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Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.  ~ attributed to Carl Bard

The (Very) Basics of Psychotherapy

What is therapy?

There are probably as many answers to that question as there are therapists  My view is that therapy (also known as psychotherapy or counseling) is a focused process that helps an individual, couple or family find or create solutions to change how they are experiencing problems or difficulties in life. Some problems can be solved more quickly than others and everyone has their own unique strengths, challenges and pace. This is why despite what other people you know may have experienced in therapy - your own experience will likely be very different.

How does therapy help?

Therapy relies on a trusting (or “therapeutic”) relationship between the person seeking therapy and the therapist. This relationship is built through a series of conversations over time.  What I learn about you during these talks is important as it helps me to help you identify solutions to the “problem.” You, then, try out these things out to see if they actually help you make the changes you want to make and achieve the goals you have set. Some things are easy to talk about and others may require more emotionally difficult conversations.

I use a strengths based approach to therapy that is rooted in Motivational Interviewing and the Solution Focused Brief Treatment Model.  "Brief treatment" does not mean that there are a “prescribed” number of sessions or length of time guiding the therapy.  I (as well as some researchers) have found that the strength of the therapeutic relationship and your motivation for change will be the most important factors in how long it takes to successfully achieve your goals. 

How Does it Start?

Assessment:
I'll ask a lot of questions in the beginning. Some will be about why you are coming in, what you hope to get out of therapy and how you think the problem is affecting your life.  I'll also ask about you, your past experiences with the problem, how you have solved other problems in your life, and some very personal questions - some of these will be fairly easy to answer and others more difficult.

Treatment Plan:
Your answers are used to help create a plan for the therapy that is specific and unique to you.  The plan will include the reason(s) you came in for therapy, a diagnosis (see below), the goals on which you want to focus, the strengths you have that might help you reach these goals, and your responsibilities in the therapy process. You and I will review the plan together and make any changes that you feel need to be made – after all, you are the customer and the plan has to make sense to you.

What is a diagnosis and why is it necessary?

A diagnosis is the name given to a collection of symptoms or things that are bothering you.  Diagnoses are helpful because it helps us (therapists) think about ways to help that have worked with particular sets of symptoms.  Diagnoses are also required by insurance companies for reimbursement. All diagnoses are made using the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV with Text Revisions” (DSM-IV TR) which was developed by the American Psychiatric Association.  I will always share with you any diagnosis I make, the reasons I made it and the DSM-IV TR criteria for it.