The goal of good psychotherapy is change, and a qualified therapist is professionally trained to help you identify and work towards your goals. A good therapist is someone you can easily talk to and cares about you and your problems. Therapists are professionally trained to work with you to identify areas in your life that you want to change and support you through the process. The quality of your relationship with an empathic, knowledgeable therapist is what matters most.
What you might gain through therapy: greater self-awareness, feeling more alive, energized, more compassionate and tolerant of one’s humanity and of others, self acceptance, greater confidence and clarity about wants and needs, more intimacy and connection with others. A clearer vision of what life is about, and what your goals are, to name just a few of the benefits. There are many more.
Types of therapy
Therapists often have a general orientation that guides them. Some therapists don’t limit themselves to one specific type of therapy, instead blending different types in order to best fit the situation at hand. This can offer many powerful tools for the therapist to use. Here are some of the psychotherapy approaches that I offer:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses a combination of both cognitive and behavioral therapy. CBT explores both thinking patterns and harmful or self-destructive behaviors that might accompany them. The therapy then combines changing the thinking patterns along with changing the behavior.
Family therapy involves treating more than one member of the family at the same time to help the family resolve conflicts and improve interaction. It is often based on the premise that families are a system. If one role in the family changes all are affected and need to change their behaviors as well.
Group therapy is facilitated by a professional therapist, and involves a group of peers working on the same problem, such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse, for example.
Group therapy can be a valuable place to practice social dynamics in a safe environment and get inspiration and ideas from peers who are struggling with the same issues.
Couples therapy involves the two people in a committed relationship. People go to couples therapy to learn how to work through their differences, communicate better and problem-solve challenges in the relationship.
Hypnosis is a state of mind, enhanced by mental and physical relaxation, in which our subconscious is able to communicate with our conscious mind. It is an excellent method by which we may access our inner potential. Hypnotherapy can help with unwanted habits, fears, weight issues and negative body image; stress management; boost self-esteem; overcome depression and anxiety, as well as deal with other problems of an emotional or psychological nature.
Medical or health psychotherapy refers to a growing specialty area of clinical psychological practice in which clinical psychologists, who have undergone specialized education and training integrate somatic and other psychotherapeutic modalities into the management of physical illness. Medical psychotherapy focuses on either working directly with patients and/or training health care professionals in understanding and harnessing psychological factors related to health and medical conditions.
Transpersonal therapy is encompassing different levels of human experience, including the spiritual, seeking to reveal the person behind the personality. Transpersonal therapy does not espouse a particular religious or spiritual view. Rather it acknowledges the importance of a spiritual path. Transpersonal psychology draws from the Western Contemplative traditions, and eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, the Yogic traditions of India, and integrates them with contemporary psychology. Some of transpersonal techniques include: Meditation and Awareness Practices; Guided Visualization; Hypnotherapy; Breath-work; Inner Child Healing.
Integrative mind-body therapy
In holistic integrative approach the therapist does not use one particular therapeutic approach but rather a combination of therapeutic approaches that might be best suited to the patient or the issue being dealt with.
TranSomatic Body Intelligence Program, is an embodied psychotherapy wellness approach, designed by Dr Zana, that recognizes body (soma) as the foundation to our emotional, mental and spiritual wellness. TranSomatic Program brings creative integration of a variety of paradigms: theory of cybernetics and quantum theory, positive psychology, ego states psychology, visualization and hypnotherapy, as well as mindfulness, yoga and transpersonal psychology.
Difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist
A psychologist is someone who specializes in psychotherapy which is also called talking therapy. As part of their training, clinical psychologists have to undergo their own personal psychotherapy process. A psychologist does not treat the patient pharmacologically (with medicine) and would refer the patient to a doctor or psychiatrist if they though medical treatment was necessary. Psychologists are usually categorized under different fields, such as: clinical, counseling, educational and industrial psychologists.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the field of psychiatry and is certified to diagnose, treat and manage mental disorders. Psychiatrists prescribe psychiatric medication, conduct physical examinations, order and interpret laboratory tests and may order more specific tests and investigations such as: electroencephalograms or MRI scanning.
Therapy and medication
The thought of being able to solve your problems with taking a pill each day can sound appealing. However, mental and emotional problems have multiple causes, and medication may help ease the symptoms but will not address underlying cause of your symptoms.
Learning and addressing underlying causes of your mental or emotional problem not only provides symptom relief, but gives you tools for identifying and avoiding triggers in the future. Therapy also provides you with management and coping skills to help you stay grounded, and helps you modify behaviors that you would like to change.
Confidentiality & therapy
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a psychotherapist. Information is not disclosed without written permission. However, there are number of exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include:
Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse
The therapist is required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s
The therapist must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
If a client intends to harm himself or herself
The therapist will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in insuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, further measures may be taken without their permission in order to ensure their safety.
If a client files a complaint or lawsuit against the therapist
In this case the therapist is permitted to defend himself or herself — only within the legal context of the complaint or suit — using otherwise confidential information.
Choosing a therapist
There are so many types of therapies and therapists; it might feel a little overwhelming to get started.
Choosing the right therapist for you can take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort.
The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust, with whom you feel comfortable discussing difficult material, and who will be a partner in your recovery.
Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. Here are some tips:
Experience and specialty
Look for a therapist who is experienced in treating problems that you have. Often, therapists have special areas of focus, such as depression or eating disorders.
Learn about different treatment orientations
Many therapists do a blend of orientations. However, it’s a good idea to learn about the different treatment types, because that can affect your therapist’s way of relating and suggested length of treatment.
Make sure your therapist has a current registration with Health Profession Council of South Africa
Trust your gut
Even if your therapist looks great on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right, if you don’t trust the therapist, or experience their interest in you or caring about you, go with another choice. A good therapist will respect this choice and should never pressure you or make you feel guilty.
Male or a female psychologist
This purely depends on who you will feel more comfortable with.
Is therapy working?
Growth and change is difficult for everyone, and you won’t be a new person overnight. Look for long-term patterns in growth and change. Your overall mood might be improving, for example. You may feel more connected to family and friends. A crisis that might have overwhelmed you in the past you handle with much less stress. Don’t be frustrated with temporary setbacks. It can be challenging to stretch and break old, entrenched patterns.
When to stop therapy?
When to stop therapy depends on you and your individual situation. Ideally, you will stop therapy when you and your therapist have decided that you have met your goals. However, you may feel at some point that you have got what you need out of therapy, even if your therapist feels differently. Leaving therapy can be difficult.
Remember that the therapeutic relationship is a strong bond, and ending this relationship is a loss—even if treatment has been successful. Talk about this with your therapist.
Don’t expect the therapist to tell you what to do
You and your therapists are partners in your recovery. Your therapist can help guide you and make suggestions for treatment, but only you can make the changes you need to move forward.
Make a commitment to your treatment
Don’t skip sessions unless you absolutely have to. If your therapist gives you homework in between sessions, be sure to do it. If you find yourself skipping sessions or are reluctant to go, talk about your reluctance with your therapist.
Share what you are feeling
You will get the most out of therapy if you are open and honest with your therapist about your feelings. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed, or something is too painful to talk about, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist.
Evaluate your progress
Evaluating your progress should be ongoing throughout therapy. There is no smooth fast road to recovery, but many twists, turns and the occasional backtrack. Sometimes, what seemed like a straightforward problem turns into a more complicated one. Your therapist should work with you in this progression and reevaluate goals and progress with you as necessary.
Be aware that therapy will not always feel pleasant
Painful memories, frustrations or feelings might surface. This is a normal part of therapy and your therapist will guide you through this process. However, use caution if these feelings are so overwhelming that you are miserable after each session and start dreading therapy sessions. You might need to slow down. Be sure to communicate with your therapist how you are feeling.