Questions about Psychotherapy

Why do people seek emotional counseling?
Usually people seek a therapist when they are in emotional pain.  They may be

  • depressed and apathetic, experiencing little pleasure in life
  • fearful, jittery and anxious, with racing thoughts and panic
  • struggling to heal from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • feeling lonely, lost and empty, as if their lives have no meaning
  • trying to get their bearings after a shocking loss or trauma
  • struggling to recover from addictions or self-destructive behavior
  • stuck in negative, repetitive patterns they wish to change, but can't
  • trying to make a romantic partnership or a family relationship less painful and more fulfilling
  • dealing with a recent bereavement or life transition
  • just wondering "Is that all there is?"
What is psychotherapy actually? How does it work?
I see psychotherapy as a  gentle, gradual powerful process of personal growth, a guided movement toward greater balance and wholeness. Everyone's experience of psychotherapy is different because people are different. Your counseling process is about you and you are unique.

As the counseling process begins, client and therapist talk together on the issues that the client has identified. The therapist listens with focused attention and occasionally will ask questions or offer impressions or suggestions, which the client then evaluates and responds to. As discussions deepen and different insights, perspectives and feelings emerge, a movement toward greater emotional health, maturity and wholeness begins. It is interesting that the word whole, heal, health, and holy share the same Old English/Germanic root "kailo", which means "whole, uninjured, of good omen".

Greater health comes about as you speak with your therapist over time about happenings in the past, what's going on in the present, and what feelings you're having right in the moment. As you and your therapist form a trusting alliance, interior tensions relax, depression lifts, and you become more buoyant, flexible, and self-confident in the ways you handle life's challenges.

Is psychotherapy painful or uncomfortable?
Sometimes, but not always. Counseling is a serious endeavor. Both client and therapist must make a commitment to deal with feelings and insights as they arise,despite times of discomfort. Tears of mourning, anger and frustration, shame, surprise, nervousness, embarrassment, laughter, moments of feeling misunderstood and moments of feeling totally loved and cared for all have their place in the counseling process. As you grow to trust your therapist, you will feel less uncomfortable with these feelings and will come to appreciate the richness of your own personal world.

How can therapy help me create a balanced life?
People who are suffering emotionally often respond to life in a rigid, inflexible manner. They act according to unexamined defensive habits that may have been appropriate or even necessary when they were children, but are not helpful in their life now. During therapy, people often find that their attitudes and behavior become more responsive and flexible. They often become:

less emotionally distressed ... but more emotionally aware
more self-respecting ... but humbler (mo more need to be perfect)
more empathic and compassionate in their relationships ... but also more able to set boundaries and stand for themselves
more willing to communicate clearly and honestly ... but more sensitive to the feelings, positions, and attitudes of others
more creative ... but more self-disciplined
more adventurous and risk-taking -- but more discerning and less self-destructive
more self-reflective and serious about life ... but also more relaxed, unburdened, and fun-loving
more able to give theselves to others and to life ... but more able to let go of people and situations when they need to

How is counseling structured?
Regularity is essential to the effectivess of therapy. Usually client and therapist meet once a week for a 50-minute session, at a specific hour which is held especially for the client. This regular meeting is reassuring to the client, and also encourages him/her to be honest about any uncomfortable feelings that arise about the process or the therapist. The identification and discussion of these troublesome thoughts or feelings are very important in building trust in the counseling process. The therapist should make clear at the beginning of the counseling process what his/her policies are about cancellations and rescheduling.

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