Is Psychotherapy right for me?
This article is to clarify what psychotherapy is and what you can expect so you can decide if its right for you at this time in your life. There are many roads to feeling better and it can be confusing to know which one to choose. I hope this helps you decide.
What's the difference between CBT, Counseling and Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy differs from counseling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in that these tend to focus on changing behaviors or learning tools; such as what to do when you're angry or anxious. Psychotherapy asks the question why are you feeling that way in the first place. It then goes on to address the root cause of these feelings. Psychotherapy is a process to understand yourself and grow your relationship with yourself. This in turn can shift your world. I think of it as healing from the inside out.
In Counseling or CBT, the therapist provides very specific interventions to change your behavior. This kind of treatment is more solution-focused, tends to be short-term and more of a “how-to” approach. You may have read a self-help book or taken a “5 ways to deal with anxiety.” If those approaches worked for you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. Self help and CBT are very good at teaching us what we should do. They don't address what is getting in the way of us doing it or why we are feeling that way to begin with. It's been shown to be successful in the short-term but doesn't always hold in the long-term.
If we get rid of one problematic behavior in an area of our lives, we may feel good for awhile, but it shows up later in other areas. This is because the behavior was present for a reason. If we get rid of the behavior without really understanding why it was there in the first place, chances are it will find it’s way into some other area of our life and begin causing other problems. So instead of just focusing on stopping the anger or anxiety, psychotherapy asks the question why the feeling in the first place and seeks to address the root cause.
To do this, psychotherapy teaches you how to use your mind to understand yourself, your behaviours and your life. Through the process of therapy you'll develop a new way of understanding your behavior and patterns. This helps you make the changes you need to live a fuller life.
What about immediate relief?
Regardless of what kind treatment you choose, the most important aspect that helps you feel better right away is just being heard! We all feel better when we've had a chance to get our feelings out, share about what's really going on and be understood. This is different than talking with a friend or family, which is very important in our lives as well, but your therapist's sole expertise and job is to really understand and support you.
Often we start therapy when we are in a crisis of some kind. We cannot tolerate what's going on and want immediate relief. We might think “if I can just learn a few tools I can move on quickly with life”. This can work in the short-term, but it's a bit like cutting off the heads of dandelions and hoping they don't grow back. There's an abundance of free tools and great CBT therapists and counselors out there to help you learn the “how-to's”, however, psychotherapy is different, it provides in-depth work that addresses the root and focuses on long-term gains.
Depending on where you are in your life you can decide if you are looking for counseling or psychotherapy. Counseling may be right for you if you're not in a place to commit to a psychotherapy process but need support and some strategies.
You may, however, be at a place where you've been caught in the same patterns over and over again. You may have already tried many tools, medications and treatments and nothing's really shifted in your life. Maybe you feel good for a short period of time, only to get let down again by experiencing similar feelings or similar situations in your life. This would be a valuable time to invest in psychotherapy!
So how does it work?
Psychotherapy works from the understanding that you have an unconscious mind. There are memories, beliefs, assumptions, thoughts, anxieties and conflicts that you have that you may not be aware of which may impact your life in a profound way. As a therapist, I've been trained to pay unique attention to your unconscious process. This means paying attention to the things you don’t know about yourself. My job is to bring them to your attention, so you can develop an understanding of why you get caught in doing things you don't want to do and how to get unstuck from that pattern.
For example, in our relationships we may want love, peace and no conflicts yet get caught in the same argument over and over again. Perhaps we set out with our best intentions to get fitter, slimmer, healthier only to have our unconscious mind high-jack our valiant efforts for a better life.
There are things about your mind that you may not be aware of yet that could be contributing greatly to the challenges you are up against. Through therapy, as you come to know these previously unknown parts of yourself, you’ll be able to understand yourself and others better, thus avoid painful patterns and navigate life with more ease and clarity.
How long does it take?
This is a process that can be part of a life-long journey! It's best to commit to weekly appointments for a period of time and then when you have made gains you can choose to continue or return at different times in your life.
We need time to build a relationship so I can see patterns you are playing out in your life, patterns that you may not be aware of. You have to trust me enough that when I point some things out, you can feel safe enough to agree or disagree with me. Together we work to make sense of your experience more deeply. This takes some time and trust.
Every therapeutic relationship is different. It's very important to find someone you connect with and trust. I encourage you to explore and meet with several different therapists to find a good match. You would certainly shop around for a heart surgeon, and so too I encourage you to shop around to find the right person whom you are willing to trust to venture into your mind with you!
Are there any guarantees?
The outcome of psychotherapy depends a lot on your willingness to engage in and commit to the process and the connection between the two of us. I can promise, however, if we decide to work together, I will commit to this process with you. I support you and do my very best to understand you and the repeating patterns in your life. I will also help you clarify and seek what you want for yourself and your life.
Psychotherapy is a powerful way we can develop our understanding of ourselves, grow awareness and understand our inner world. If you’re interested, or even just curious, give me a call and find what this journey is all about. I believe it's one of the most important journeys to take.