last resort, and after other alternatives have been tried. Medication can be helpful in the treatment of serious mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as certain depressive and anxiety disorders. Research has shown that medication works most effectively when clients also participate in psychotherapy. There are also natural or homeopathic treatments that some people find helpful.

I may bring up the possibility that a client consider trying medication if I believe the client may benefit from it. If willing, you will be referred to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. The psychiatrist may then prescribe medication and schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the client's reaction to the medication. Medication works differently for everyone, thus it is very important to work closely with me and your psychiatrist to make sure you are benefiting from any medication or homeopathic treatments.

In some cases, depression, anxiety, or other symptoms can be caused by physical disorders. I may refer you to your doctor for a check-up to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are caused by a physical condition. Hypothyroidism, for instance, can cause mood changes, low energy levels, and poor concentration.

To further explore the topic of psychotherapy, I suggest the following website: GoodTherapy.org

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