6 frequently asked questions about therapy

Here are 6 of the most commonly asked questions about therapy answered:

1. What’s the difference between counselling, therapy and psychotherapy?
These terms are often used interchangeably to refer to the process of talking to a professional about mental health or wellbeing related issues. These professionals can be counsellors, therapists, psychotherapists, or psychologists. It is usually their qualifications and background in training which determines what they call themselves. For ‘talk therapy’ it may matter less what they call themselves and more whether you feel comfortable in beginning therapy with them. Counselling is often considered for resolving specific issues and therefore may be relatively short-term and time-limited. Psychotherapy is considered longer-term, where clients explore and learn about themselves for a more transformative change over time.

2. How does therapy work?
Whether you have been experiencing difficulties for a while now or something critical has just happened, therapy provides a space for you to understand those issues more clearly. The process supports you as you explore the different ways in which to lead your life through knowing yourself better. While friends and family can also provide support to you, therapy is different in that therapists are trained to help you find your own path to heal, change and grow rather than to give you advice. The process of therapy can be likened to the therapist holding up a mirror so that you may take a good, honest look at yourself and your life. What you decide to do with what you see and become aware of is up to you.

3. How long do I have to be in therapy for?
Each person’s therapeutic journey is different. Some people start therapy for very specific reasons and may stop once they feel they have resolved those issues. This may take several weeks to months. Others may see it as a way of exploring and learning about themselves continually over years. Sometimes, clients stop sessions after a few months but will begin therapy again if things come up for them. As the client, you and your therapist together can work out the frequency as well as how long to continue sessions for depending on what is most appropriate for you. While sessions for individuals typically last 50-60 minutes, you contribute to the therapy process by also doing the ‘work’ of what is discussed outside of those sessions in your everyday life.

4. Is therapy worth all the time and money?
The value of time and money can be vastly different from person to person. Therapy does take time and money and it is easy and very normal to feel like you don’t have that much of either to spare! Therapy takes time and money because the issues being addressed do not often have clear cut solutions. However, the time that it takes to allow yourself to fully understand those issues can help you see and prevent future problems. The time and money you spend on therapy can be seen as an investment into your own mental health and wellbeing; the benefits have lasting effects long after you have stopped therapy.

5. What kind of therapy approach works best?
There are many different types of approaches in therapy. Some of the more common examples you’ll come across include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic psychotherapy, Pschoanalytic therapy, and Solution-focused therapy. Different approaches have different aims and fit the needs of each client differently. Some approaches delve deeper into your past while others focus on future goals you want to achieve. Depending on what issues you want to address, you may find different approaches fit differently. You may also find that your needs as a person shift over time so that you look for different approaches in therapy.

6. How do I find the right therapist?
It can be helpful to first clarify and even write down the top 1 or 2 issues you want to deal with through therapy. This will help you look for a therapist with that particular specialty or focus on a directory in your area and pick out 2-3 therapists that fits what you are looking for. You can then email or call them to ask about further details such as their availability and schedule an initial appointment. Depending on how the initial session goes, you may decide to continue with that therapist or get in touch with the other 1 or 2 contacts you had initially picked out. The key is to notice how you feel and whether you feel comfortable with your therapist.