Frequently Asked Questions about therapy

Frequently Asked Questions about therapy


What is the point of talking about your problems?

Psychotherapy allows you a space in which you can explore your feelings without fear of being judged or gossiped about. An experienced therapist will help you gain insight into your own feelings so that you can use them to address any problems you may have. A successful therapeutic process is one from which you emerge stronger, more confident and happier with who you are.




Does therapy actually work?

Research shows clearly that cognitive-behavioural therapy is an effective treatment for emotional problems, relationship difficulties, personality disorders and drug dependence. Of course, this does not mean that everyone succeeds in managing to get complete relief from their problems. Sometimes CBT can quite quickly help clients to understand their predisposition towards certain issues and to break the cycle that is maintaining the problem (e.g. depression), at which point the problem lifts. If the client continues with therapy after the depression lifts then they are able to erode the old predisposition cementing new, more effective behaviours and by challenging belief systems until they become more flexible. This results in a decreasing chance of the problem re-occuring.




Will the therapist figure out exactly what is wrong with me, and fix me?

Unfortunately, and then again ever so fortunately, you are not a car. While cognitive-behavioural therapy has been shown to produce quicker and longer-lasting results than many other kinds of psychotherapy, a process such as this still takes time as well as effort from both therapist and client. Often even a clinical diagnosis gives a less clear picture of how much time will be required than the more individualist working hypothesis that will inform the treatment plan. Cognitive therapists build in quantitative goals towards the more overarching treatment goal, so that it is possible to clearly measure progress towards them. Of course, sometimes clients may feel worse for a while as they confront issues. The speed of progress is largely a product of how deeply the core belief systems have been altered, as well as how much effort the client puts into sessions and homework tasks.




How long before I start feeling better or seeing results?

Just making the decision to see a psychologist can make you begin to feel better – this is the first step in taking control of your problem, be it addiction, a phobia, depression, relationship problems, a traumatic event, or just a general sense that everything is not quite okay. Once the work starts, if you are fully invested in the process, you may well start seeing results within as few as six sessions. Certainly, this is a question that is useful to address towards the end of the first session. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is known as a method that often leads to fairly rapid relief.




Will I have to dig into my childhood?

The focus of sessions will depend largely on what is important to you and surfaces during the week and/both the working hypothesis surrounding the cycle in the present that is maintaining your condition. Events from earlier in your life have a definite role in affecting your current belief systems, and as such will be explored. However, these issues from the past, albeit severe enough to have profoundly affected your life, are being maintained in the present, not the past, and this will also form a vital component of therapy.




Will there be long awkward silences?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a very conversational style of therapy. It is somewhat more of a dialogue, with responsibility and direction coming from both the therapist and the client. The psychological formulation, working hypotheses and agreed goals in turn provide direction for these dialogues, as do the homework tasks.




Will I have to lie on a couch while a guy writes things down behind me?

My office contains chairs. Comfortable enough for you to feel relaxed, but hopefully not enough for you to fall asleep! We face each other and communicate as equals who are both taking ownership of directing our efforts towards achieving the best long-term, sustainable solutions to your problems.




Will the therapist hypnotise me or read my mind?

Hypnosis is a particular tool utilised by some cognitive therapists in very particular circumstances, and always with the agreement of the client. CBT mainly explores your conscious belief systems and identifies any that may be holding you back from being happy or from realising your full potential. You will be completely conscious and cognisant during this process. As for clairvoyancy, that’s not what any qualified psychologist does. You are the expert on your own mind, and cognitive therapists spend a fair amount of time trying not just assuming that they understand what you mean by words but trying to get behind them to better understand your world. They are then able to help you make sense of it.




If I need therapy, does that mean I am a nut case?

Therapy is for anyone. If you are looking for a psychologist to help you, chances are that you feel you have a problem. This problem does not mean there is something fundamentally wrong with you. And realising you have a problem is an excellent start to feeling better. Many people undertake therapy as way of responding to warning signs that something is out of equilibrium, and thus as a means of avoiding more serious problems from developing. So the act of engaging in psychotherapy does not make a particular issue more or less severe; it merely means that you have chosen to address the issue. Some people who attend regular therapy sessions are simply doing so in order to lead more fulfilled lives and attain more personal growth. This therapy can take the form of life coaching or more traditional cognitive-behavioural work.




What if I don’t like the therapist?

If you feel hostility or animosity of any kind towards your therapist, it may be worth exploring why. Be honest with them – psychologists are trained to understand feelings. There may be a reason you feel that way which could help with your healing process. If your feelings towards your therapist negatively impact on the therapeutic process then they will refer you on to another therapist.



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