What are the benefits of psychotherapy?

One of the main reasons people seek therapy is to find solutions to long-standing problems and ultimately, to break unhealthy patterns and to make lasting change.  The path to achieving those goals is varied, but for many, the process is just as important as the result.  The chief benefits one can expect to attain on the way to achieving those goals include the following:

Increased self-awareness.  Often times, we are more focused on what is going wrong around us, and less time in reflection on how we are impacted emotionally by what is going on around us.  Cutting ourselves off from our unpleasant thoughts and emotions hurts our ability to quickly assess what it is that we really need and do something about it.

One of the greatest benefits of psychotherapy is in helping you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and further, be able to put them into words.  In doing so, you can become more able to access what you really need and take appropriate action to get those needs met.  In short, increased self-awareness leads to greater sense of self-control and empowerment.

Enhanced ability to handle emotions. For many of us, we want to experience more of the pleasant emotions and do what we can to avoid the unpleasant ones.  By not giving ourselves adequate time to process our unpleasant emotions, we cut ourselves off from what we truly need and our ability to take charge of getting those needs met.  When that happens, we feel more powerless and helpless.  In therapy, you can gain access to more tools to deal with unpleasant emotions that can help you identify needs and take action, to identify old issues that gets triggered and take steps to work through them, and gain more clarity over how to handle our current situations in ways that will be most helpful for us.

Improved relationships. When we have greater self-awareness and are better able to deal with the full range of our emotions, we are more equipped to communicate our needs and desires to those around us.  In becoming more aware of how our old issues are impacting our present struggles, we can make better decisions to avoid placing undue responsibility on people close to us to fix issues that either have nothing to do with them or to deal with old issues at inappropriate times.  Being more aware of our emotions allows for us to be able to deal better with our present situation and find more appropriate time and circumstances to deal with our old issues.

What are the risks of psychotherapy?

As you can probably surmise, growth through therapy rarely happens without encountering pain.  As the old adage goes: it might feel worse before it gets better.  In therapy, you are encouraged to face your pain and difficulties, and in doing so, may incur old & unresolved pain.  Our present difficulties become a lot more difficult when we are engaging a battle on multiple fronts at the same time – our present pain and our past unresolved hurts.  The process of therapy will help you distinguish between old and new, and you will be encouraged to work through these issues separately in order to make present circumstances more manageable.

There is no such thing as a guarantee – this is as true in life (and money) as it is in therapy.  As such, there are risks that the returns from your investment may not meet your expectations.  While we cannot guarantee success, we can work towards putting you in the best position to achieve your goals and fulfill your potential.

How do I choose the right therapist for me?

This is the million-dollar question!  There are many factors that go into forming a good therapeutic connection.  One of the main predictors would be about how you feel after a conversation and/or first session or two with the therapist.  Do you feel understood?  Do you feel supported in the conversation?  Do you feel your therapist was fully present in the room with you?  Do you feel comfortable with the proposed direction of therapy?

The process of psychotherapy can and will likely incur pain – a big determinant on whether you are able to work through the pain to achieve your goals is whether you feel adequately supported by your therapist through the hard parts of your journey.  It will be important that you feel that your therapist “gets” you, that he/she not only understands but supports you.

And don’t forget… therapists are humans too and are prone to having the occasional bad day or mistakes.  If something feels off, it’s important to bring it to the attention of your therapist, and it can give you the opportunity to work through issues together, strengthening your relationship.