What is therapy and how can it help?

At its most basic therapy, also called counseling, is just meeting with a mental health professional and talking about things in your life that you would like to change. Therapy is useful for solving problems, changing behaviors, gaining insight, and reducing symptoms. It can be helpful when you are experiencing a disorder like depression, or when you are struggling with difficult times in your life.

What is it really like to see a therapist?

The process of therapy involves talking to a mental health professional in a confidential, non-judgemental setting. You will sit in a chair or on a couch (no lying down like in the movies!).  During your first visit, I will ask you a lot of questions to get a sense for what is going on, whether you are experiencing any mental health conditions, and how I can help. The questions will cover a wide range of topics, including your current functioning, reasons for coming to treatment, and your goals. Together we will figure out where we want to focus.

After the intake session, you will come in regularly. Most people come weekly, though there is flexibility. Different people need different numbers of sessions. Some people come for brief therapy (lasting less than around twelve sessions), and others may be seen for longer periods. We will figure out what is going to be most useful for you.

During therapy sessions, we will address the issues that are most pressing and work on long term goals. Your course of treatment will be individualized based on your unique needs. We will probably focus on your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. In some cases, I may teach you coping strategies or techniques to help with problems you are having. Sometimes you may complete tasks in between sessions.

What does it mean about me that I might need therapy?

People go to therapy for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they come because of relationship problems, stress, or difficult decisions. Sometimes people come because they are experiencing a mental illness. Other times they may come because they have experienced a traumatic experience like an abusive relationship, an assault or a death.

I know that sometimes fear or misinformation can get in the way of seeking help. It is important for you to know that everyone can benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. Going to see a psychologist is not a sign of weakness. Seeking counseling when you are struggling is a sign of strength. Even the most mentally strong person can use help once in a while.

People sometimes tell me that they have heard that they should be able to solve their problems on their own, "focus on the positive" or "just snap out of it."  Unfortunately, it's not so simple. If it was, you would have decided to "snap out of it" long ago. If you were experiencing asthma no one would  say that you should "think positive" instead of seeing your doctor and using your inhaler. The brain is part of the body and mental health is physical health.