Important Questions and Answers About Psychotherapy

If I come to therapy does that mean I'm mentally ill?
No, it does not mean that. Coming to therapy only means you want to solve a problem. So let's leave the question of mental illness and ponder instead: what part of your life do you want to improve or enhance? Looking at this question promotes introspection, psychological awareness, problem definition and solving. If you cannot get started or get any traction on this type of question then perhaps a mental health assessment is needed to facilitate the process.

How many sessions will I have to come for before I'm fixed?
Well, let's first talk about the word 'fixed'. If you're standing on the shore of a lake waiting for the waves to calm, would you say the water needs fixing? Probably not. People don't need to be fixed. People who come to therapy want to change their lives from waves to calm in most cases. How many sessions will that take? It depends on how big the waves are, how powerful are the forces that create the waves, how deep the water is, how long the waves have been building up, and do the waves actually serve some kind of a purpose? (Being obese is sometimes an important defence against being emotionally/physically close) So it's hard to say how many sessions will be needed to get you where you want to be. Sometimes it only takes three or four; and sometimes it takes several dozen sessions. Often a person calms down one part of their life and is inspired to do more sessions and calm down other parts of their life.

I'm scared I'll be criticized by my family and friends or the people at work if they know I'm getting therapy. Is that a normal reaction?
Yes. In our culture it is the prevailing fear. It comes from two cultural influences. One is the stigma attached to mental illness because mental illness has been portrayed as craziness - the incompetent babbling drooling person in the padded lock-up. The second influence is the fear of weakness. It goes something like this: If you cannot handle your own problems you must be weak; and weak people are a burden, unworthy, cast out, abandoned, left behind to die. The Darwinian idea of 'survival of the fittest' seems to support the notion. What prey animals are eaten by carnivores? The weak ones. So you don't wanna be weak!

On the other hand, if asking for help means weakness or incompetence, how is it that every serious athlete has a coach? Furthermore, I invite you to consider a blade of grass, weak in comparison to the mighty oak branch above. But which one withstands a gale force wind?

With all the different therapists out there, how do I decide who to go to?Do a taste test to see how well you fit together. Call a therapist and ask if you can ask a few questions. Ask the questions you see here on this page. As you listen to the answers, check inside - your gut reaction. Usually that will tell you if you fit well. In fact, as you read my answers check inside to see what your gut reaction is.

The first session with any therapist is also a taste test. If the session doesn't taste so good, talk about it with the therapist. It could be that the situation or issue or challenge you're facing will have a bitter taste with any therapist for a while. But it could also be a poor match-up. It's not unusual to call it quits after one session. I had a person in the office less than 10 minutes before I suggested we were a bad fit; he agreed, we shook hands, I wished him well, and he left - hopefully he found a therapist with a better fit.