What is psychotherapy?
While every clinician has his or her own definition, I believe psychotherapy is a process by which an honest and open relationship is created and nurtured. Many practitioners have modernized their participation and are active collaborators with their clients, moving from clinician to educator to life coach to ardent supporter. I often tell my clients that as with any relationship, there will be ups and downs. I believe the therapeutic relationship evolves to represent a microcosm of connections that are fostered outside the therapeutic space. This being said, patterns that occur in associations outside the therapeutic relationship often become present inside the therapeutic relationship. This is a positive occurrence, as it allows therapist and client to observe and work through these patterns in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. This type of relationship makes room for increased insight and awareness, which can ultimately lead to sustainable change in many realms of a client’s life.
When I start the psychotherapy process, does it mean I have to commit to coming in for years?
Traditional models of psychotherapy have emphasized a long-term approach to treatment. I’m sure the classic image that comes to mind as you’re reading this is the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud talking to a client sprawled out on a long couch. The answer to this question is not at all. The length of therapy is often informed by the presenting concern, the therapist’s approach to treatment and most importantly, the ongoing collaborative conversation with each client about the objectives and goals he or she wants to accomplish. Ultimately, the time frame is driven by the client making progress toward accomplishing his or her goals.
Is psychotherapy only useful during times of crisis?
The answer to this question is no. We have made strides in destigmatizing psychotherapy, but the idea that there has to be something wrong appears to remain deeply embedded in the societal narrative, even today. I believe it is critical to emphasize that going to a therapist can be useful, even when distress is not present. Developing self-awareness, strengthening emotional muscles, advancing communication skills and exploring values are the building blocks to navigating a crisis and maintaining change after the crisis is successfully managed. Often, the more meaningful therapeutic conversations are had when there is not a pressing crisis. Thus, frequent exploration of the topics, as listed above, can be analogous to “sharpening the saw”: The sharper it is, the better equipped one will be in coping with a crisis.
Will my therapist be angry if I express dissatisfaction about the treatment process?
Clients are often worried about disappointing his or her therapist, especially as it relates to their treatment. The answer to this question is absolutely not. In fact, therapists welcome this feedback from their clients and believe it is critical to foster honesty and transparency in the therapeutic relationship. Expressing authentic feelings is the hallmark of a strong therapeutic alliance. Thus, it is crucial to disclose when dissatisfied with the course of treatment so changes can be made or a referral to another provider can be arranged. The bottom line is the therapist is at the service of the client, not the other way around. In my experience, when clients have expressed dissatisfaction in any way, it has actually strengthened, not hindered, the relationship.
Dr. Nahal Delpassand is a licensed psychologist who has been in private practice for two years and has worked in the field of counseling psychology for eight years. As a psychologist in private practice, Delpassand is often asked questions indicating that there appear to be misconceptions about what psychotherapy is and the process of psychotherapy itself. Here, she takes the time to discuss the most frequent misunderstandings about psychotherapy that she’s come acrosss. First and foremost, psychotherapy is a very nuanced process and dependent upon a number of factors. However, the most important factor that predicts positive outcomes is the relationship between therapist and client.