About the Therapeutic Process

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or What to expect in therapy

individual-therapyIn my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?                                                                               Carl Rogers

A psychotherapy session with me usually is 55 minutes long and sessions are scheduled once a week or every couple of weeks, depending on your availability, any financial concerns, and your sense of urgency. Occasionally, longer or more frequent sessions can be booked after a discussion between us. I will do my best to accommodate your schedule within the restraints of mine.

At the beginning of your therapeutic journey with me we will discuss your goals for therapy, your concerns, and our possible approaches to working towards your goals. Throughout your therapeutic journey we will revisit these goals, sometimes directly exploring how far you feel you have come in meeting them, sometimes more indirectly by contemplating your journey in therapy so far.
Sometimes during therapy issues may come up that you didn’t even know you had. Thinking about and working with one thing may bring up another. Sometimes the new issue feels worse than the original concern and sometimes it feels like a distraction. In some cases the newly discovered issue is the actual root of problems and needs to be explored and worked with; at other times it is something that you can ‘file away’ for later exploration. At those times your goals may have to be adjusted and we will do so together if and when it feels right.

Practical Process and Progress
At or even before your first session I will ask you to provide me with a history of your life to help me get a first picture of your life experiences. This life history — I provide you with a questionnaire to make this easier — often also serves as a catalyst for clients, bringing awareness to confusions or painful emotions surrounding some past experiences or bringing back memories that had been repressed for many years.

During a psychotherapy session you will be given space to explore your questions, hopes, fears, issues, and blocks. As a client-centred psychotherapist I don’t hold a particular agenda or execute a specific treatment program. Sessions often start with a recounting of those events that stood out for you throughout the week and usually progress from there to the topic you want to explore in that specific session.

Sometimes the topic coming up in one week may seem to have nothing to do with your reasons for coming to therapy originally; yet, in my experience almost all the situations that trigger us into uncomfortable feelings are connected and in some way relate back to our core issues. In other ways, all — or at least most — roads lead to the top of the same mountain. However, should you ever feel that we are really going ‘off topic’ for too long, let me know and we’ll adjust our direction.

Usually a session starts with ‘talk therapy’: exploring in words, stories, thoughts, concepts. If and when I feel that there maybe a therapeutic tool that may help you get deeper into your experience or closer to the core of the situation we are exploring, I will suggest it. Whenever I introduce a new tool or modality into your therapy, I will do my best to explain it and why I believe it would be beneficial for you. If you don’t want to try any modality I suggest, just let me know. I am only suggesting, I won’t insist. As I said before: no modality will work if you, the client, isn’t engaged.

Later on in your therapeutic exploration, if I suggest a modality we have worked with before I will likely not explain it again in detail. However, just because we worked with it once doesn’t mean you have to work with it again. As before, if it doesn’t feel right, say so and we’ll do something that feels more in alignment with you at that moment. And if you have questions about any modality I suggest, please ask. I will always do my best to answer your questions.

Similarly, if you have heard of something you think may work, please let me know. If I can facilitate it in your sessions with me, I will gladly do so — given that I don’t feel that it would actually create problems for you, in which case I will discuss that with you. If I can’t facilitate the modality or approach you required, I will do my best to help you find someone who can.

Emotional Process and Progress
At its very core psychotherapy is about change. It is about leaving behind unhealthy and unhelpful behaviours, emotional reactions, and thought patterns and making different, more life-affirming and self-supporting choices. It is about learning to be your own best friend, to accept yourself unconditionally, and then to gently change what is not optimal. And like with all change, there are ups and downs in therapy.

Occasionally you may leave a session feeling worse than when you arrived. Whenever possible we will try to resolve such feelings before the session ends but some insights are big and shocking at first. If you can allow yourself to stay in the process, you will get through these difficult times. In fact, often it is facing these difficult moments in the therapeutic process that allows us to understand and truly experience the strength we have and a way to be truthful and compassionate with ourselves.

Most clients experience therapy as a series of shifts and insights with time to adjust needed in between. Some insights may be painful; some shifts may be big: those will need more time, more revisiting, more testing in ‘real life’ to fully integrate and they may be emotionally difficult to adjust to. Other insights are big yet instantaneous and lead to a major shift right away, leaving a client elated and feeling wonderful about himself. And yet other insights are seemingly small and lead to subtle shifts; sometimes the shifts are so subtle that a client doesn’t actually notice them until she realizes at some point that she is more content or has more balance in her life.

Whatever the insight or shift, change means leaving behind something that is familiar and known for something that is new and uncertain. Whenever this happens, no matter how much we want the change and anticipate the new being better and brighter, we will have to allow some time and space for grieving the old; and so part of the emotional process of therapy is grieving. This doesn’t always have to mean tears and desperation but it does usually mean becoming aware of what we leave behind and consciously deciding which parts of the old and familiar we want to let go off and which parts we want to transform or integrate into our new way of being.

Creating change in your life means that the people around you will also have to change to some degree. That can create problems for a period of time. Usually we will be preparing for these situations to some degree as part of your process. But sometimes it isn’t possible to prepare for all the possibilities — and sometimes those around us just simply don’t want to change.

You and I and Your Therapeutic Process
Psychotherapy is a process that needs to go on in between sessions in order to truly create lasting change.

As you go through your therapy you will learn tools to create change in your life, gain a different perspective, and ground your new understanding of yourself and your life. The more you use these tools in between sessions, the quicker they will become second nature and your new way of living life.

Your process will work best if you feel safe and comfortable in the therapeutic relationship. I will do my best to mirror and bring awareness to your patterns and behaviours in a respectful and honest way so that you can choose your approach and explore your options. I strive to build a safe environment of trust and support which allows you to look at parts of yourself or your life that may not feel comfortable or even ‘allowed’ in your life outside the therapy office.

Like any relationship, the therapeutic relationship is only as good as its boundaries. Mutual respect of time and space are important to make this relationship work. Holding to agreements like appointment times, cancellation times, fee schedules etc. is part of a respectful relationship. Another part is honesty and direct communication. If at any point you have questions or concerns about your therapy, please let me know. I can’t help you or make a change if I don’t know that there is a problem or what the problem is.

For me the goal of your therapeutic process (beyond helping you achieve the goals you are setting for yourself) is to empower you to direct your own process, your own exploration, and your own life with more certainty and confidence. When you don’t need my services anymore, I have reached that goal. I also believe that we all carry all the answers to our life’s questions already within us. And therefore I will encourage you to stand in your power in your sessions whenever possible. I won’t give advice on how to life your life or answer direct questions about what to do in specific situations. Instead I will help you discover your answer from within yourself.

My approach in all my endeavours is personal, non-denominational, non-judgmental, non-prescriptive, and deeply honouring of the individual I am working with. I see myself as a guide: holding a light, suggesting possible directions and pathways, bringing awareness to stumbling stones and possible detours, and offering a hand when you slip, stumble, or fall on the way. I would be honoured to walk with you for a part of your journey.

As a registered psychotherapist in Ontario my work is also guided by the professional standards set by my College. If you would like to enquire about these standards, please check the College’s website at http://www.crpo.ca/