Why do people go into therapy?

People enter therapy for a variety of reasons including anxiety, depression, stress, marital problems, job issues, difficult transitions (such as relationship break-ups/divorce, career change, empty nest, etc.), addictions, low self-esteem to name a few. The common thread usually is being unhappy with the way your life is going, wanting to improve the quality of your life, not knowing exactly how to get to where you want to be, and having the courage to reach out and ask for help.

I don’t have a specific problem, I’m just not happy. Can therapy help me? 

Absolutely. Studies have shown that talk therapy helps people to feel less isolated, less upset, less lonely, less anxious and less depressed. Talking with a therapist can first help you identify and understand the cause(s) of your unhappiness, and then help you to develop new tools to avoid self-defeating patterns, non-productive thinking and self-sabotaging behaviors.

 How often will I have to come to therapy? 

Most people find that meeting once a week on a regular basis works very well. If you are in a crisis I might recommend coming twice a week until you are feeling better and have gained some control over your situation, and then we would cut back to once a week. 

How long will I need to be in therapy? 

This depends on what’s going on in your life at the time and what your goals are. Most people come into therapy in a state of distress so the first thing we will focus on is symptom relief. Once you’re feeling more grounded you will be better able to define and focus on your goals.

Some people want to get through one particular problem, which would be considered short-term therapy of three to six months. Other people are looking to have a deeper psychotherapeutic experience. This is a more open-ended therapy process where you gain insight into yourself and others; identify dysfunctional patterns of behavior; and learn more about your family history and the impact it’s had on your growth and your present relationships. The goal of this type of therapy is to improve the quality of your life. We work on building self-esteem and self-confidence; improving communication in relationships; breaking outdated self-defeating patterns and developing new healthier patterns for long-lasting results. 

I’m depressed/anxious, why do I need to go to therapy? Can’t I just get an anti-depressant or tranquilizer from my doctor?

Yes, you can. However all the research on depression and anxiety has shown that the most effective and longest lasting treatment is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. I will work with either your primary care physician or one of the psychiatrists with whom I have a trusting relationship to come up with the best medication plan for you. The medication treats the symptoms so that you can get some relief as quickly as possible. However, symptom relief is like putting a band-aid on a blister – until you uncover the cause of the blister it will keep returning. Therapy can be an interesting and exciting journey where you learn how to solve, accept, change, adjust and move on to a better life.

 How do I know if I’m having a panic attack or a heart attack and what should I do? 

The symptoms of a panic attack come on fast and usually reach a peak within 10 minutes. Some common symptoms of a panic attack are:  heart palpitations; sweating; trembling; chest pain; nausea; numbness or tingling sensation; fear of losing control and fear of dying. Since these symptoms mimic some of the symptoms of a heart attack and if you have not been diagnosed with Panic Disorder, you must go to the nearest emergency room to rule out anything physical. If you are having a panic attack, the best treatment will be an anti-anxiety medication for quick relief, along with psychotherapy so that you can learn about possible triggers of your panic attacks, what may be causing them, and develop tools you can use for long term relief.

I’m angry/irritable all the time, is this just my personality or am I depressed?

Quite often depressed people seem angry, argumentative, negative, and just plain irritable. Sometimes people aren’t really aware of their mood until others around them point it out to them. An evaluation with a psychotherapist will determine if you have other symptoms of depression as well and what would be the best treatment.

How do I know if I’m an alcoholic?

Just asking yourself the question probably means you do have a problem with alcohol. Some hints are: Do you say you’ll only have 1-2 drinks but once you start drinking you keep going? Have you felt annoyed by other people telling you that you have a drinking problem? Have you tried to stop drinking or cut back but always return to drinking more? If you’ve answered yes to these questions don’t despair, ask for help. Alcoholism is very treatable.

I’m having marital or relationship problems with my partner and he/she refuses to go to therapy. What should I do? 

Go by yourself.  One or both of two things will happen: (1) as you begin to change, the relationship will change too; (2) as your partner begins to notice you changing he/she may become more curious about therapy and this may be an opening to have them join in on your sessions or go on their own.

My partner had an affair, is our relationship/marriage over? 

There is life after affairs if both partners honestly want to work on the relationship. Affairs don’t just happen, they happen when there’s a crack in the relationship that allows another person in. People who step outside their relationship are looking for connection not commitment. If both partners are willing to commit to the marriage it is possible to not only repair the crack, but to build a stronger connection with one another.

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a tool that can be used in conjunction with psychotherapy to help you achieve certain agreed upon goals. In hypnotherapy you are guided into a very relaxed state, also known as a trance, and then given suggestions to help you reach your goals. Unlike stage hypnosis, in clinical hypnotherapy you are always in control, can come out of it any time you choose, and would never do anything that you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Going into a trance is something we are all familiar with and have done many times. Think of being so absorbed in a book, TV show or movie that you don’t hear the phone ring; or driving somewhere you go to everyday and suddenly realizing you’re there without really having paid attention to the route, yet if someone honked their horn you’d be totally alert. These are all examples of what it feels like to go in and out of trance.