What is Therapy?
Therapy is designed to help people build skills and solve problems by making changes in thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours. The therapist is a guide who helps people build needed skills and learn how to solve problems that have resisted other efforts.
What Kind of People Use Therapy?
All kinds. Everyone faces problems throughout their lives. Contrary to popular belief, no one easily solves all his or her problems. Today it is even harder because we live in such a complex and demanding society. It is common now to be faced with problems we have had no chance to prepare for and never expected. When that happens, our coping skills can get overwhelmed, leading to “symptoms” of distress in various forms. Examples include:
- feeling deeply discouraged and defeated
- doing poorly on the job or at school
- having problems getting along with people you care about
- feeling anxious in a variety of situations
- having habits that hurt us
Some people have misgivings about therapy. They believe it is for the seriously disturbed only. It is true that many therapeutic techniques were developed in response to people who were having severe problems. However, today, these techniques are helpful to anyone struggling with problems that are not responding to other efforts.
What are the Goals of Therapy?
The connection between symptoms and the underlying problem is often unclear. One therapy goal is to figure out what problem(s) the symptom is an attempt to solve. Symptoms that lead people to seek therapy are usually quite painful and are often ineffective ways of dealing with the problem. Another therapy goal is to find better problem-solving strategies. Lastly, one of the main goals of therapy is to help the client identify their own personal strengths and resources. The client is then shown how to take these strengths and incorporate them into different problem-solving techniques; this is fundamental in the therapy process because it helps to empower the client.
How Does Therapy Work?
Therapy involves thinking and talking about one’s life and problems. We pay attention to feelings that arise, both in and outside of this office. The effects of your behaviour on yourself, others and situations are considered. Sometimes we look into your past and sometimes we stick to the present.
Sometimes people come to therapy hoping for a quick answer. While this is understandable, it rarely happens. Few people go to the trouble and expense of therapy without having tried hard to solve the problem on their own.
Some people wait for their therapist to solve the problem. This approach guarantees disappointment. Therapy is hard work. While there are times I ask people to try out new ideas or new behaviours, answers to problems will be the result of our mutual exploration and effort.
There are three ways you can increase the benefit of our work:
- Push yourself to talk about the things you find the hardest to discuss. What you want to discuss least is probably what we need to discuss most. The sooner we get to them, the faster we will finish. Issues “kept in the closet” tend to grow in the dark. Bringing them into the light of day is a big step in making them manageable.
- Honesty between you and me is essential. Being dishonest in therapy is like asking a CA to do your taxes without letting him see your financial records. Honesty means, in part, talking with me concerning your thoughts and feelings about the therapy process itself.
- Do task assignments made within therapy sessions. Changing one’s thoughts, feelings or behaviours requires practice “in the real world,” not just in the consulting room.
Is Therapy Effective?
Research shows that therapy is helpful to most people willing to invest the required effort. Sometimes, however, it is not. This can be for several reasons:
- Poor rapport between you and your therapist. If after a few sessions you do not feel comfortable, please discuss this with me. We will try to work it out. If we can’t, I will help you find someone better suited to you.
- There may be a poor fit between the therapeutic method selected and your problem or personality. If you feel this may be the case in our work, please say so.
- Some problems are not amenable to the kinds of therapy I provide; though this may not be apparent at first.
- There are some problems that are not changeable by therapy.
Therapy can be painful at times as issues long avoided or hidden are raised. It is unrealistic to expect to feel better after each session. There may be times when you leave feeling somewhat upset or anxious. If this happens regularly, however, please tell me. Finally, the limits of one’s financial resources can lead to frustration in therapy. While in therapy, one may identify additional goals beyond those that led to the initial consultation. Yet finances may preclude continuing in therapy to meet those goals.