ATAQ: Who should get therapy, and how does it work?

Who should get therapy?

I think everyone can benefit from therapy! I’m only a little biased. ; ) In all seriousness…God is the only perfect being, so that leaves room for improvement in the rest of us! We all have issues, baggage, luggage, cargo, freight, a U-Haul…whatever you choose to call it. I believe that when we stop growing and changing, we die–spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually. So, it behooves us to keep at it until God calls us home.

Many people believe that having friends and family members to talk to means they don’t need therapy. Friends and family can be great sources of support and advice, and social support is one of the best mediators of stress and other psychological issues. But these individuals can be biased in our favor (in fact, we like for them to be!) and, therefore, less able to help us see different perspectives, different solutions and so forth. They may not want to or be able to tell us how we are contributing to a particular problem or issue or how our baggage or history is getting in our way. Therapy, also known as counseling, is a way to get guidance from someone who is more objective, someone who can help us see additional viewpoints. Therapists are skilled in problem-solving, so they can help you in ways non-professionals cannot.

How does therapy work?

In my approach to therapy, the first few sessions are exploratory, information-gathering, history-taking sessions. I often refer to this phase as an interrogation because I ask a great many questions during this phase. As a patient in this process, you are evaluating me just as much as I’m evaluating you.

As we are working in this phase, we are forming up treatment goals, exploring the things you want to work on and in what order you wish to work on them. Most people are driven to therapy for a relatively specific reason, so this is a great place to start. But we are working together here, so don’t feel like you have to know exactly what you want to work on when you come to your first appointment. Some people come to therapy with a general feeling of depression, anxiety or being out of control but aren’t sure exactly why or what to do about it. With history-gathering and a look at current issues, we can discern the origins of the feelings and thoughts and work together to tackle them.

Beyond this, therapy can become much less directive if you like. I will maintain a list of things that I think may be important to address, but we will often see what each session holds rather than strictly sticking to my agenda. I will be honest with you about what issues I think need to be addressed and if you are avoiding anything, but sometimes life throws us curve balls and we need to address those issues in the week’s session first. Otherwise, I can’t expect to have your attention.

Success in therapy is built upon determination, a good therapeutic relationship, awareness, motivation and change. Success comes in many forms. For some issues, it takes talking things through, maybe obtaining a third-party perspective. For others, it comes down to working on forgiveness. For many, it’s about improving self-esteem, being assertive and setting boundaries in your life. The list goes on, but two main goals of therapy, in my opinion, are (1) changing your perception and (2) learning to do things differently in your life.