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I’ve never been to a therapist or counselor before, and I can’t see how talking about your problems can make things any better. Does therapy really work?

The good news is that, yes, therapy has a proven track record of helping people to feel better, solve their problems, and create more harmonious relationships. This has been demonstrated in a number of studies, perhaps most famously in an investigation by Consumer’s Reports. In this study, the majority of therapy clients report that therapy helped them make the changes they were looking for. The results they achieved came in many forms: resolution of negative feelings, restoration of hope, along with gains in insight, confidence, and more satisfactory interpersonal relationships.

By the way, while talking can bring a sense of relief and also helps people develop insight and perspective on their lives, being in counseling or therapy generally involves more than “just talking.” Most likely your therapist or counselor will give you feedback, ask you to consider things from a variety of perspectives, and walk you through exercises (for example, steps to help you relax), In addition, you and your therapist might work out a plan with you in which you try new behaviors that are within your comfort zone.

What’s it like to work with a therapist?

Therapists are individuals, and each has his or her own style and way of approaching client concerns. In addition, each client will have a different situation and different goals for their therapy or counseling. For all the differences, however, there are some ways in which all effective therapies are similar.

First and foremost, good therapy or counseling starts with an open and trusting relationship between client and counselor. With this relationship established, you will be able to openly discuss your concerns, come up with realistic goals, and feel confident that your therapist is able to help you to get the results and make the changes you are looking for.

I’ve read that some counselors have very specific theories or approaches (like cognitive behavioral therapy, or psychoanalysis).
Do you have a specific theory or approach you use with your clients?

Over the years I have come to appreciate the importance of working with each client (individual, couple, or family) to understand their particular situation, needs, and strengths. What this means is that the approach I take will vary, depending on what the client and I discover and agree upon during our first meetings. Approaches we take might come from various traditions or “schools” of therapy: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), humanistic, systemic, and mindfulness-based. In addition, at times insights from the evolving study of neuroscience are brought into the conversation. This is always discussed and explained as we proceed.

While the particulars will vary, for every individual, couple or family there are some things that you can count on in our sessions. To start with, you can expect to be treated in a way that is respectful, collaborative, and responsive. What this means is that your concerns will be heard and understood in an atmosphere of trust and respect; that we will work together as equal partners in setting clear and compelling goals; and that I will continue throughout our meetings to ask for your feedback on how meetings are proceeding, and whether you are satisfied with the progress we are making.

How long does therapy last?

While it is impossible to predict the length of therapy at the outset, there are some guidelines that may be helpful. Therapy is generally shorter when the goals are more limited and “targeted”, and when the problem began more recently. Therapy that is focused on more open-ended goals such as personal growth or more ambitious goals such as changing long-standing patterns will tend to last longer. It depends on what you are looking for.

If I were to call you, how would we get started?

Generally speaking, our work will start with a phone conversation, during which you and I will have the opportunity to talk about what you are looking for, and how I might help you. During that conversation you can be asking yourself whether I would be someone you would feel comfortable working with. I encourage you to ask questions during this interview, and I will do the same. By the end of this call we will decide whether or not to schedule an initial appointment to talk more fully.

By the way, what does the “PsyD” at the end of your name stand for?

Some helpful background on the initials you will see at the end of therapists’ names: all therapists attended graduate school and earned a degree on their way to becoming licensed. Marriage and family therapists (MFT’s) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW’s) generally completed two years of graduate school and earned a Master’s Degree.

Doctoral level therapists (PhD’s and PsyD’s) have completed additional training, generally in the range of 5-6 years. Because the name PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) seems to imply an academic focus, some programs have started reserving that degree for psychologists who teach or who conduct research, while awarding the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) to psychologists who work with clients.