Psychotherapy is not easily described. It can vary greatly with the different personalities involved and the treatment approaches and techniques used will be unique to the challenges being faced.
WHAT THERAPY IS AND ISN'T
Psychotherapy is not just talking to someone who is supportive. You need to feel you can be open and comfortable, trusting that the therapist is in your corner. But these things, by themselves, are not psychotherapy. You may not always be comfortable. In fact, unless the process is challenging you and stirring up a little discomfort, you may not be achieving anything. There are times when therapy can become very difficult.
Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Picture the forging process metal undergoes to be shaped into something beautiful and useful. There is heat and pressure involved to achieve the desired results. A wise Christian therapist will see where you need to be challenged in order to move toward your desired goals. She or he will also challenge you to examine yourself in light of what the Bible has to say about different aspects of your life. God and his Word, given out of his love for us, are always right and true, making him the best "forger." While this process can be hard, the therapist is there to encourage and equip you to move forward.
Psychotherapy is not advice. It may involve some education and learning of new skills, but its purpose is not to tell you what you should do in your current situation. Psychotherapy should help you become increasingly aware and insightful regarding the challenges you face, recognize your needs, priorities, and goals, and have the courage, wisdom, and skill to take effective action. Therapy should not only help you manage your current situation, but give you skills that will help you deal with the inevitable challenges that you will face in the future. "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and you feed him for life."
SESSION FREQUENCY AND LENGTH
Typically, our first one or two sessions will involve an evaluation of your needs. However, in times of crisis, my usual format for this evaluation may not be followed so our time might be used to relieve the immediate crisis. Within the first few sessions, I will be able to offer you my impressions of what our work together might involve and we will develop your specific treatment plan together.
Regular sessions are helpful, particularly in the early stage of counseling. Typically, sessions are scheduled weekly so that we can create the momentum that is needed to tackle the work ahead. It has been my experience that individuals who start out weekly tend to see sooner and greater results and are, therefore, more likely to stick with therapy until they accomplish their goals. In some cases, meeting more than once a week or longer than the typical 50-minute hour might be needed to get an individual, couple, or family through a particularly difficult period.
Therapy is collaborative. You will be instrumental in shaping your therapy experience, from setting goals and collaborating on an individualized treatment plan to providing feedback about what is and isn't working so adjustments can be made. Therapy is not like a visit to the dentist in which he or she fixes the problem. It requires a very active effort from you both inside and outside of sessions.
It would be challenging, if not impossible, to enact significant and lasting change relying solely on the few hours a month spent in sessions. Therefore, we will create "homework" tasks you will complete between each of your sessions. These tasks may require such things as reflecting on session content, taking some action toward a goal, or practicing your new skills in your day-to-day life.
For more information about how you can greatly influence whether or not you experience success in therapy, read the section titled, "How to get the most out of your counseling sessions."
TREATMENT LENGTH AND TERMINATION
Typically, therapy ends once the agreed upon treatment goals have been met. It can be difficult to estimate the length of treatment. Your commitment and efforts will have a great impact. As we collaborate on a treatment plan, projected time frames for accomplishing various goals will be discussed. Throughout therapy, we will evaluate our progress toward each goal. You are encouraged to share your thoughts about progress at any time. If needed, we will modify the treatment plan. If we are approaching completion of the goals, we will move toward termination.
I am committed to helping you achieve your goals in a timely manner. Unfortunately, in rare cases, progress is not made due to non-compliance or other reasons. If, despite modifications, a client is consistently not progressing, I am ethically responsible to conclude treatment.
Therapy will require a commitment of your time, effort, and money. However, if you are needing change in your life or your relationships, therapy can help you accomplish your goals and lead to a greater sense of well-being and a more fulfilling life.