Is therapy right for me?
Therapy can help people cope with life transitions, such as marriages or partnerships, births, deaths, and job changes. It can also help one adjust to a new medical diagnosis and manage uncomfortable physical and/or emotional symptoms. Furthermore, treatment can lead to improvements in one's relationships, performing more confidently at work or in school, understanding and accepting one's sexual orientation or gender identity, or enhancing personal growth, among other things.
Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
What is therapy like?
Every therapy session is unique and caters to each individual and their specific goals. It is standard for therapists to discuss the primary issues and concerns in your life during therapy sessions. It is common to schedule a series of weekly sessions, where each session lasts around fifty minutes. Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. There may be times when you are asked to take certain actions outside of the therapy sessions, such as reading a relevant book or keeping records to track certain behaviors. For therapy to be most effective you must be an active participant, both during and between the sessions. People seeking psychotherapy are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives. Here are some things you can expect out of therapy:
- Compassion, respect and understanding
- Perspectives to illuminate persistent patterns and negative feelings
Real strategies for enacting positive change
- Effective and proven techniques along with practical guidance
In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you. It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness refers to the concept of present-moment, nonjudgmental awareness. For example, when we are stressed, depressed, in pain, distracted, etc., we tend to do activities without really being fully mentally present or aware of what we're doing in that moment. So, we can be spending time with a loved one while our minds wander to thoughts or feelings about something in the past, worries about the future, or judgments about any number of things. Or we can be eating a delicious meal without even tasting it -- we miss out on what we're actually doing because we are not present.
We can also mistake the judgments we have about things for how things actually are. (An example is accepting the thought, "This test is impossible! I'm going to fail!" as something that is true, when in reality, what may be much more accurate is, "I really want to do well on this test, and am anxious about it. But if I study, I probably will pass, or even do well.")
Luckily, mindfulness skills can be developed through simple practices. And it's okay to be "mindless" from time to time -- when we notice this, we can simply bring our awareness back to the present moment.
Dr. Jon-Kabat-Zinn brought this concept into Western awareness, and has written several good books on the subject that are worth reading. For more on Dr. Kabat-Zinn, his CDs and books, visit: http://www.mindfulnesscds.com.
What is hypnosis?
Often people ask about this technique, as there are many myths about it. Hypnosis a state of inner absorption, or focused attention, and there is nothing mystical or esoteric about this. All of us go in and out of hypnotic states all of the time. An example of this is watching a movie and being so engrossed in it that you stop noticing the actual TV, your living room, etc. for several moments. Another is getting into a good book and developing images in your mind about the characters, the scenery, almost smelling the bread that the grandmother character is baking, etc. Yet another example is how our minds frequently wander while driving to thoughts of another event, a conversation we had with someone, what we'll make for dinner, and the like. Even though we are engrossed in these mental images, somehow we remain in control of the car, typically snapping back to attention if the car in front of us brakes or an animal is spotted crossing the road.
There has been a good deal of research over the last several decades examining the use of hypnosis for visualizing desired outcomes, decreasing unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms, enhancing athletic performance, increasing confidence, and gaining insight into issues about which we may normally feel "stuck."
Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, can be guided by a health professional who has specific training in this area. Patients/clients can also be taught self-hypnosis techniques, which can then be practiced at home. As a rule, hypnotherapy should only be conducted by someone who is a health professional trained in this area (e.g., a psychologist/psychiatrist, clinical social worker, medical or dental professional). A qualified health professional can then address any other issues that are relevant to a person's particular challenges, as well as symptoms of anxiety or depression, etc., should these be present.
It is important to note that the hypnotherapist is a facilitator of this process, but the person choosing to use hypnosis for him/herself is the one in control. Hypnosis does not require "amnesia," and for many, the hypnotic state may not feel very different from being relaxed. It is not the same as "stage hypnosis" (no clucking like a chicken!).
For more information about clinical hypnosis, visit www.asch.net.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT refers to an approach that views cognitions (thoughts), behaviors, and mood as affecting each other, for better or for worse. So, for example, someone who is depressed (mood) tends to have depressive thoughts or beliefs (e.g., "I am just a depressed person, and nothing's going to go well for me"), and behave in ways consistent with these thoughts and feelings (e.g., sleeping too much, socializing less, eating junk food, avoiding doing things they would normally enjoy or that would help them feel better).
Staying with the example of depression, when we are depressed, it can be hard to believe things ever were, or ever will be, any better. Challenging one's beliefs or changing behavior is typically easier to achieve than directly changing one's mood; yet, doing so can have a significant impact on mood. There is quite a bit of research supporting the efficacy of CBT approaches for treating depression, anxiety, including social anxiety, chronic pain, and other symptoms or issues.
A CBT approach can incorporate a number of techniques into the treatment, including role playing to reduce performance or social anxiety, relaxation training or guided imagery, keeping mood diaries to shed light on the triggers of positive and negative mood, and the like. CBT
therapists take the stance that they work in partnership with the client/patient to help him or her define and then achieve goals in a step-by-step manner. For more on CBT, please visit: http://nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm
Many therapists work integratively, and incorporate CBT techniques and a collaborative stance into a framework that draws upon the strengths of other therapeutic approaches, as well.
What is psychodynamic psychotherapy?
Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on the psychological roots of emotional suffering - including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, uncertainty about one's direction in life, chronic relationship problems, as well as other psychological issues. The approach is older, and less structured than cognitive and behavioral therapies. It places value on the therapeutic alliance, as well as elucidating unconscious and childhood origins of current issues. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is typically not time limited, and allows patients to explore issues in greater depth over time. This process is sometimes likened to "peeling back the layers of the onion." A recent meta-analysis found psychodynamic psychotherapy to be efficacious for a number of different psychological issues, and to have long-term benefits. When a therapist incorporates other techniques or treatment approaches into a psychodynamic framework, this is considered integrative. For more information on the meta-analysis cited above, please visit: http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/01/26/psychodynamic-psychotherapy-is-beneficial/10964.html