I’ve compiled a list of the most frequent questions that I have received over my career. It’s normal and encouraged for patients to ask many questions when choosing to work with a licensed Psychotherapist. Here are some answers to the questions I receive the most. If you can’t find what you are looking for, please get in touch.
What's the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
This is perhaps a bit like defining the difference between pop music and classical music: both have their place and it is often a matter of preference. That said, counselling is often understood as contemporary, brief in duration, and solution-focussed, while psychotherapy often goes deeper, involving itself in the "invisible" (such as deeply rooted patterns, unconscious processes, dream-states, symbols, spiritual quests, and early/forgotten memories). If you want quick tools for here-and-now problems, looking to change how you "do life", then perhaps conventional counselling is for you. If you are after something deeper, and your quest is more about purpose and being in life, then psychotherapy might be the better fit.
Take anxiety or depression as examples: through a contemporary counselling process, we would likely take 4-6 sessions target cognitive-behavioural syptoms. On the other hand, if we were to approach it through a deeper psychotherapeutic process, we'd be more invested in exploring the origins and roots in order to come to a more comprehensive understanding of how/why anxiety and/or depression manifest, in addition to providing insights regarding how to deal with it.
We'll probably figure out pretty quickly what it is you're after... but in either case, be prepared for some depth, some challenge, some fun, and a big dose of liberation!
How long are sessions? How often should we meet? And for how many sessions?
Ideally, the first session would be 80 minutes. This gives us time to get to know one another, to fill in some history and complete an assessment. Thereafter, it's usually best to have sessions weekly for at least the first few 4 weeks so that things stay fresh in mind and on-track in terms of action plans. There is, however, a lot of room for flexibility: some folks are understandably limited by such factors as time, service caps (in the case of insurance-billed sessions), or where surplus cash flow is a concern. We've had clients meet weekly on an ongoing basis, and we've had clients who went away satisfied after only one session. Much depends on your specific circumstances, needs, hopes, and availability. We'll take some time during the first session to assess needs and set attainable goals that will work for you.
Do you accept evening hours?
Yes, our center has evening hours. Please, inform our therapist so we adapt with you. Evening hours are online only.
What can I expect from therapy?
Once you have made a decision to see a therapist, you still might be apprehensive about the process. Many people feel nervous before their first appointment. Therapy is a shared journey; a shared process. And, although you and I will travel together, it is ultimately your journey and you will make your own decisions. I do not have answers to all your concerns, but I do have the ability to listen carefully and will ask thoughtful questions. Your answers to these questions will help shape the direction of our work. You can expect to be respected. You can expect that I will offer opinions and suggestions from time to time but I will not tell you what to do.
Can I expect to feel better right away?
Some people begin to feel better as soon as they make their appointment or at the time of their first session. There can be a sense of relief when you make the commitment to address an issue that is problematic. More often, however, people do not feel better immediately. Therapy is sometimes emotionally painful, because it involves an active effort to look at yourself and your life situations in a very deep and honest way, and to make some difficult changes. If the problems that bring you to therapy were easy to solve, you would have solved them without the guidance of a professional. Though the short-term distress of addressing problems and making changes may feel challenging, keep in mind that the potential long-term gains can feel well worth it. When therapy is successful, the positive gains in self-esteem, improved relationships and coping skills will far outweigh the distress of making changes.
I would like my partner/spouse to come to therapy with me, but he/she is unwilling. What can I do?
There are many reasons why people do not want to come in for therapy; they may feel that therapy means they are weak and cannot solve their own problems, they may fear being harshly criticized or they may not wish to make changes. If you and your partner are able to discuss the reasons, it is a good idea to do so. Sometimes partners will come in for a first appointment if they understand that it is an assessment and does not commit them to continuing in treatment. Sometimes, speaking to the therapist over the phone can dispel fears about the appointment. Also, partners may feel more comfortable starting with individual therapy rather than couples therapy. Although any couples’ issues are best addressed with both people in the session, there are still benefits to coming in alone and exploring changes you can make which could positively impact your relationship.
My spouse has been unfaithful. Is there hope for our relationship?
In a word: YES! In some cases, the betrayal occurs in the form of romantic and sexual relationships; in others it is an emotional affair, and in still others, the problems have to do with pornography or "sexting". Betrayal is extremely painful and difficult to deal with, and many relationships fail as a result. That said, there is a lot of hope when both partners are willing to do the work to repair and rebuild the trust, friendship, and esteem.
Do you work with children/teens?
Our center works with children and teens, and has strong skills in building trust and therapeutic relationship with them.
What if my therapist thinks I may need medication?
Although our training is to treat you using sound therapeutic skills, there are times when a medication referral is warranted. If your therapist thinks that medication might be helpful, he/she will discuss a referral to a health professional who is trained in working with emotional and behavioral issues – most often, a psychiatrist. At other times, there may be medical issues your therapist believes should be addressed, since feeling good requires being physically as well as emotionally healthy. As with other aspects of treatment, whether or not you choose to accept your therapist’s recommendation is ultimately your decision.
Can you prescribe medication?
As Registered Clinical Counsellors we do not have the ability to presribe medications. If you desire medication, we will gladly refer you to a psychiatrist or medical doctor with whom we will collaborate on your care.
What can psychotherapy do for me that a self-help book can’t?
Self-help books contain generalizations, based on someone else’s story, or on a combination of stories. While self-help books play an important role in our culture, they don’t offer the flexible, individualized approach that is often needed to bring about lasting life changes. In addition, books do not offer the therapeutic relationship that can encourage us and hold us to a greater level of accountability.
How do I know when our therapy is finished?
Throughout our relationship, we will discuss goals and our progress in working toward those goals. Usually, once it has been mutually determined that goals have been satisfactorily reached or when you determine that you no longer need the supportive relationship, we set an end date together. Once that end date is established, we use our remaining time to consolidate growth and discuss the most helpful aspects of therapy.
Is online counseling right for me?
Although there are many advantages of online counseling (it’s convenient, effective, keeps us safe from infectious diseases such as COVID-19), it’s not right for everyone. Online counseling (teletherapy) works best for those with mild to moderate symptoms (not people who are suicidal or in crisis), are comfortable using technology, and have a quiet, private place to have their sessions.
How long will therapy last?
Depending on your own unique needs, therapy can be short-term (4-10 sessions), for a specific issue or goal, or long-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for continued personal growth.