Psychotherapy is a process built upon a relationship between you and your therapist which is devoted to your well-being and growth. Relieving your pain, reducing your symptoms, or changing your behavior or lifestyle are some of the goals of this process. The only direct benefit to the therapist is the fee which you will pay. It is never your responsibility to take care of your therapist's needs, health, or well-being.
The main way we achieve the goals of psychotherapy is by talking together. Sometimes other kinds of "expression," such as doing art, playing (most often used with children) or writing a journal can be used. Other methods (such as massage, relaxation training, meditation, and so on) may be suggested, but your therapist will use only approaches to which you agree. You have a right to be informed and to understand the purposes, activities, risks, and reasonable chances of success of any approach.
Psychotherapy (or "therapy") is not physical, that is, we do not ordinarily touch one another. It is not directly spiritual, that is, as therapists we do not advocate particular brands or approaches to spirituality, although we do one's consider spirituality an important resource. Therapy is not necessarily about past memories, although it can be. Basically, therapy is about you striving to know yourself better and finding ways to solve your problems so that you can experience life with more freedom and happiness.
We think of therapy as present- and future-oriented, although some forays into understanding the past may be needed and beneficial. While nothing can undo the past, a better understanding of how one's history motivates present behaviors and choices often provides a compelling tool for change.
Therapy cannot protect you from real-life dangers, oppressive circumstances, and threats, but it can assist you in evaluating and problem-solving them. Therapy cannot rescue you from danger or evil persons, but it can help you learn to recognize them and to avoid them. Therapy cannot simply end your unhappy story, but it can strengthen you to compose a new story.
When you decide to enter therapy, you must be prepared to do hard work. You will learn to pay attention to your thoughts, your feelings, and your relationships; to honestly acknowledge them (including feelings you wish you never had); to work with unwanted aspects of yourself, to learn to feel painful things and to face ugly realities; to talk candidly and respectfully with people you'd rather avoid; to accept unchangable or inevitable situations; to change frightening but changeable ones; to face one's inner monsters and to learn to love the outer ones - or to name and run away from them! The therapist does not do this work.
The therapist's job is to listen carefully, to point out strengths that have been unnoticed and weaknesses that have been ignored, to look for hope when you are hopeless and danger when you are naive, to allow you to be dependent when you fear depending and to challenge you to grow up when you would love to stay little. In short, the therapist's job is to assist you to learn to meet your needs, satisfy your desires, and live more abundantly in this world.
The chief overall goal of therapy is to help you to become better able to meet your needs, satisfy your desires, and live more freely in this world. Happiness, "feeling better," or similar states are not necessarily the goal, although they may be appropriate by-products.
Some health insurance companies may insist that "problem reduction" or "symptom relief' are the only appropriate therapy goals. These are minimum goals. Authentic psychotherapy can be more than that. We will help you in achieving symptom relief, but it is not our only interest. However, as the client, your interests are the main focus of psychotherapy.
You may or may not have been to a therapist before. If this is your first experience with therapy, you may feel a bit nervous or apprehensive. That's normal!
Therapy is a process that allows you the freedom and privacy to discuss issues that are often painful or difficult to discuss with family and/or friends.
The following are a few suggestions to help make your counseling experience most effective:
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