Does it seems like you keep shooting yourself in the foot? Do you feel unmotivated, unproductive, or wandering around alone lost in space? Do you have questions about your or others' behavior that would help you a lot in figuring out what to do next? Do you feel that the social support you are having now is somehow not enough? Do you find it difficult to manage the daily stress? Is it possible that a couple of conversations with someone who has experience in talking to people about depression, stress, anxiety, relationships, trauma, changing unproductive behavior, and the like, may potentially slingshot your life? If you say "yes", to any of these questions, you may benefit from talking to a psychotherapist.
Start with stating your problem clearly and concisely. Then set a positive goal: what do you want instead of this problem. Don't settle with what you don't want. If I ask you, "What do you want for dinner?" and you tell me "I don't want fish", that does not give me much information about what you do want. There can be still thousands of items on the list. Don't say, "I don't want to fight with my wife" but say, for instance, "I want to have pleasant conversations with my wife, at least twice a week, perhaps over dinner or afterward." Alternatively, you might say, "I want my wife to share my hobbies." Now I'm getting a better image of what you mean by "not fighting". Once you have a good picture of what you do want (instead what you don't want), then it will beg the question, "How will I make this happen?" Yes, you heard it well. You have to do something for this good thing to come to your life. Wishful thinking won't do it. Childhood is over - mom and dad are no longer available to make things happen for you. A therapist, I for one, can help you figure out how to get from A to B to C by increasing your resources or changing some unproductive behavior. And no, therapy, just like life, is not once size fits all.
First, you figure out your insurance or private pay capacity. Then you contact me to discuss the details and an set appointment. If you collect your questions, I can answer them to the best of my ability. I'd set you up on my online platform called TherapyPortal. This is our secure base to exchange documents that's not the business of anyone other than you. This will also be the place where you and I meet on a regular basis to do our online chats. Then we have an intake session. If we are on insurance, you have to fit medical necessity, which means I'll have to give you a diagnosis. If you pay out of pocket, we don't have this issue. I would still spend the first session gathering information about you. Who you are; what is your childhood and current family background; current stressors (school, work, relationships, self-image, goals in life, etc.); and of course, what you'd like to achieve in therapy, where you see yourself on the other end. I pay attention to what you say and how you say it. How coherent and realistic are you? How do you use logic? How receptive are you to feedback? How do you refer to yourself, others, and the world? What are your expectations? Then I tell you how I'd proceed with your goals or if I can't help you, I'd let you know. You don't have to agree with me or like me at all. Not any therapist will fit your need and not anyone would be able or willing to work with me. It's a very personal choice. Sometimes, you can benefit from stretching your comfort zone. But just how much you are prepared to stretch, and why you'd do that, is up to you completely. No hard feelings on my side if you decide that we are not a good match after all. It's better to be honest and decisive at the beginning than suffering through some uncomfortable sessions. You will not open up to me in a meaningful way if you don't feel safe enough. Then, we move on to work with your issues. I prefer you to take an active role in therapy and bring in issues from your week. Think about how your original concern shows up during the week and what responses you give to your challenges. Pay attention to how your responses are changing to life's challenges as times goes by.
To answer that question, you first have to clarify the image of "health" or "healing" for yourself. If you don't know what you are looking for, how do you know that you have found it?
Do you want symptom reduction? Do you want deeper changes in your life, more than what meets the eye?
In my view, therapy is working if you are gaining more clarity about who you are and what you want from your life. You see yourself as the active ingredient; the director of the story of your life. Yes, you respond to your situation, to the many factors you have no control over. You adapt. But you do what you CAN do and let go of what you CAN'T do. The grip of shame, blame, fear, magical thinking (that some kind of miracle will save you from your bad circumstances), and the sense that your past determines your future, is easing up on your throat and you are starting to breathe on your own. You realize that even when you allow others to influence you, it's your choice. You make your choices based on your values and many times, you have conflicting values. So, when you give in to one value (wanting the comfort of the crowd to fill you with a sense of belonging or relieving you of the burden of making your own decisions) it may conflict with another value you hold (to walk your own path, proudly even if alone). You have come to make "the right" choice by evaluating the realism of your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world; considering cost-benefits and the short-long term effects of your actions on you and others; and how your planned actions align with your values. To use a movie metaphor, you wake up from the Matrix and start owning your feelings, your decisions, your responsibilities and stop blaming others for your misfortune. Your mind becomes a "thinker" to replace the "random-thought-producer". This is my image of good therapy. What is yours?
I find that we need 10-12 sessions to "warm up" and get to know each other, as well as to clarify what each of us can contribute to your situation: what you can do for yourself and what I can do to support your effort. I have to have enough information to suggest a move and I also have to have your trust so you'd try and test those moves; to get your honest feedback and change directions if we need to. Then we'll see how flexible you are in your cognitive faculties. The faster you can wrap your mind around the idea that the world that you live in is not out there but inside your mind in the form of ongoing narratives and automated behaviors, the faster you can change the ideas, beliefs, and behaviors that don't work for you, that are inconsistent with your current values. The faster you can realize that you are the active player in your life and you don't have to believe everything that others, or rather your fears and expectations, tell you, the sooner you can free yourself from the chains of your suffering.
My first instinct is to say that "you'll feel it". But our feelings sometimes deceive us. Not everything that is frustrating or uncomfortable is bad for you. Sometimes, when you feel that nothing is working and you are ready to quit, that's when the work is about to start. When you stop being the "nice guy" and allow your dissatisfaction, disappointment, and anger to come through and start really speaking of what secretly bugs you, that's when transformation is possible. You have to be honest with yourself (and to your therapist) to change your ways. I've learned so much more from how a person left therapy than from months of "therapeutic" interaction with them. We want to quit because we don't get what we need or want. We often quit before we try to negotiate for our needs and wants. So here is what I really have to say about this. First, get clear about your needs and wants in therapy. Tell your therapist if you are not getting it and ask for another kind of treatment. If you are still not getting heard and your therapist is not responsive, then quit. Don't quit before you speak up for yourself. Nobody can read your mind if you don't let your voice heard. And this is true not only in therapy.
It depends on what you want to achieve and where you currently are in relation to that goal. Weekly sessions, for at least 10-12 weeks, are typical. But I can see you twice a week if it is a serious matter that you are dealing with (we'd need permission from your insurance first if that's your preferred payment method) or biweekly once we have established a "common language" and some basic changes in your behavior have stabilized. We can go to "as-needed" once you feel safe to stand on your own feet, in which case you text me when you need a "boost" and I give you a time.
That is a million-dollar question on Jeopardy. Many times it is. Sometimes it is hard to get there. Human behavior - most clearly visible when you observe other animal species - functions as adaptation to the environment. And you can't do anything without making a "chemical" imprint on the brain; a chemical imprint that can also be modified with legal medications or legal/illegal substances. The "environment" is pretty much a cognitive blueprint or model of the external. What you "see" may not be what I "see". So, if we can straighten out the picture you see and make it more realistic, we can adjust your behavior. For instance, I look at depression as an adaptive behavior in an environment when the individual perceives that no action would make any difference for their wellbeing, or any action would even make things worse. So the brain calls on the body to cease desire, enjoyment, satisfaction, motivation, and energy production. The body would stop caring and go into a vegetative state. As long as you lie flat, you can't be hurt. Exploring and transforming those mostly unconscious cognitive patterns that conclude in inaction can have lasting positive effects. Alcohol and depressant substances can chemically induce depression. Anxiety, on the other hand, having too many options/ideas/alternative realities floating through your mind, each with its own risks and benefits, and you don't know how to choose one action. Chemically, coffee, energy drinks, or stimulants can have the same effect: too much energy to burn and not enough goals. How sensitive we are to chemical changes in our brain, that is, how high or low our threshold is for chemical fluctuation and how reactive we become to change, is a personal matter. A medical checkup for a potential brain injury should always be considered.
Technically yes, you could. But what purpose would this conjoint session serve? Do you want someone to back you up when you feel challenged? Do you want them to speak for you? Will you feel free to say anything you want when new, unexpected questions arise? Is there something you would want to talk to them about that you cannot do at home in private? Do they have to translate your thoughts to me because you think that they know you better than you know yourself or that they speak more eloquently than you do?
If you want couples counseling, then yes, I absolutely want to see you together. If their presence is necessary and is only for a couple of sessions (conjoint session), then they won't enjoy the same confidentiality that you do.
"We’d like to have back-to-back sessions. Can you see both of us?"
I could. But I'd like you first to think about how it would affect your child to see the same therapist that you see. Or how the siblings would secretly assume that they are talked out behind their backs? Will they trust that their "stuff" will not be shared with you or the sibling? Will you want to know a little insight from me about how your child is doing? Will you want to find a way, through me, to manipulate them into obedience? Even if you don't actually ask me anything, will you wonder whether you could?
Probably not. When there is active violence in a relationship, couples counseling is not recommended. Each of you should do your individual sessions first; have recognized your role in the violence; and have made significant changes in your behavior to manage your temper and how you trigger each other. Until violence has ceased, couples or even conjoint counseling would not be safe for either of you or for the therapist.
Yes it is true. As a therapist, I am a mandatory reporter of suspected child, elderly, and dependent adult abuse. Sometimes parents hurt their children, physically, verbally, or even sexually, when they get angry, frustrated, and stressed out. Sometimes parents don't know how to handle a child that appears to challenge their authority. Or perhaps parents have habits that are not conducive to caring for children. The list is long. I as a therapist, have to and want to make sure that I protect those who cannot protect themselves. Likewise, some adults (65 years and older), or those who are dependent on others due to debilitating causes, get subjected to physical, financial, or other kinds of treatment that threaten their wellbeing. If I suspect abuse, I report. If you, my client, prepare to cause major damage to person or property, I have to report to authorities to keep everybody safe. If you threaten to kill yourself and I cannot make sure that you are safe through a third party or your own motivation and actions, I will call 911 to keep you safe. Suicidal and homicidal gestures are very often passing "whims" - people feel better the next day if they don't give in to their urge to act. And there is the Patriot Act, 2001: if the FBI demands me for your records in the name of terrorism, I have to give them all your records and I am not allowed to tell you about it.