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Frequently asked Psychotherapy Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychotherapy?
Psychology is the study of people and how they think, act, react and interact. Psychology is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts, feelings and motivation underlying such behaviour.
Psychiatry is the medical specialty dealing with mental disorders. Psychiatrists often have a different perspective from psychotherapists, seeing things in terms of sickness vs health, and using physical treatments such as psychotropic drugs.
Psychotherapy is a treatment that involves communication between the therapist and the individual to help overcome stress, emotional problems, relationship problems or troublesome habits.

What’s the difference between Counseling and Psychotherapy?
There’s a lot of overlap. Both can be enriching and help you to deal with your problems in a more effective way. Counseling often focuses on a specific problem, whereas psychotherapy tends to deal with more deep-seated issues arising from your past. Many people who seek psychotherapy are not in a crisis, but are interested in finding out about themselves, improving relationships and living a more rewarding life.

Why see a psychotherapist?
People come to psychotherapy for many reasons. You may want to talk about an immediate crisis causing you distress; or explore longer term difficulties in your life. It may be that you have a very clear idea of what you want to get from the therapy, and changes you want to make in your life; or it may be that you come feeling vague, confused or depressed about your current or past circumstances. Psychotherapy can offer you a safe confidential space to explore anything at all that you feel is disturbing your sense of inner peace and harmony in body, heart, and mind.

What happens during a psychotherapy session?
Psychotherapy usually involves regular meetings at the same time, same place every week or two weeks. A session of individual psychotherapy involves one patient and one therapist who talk together in a quiet room for approximately one hour. All sessions are considered private and confidential.

How long will it take?
In most cases the length of the treatment will be agreed upon by the client and the therapist following assessment. A brief course of psychotherapy would last about three months, and long term individual therapy can last for a couple of years. The benefits of psychotherapy continue long after the treatment period itself has finished.

Is it possible to overcome depression with psychotherapy, without medication?
Often, though medication may sometimes reduce suffering and speed up the process. However, if the person is manic or has severe vegetative symptoms of depression he will probably not be in a fit state to do psychotherapy without medication. In the case of the elderly, depression can be caused by the effects of some medications and some illnesses on the body chemistry. Lack of physical activity or low levels of light in northern winters can also contribute to depression. Physical problems like these need to be corrected by physical methods.

I have tried everything, and nothing seems to work.
Perhaps you have tried everything except staying with something long enough for it to work. Also, keep in mind, therapy is treatment that addresses specific causes of mental illness; it is not a "quick fix." It takes longer to begin to work than medication, but there is evidence to suggest that its effects last longer. It would be best to get another detailed assessment and continue with the therapy until the results become more evident.

Are there any risks ?
Many people have concerns about what might happen if they start exploring their own psychological make-up. Some worry that a psychotherapist might cause emotional harm or read their thoughts. Others fear that they would become controlled by the therapist and be made to do things they didn’t want to do. It’s natural to be a little apprehensive about something new. That’s why it is important to meet, discuss any concerns, and ask questions before making a final decision. Ask the therapist what training they have had, and what is their code of ethics. Psychotherapists are trained and experienced in supporting people who are feeling apprehensive, lost, scared, sad or vulnerable.

What are the risks in not seeking professional help?
We are increasingly aware of the links between psychological and physical health. Keeping a lid on things is not usually the best way to handle emotional issues. In the long run, we may suffer more profound effects such as physical aches and pains, lack of energy, stress, depressed libido or even ‘mental breakdown’.

What about confidentiality?
You need to be able to trust your therapist with what are often very personal thoughts and feelings. All information shared is kept private and confidential. This should be one of the subjects covered when you meet for the first time, so that you are clear about your therapist’s policy and procedures regarding confidentiality.

How can I measure my progress in therapy?
Relatively early in treatment, you may likely begin to recognize self-defeating patterns or habits of thinking, feeling and behaving without necessarily being able to change them immediately. Later, after watching these habits at work and discussing with the therapist the causes and effects of these habits, you will be able to make changes and let go of old patterns. As this self-actualization process deepens, you begin to feel more natural, spontaneous and at ease in all areas of life. Genuine emotions come more freely and relationships deepen. Old patterns of worrying and obsessing become less disruptive.

Does it mean that I am 'ill' if I'm in psychotherapy?
Regardless of how you were referred, psychotherapy aims to treat people with long histories of serious emotional difficulties. These are linked to personal development, often over many years, and sometimes right from early childhood. The symptoms you may be referred with might have led to you having been diagnosed with mental illness. The aim in psychotherapy is to look more deeply into the emotions, conflicts and distress behind these diagnoses.

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