What is Psychotherapy?

If you’re reading this, you MAY be interested in learning more about “Psychotherapy,” or, more likely, you are interested in getting help from a psychologist to make some changes in your life.

What follows is a brief overview of complex topic. In practice, psychotherapy refers to a process and professional relationship in which you may discuss your concerns and find resources and means for change.

How Does Psychotherapy Work?

The term psychotherapy basically refers to the vast array of talking therapies, often used in contrast to medication therapy (though the two modalities may be used together). Effective psychotherapy depends upon the establishment of a respectful and collaborative relationship. In a confidential setting you and the therapist can focus on concerns and problems to discover, create, or learn change strategies. Beyond these basic ingredients, there are many, many tools and approaches psychotherapists may employ to help you achieve your goals. Dr. Whiteside is trained and experienced in a variety of approaches and will recommend particulars after conducting an initial evaluation. At that time he will explain the rationale and offer reading on these evidence-based recommendations.

How is Psychotherapy Different from Talking to Family and Friends?

A psychotherapy relationship differs from other relationships in several key ways including that: 1) privacy and confidentiality are protected by law, 2) the relationship is “one-way;” that is, it exists in order to meet your psychological needs – not those of the therapist, and 3) psychologists are trained and experienced in the identification of obstacles to change and in teaching or applying strategies to bring about change. The goal of psychotherapy is for the relationship to end with your improved comfort, increased interpersonal effectiveness, resolution of problems or conflict, deeper understanding, etc.

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Which Therapeutic Approach is Right for Me?

You may have a preference, but it is not necessary for you to be an expert in psychotherapy or to know in advance which approach will be right for you. Dr. Whiteside will gather information from you, possibly supplemented by administering psychological scales or tests, with input from family members or other doctors when appropriate, and based on your particular situation help select from those in which he is trained. If your problem, goals, or situation require unique skills not in his experience, Dr. Whiteside will try to identify an appropriate referral for you.

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How Long Does Psychotherapy Take? And Other Common Questions…

The right or necessary length of psychotherapy varies tremendously. The short answer is that it takes as long as necessary for you to have the readiness, support, and skills necessary to achieve your objectives. Ultimately, you will be in charge of the duration because you will decide when you’ve obtained what you needed or decided to end the therapy perhaps for a change of direction or a break. In my experience, most people are able to accomplish their primary treatment objectives within 12 – 20 sessions. Sessions are typically scheduled weekly at first to establish momentum. As progress is made and you implement or fine-tune strategies, intervals between sessions may be increased. Some people find that double sessions are helpful, especially in couple’s therapy. Length of therapy depends a lot on the way problems and objectives are “framed,” as well as on active compliance with recommendations, tasks, and possibly with recommended reading. Long-term therapy typically opens vistas to change and enrichment of the therapeutic endeavor not accessible in brief, focused psychotherapy.

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Aren’t Psychotherapy, Counseling, and Coaching the Same but with Different Names?

There are similarities but also important distinctions between these terms. A particularly crucial difference affects insurance reimbursement. Medical insurance policies typically specify that they will reimburse only for “medically necessary diagnostic evaluation and treatment.” Psychotherapy is a treatment procedure when undertaken to relieve symptoms of a diagnosed disorder. Coaching, psycho-educational skills training, marital enrichment counseling, career guidance counseling, co-parent coaching, etc. are not considered treatments. Likewise, services provided primarily to meet educational, legal, vocational, or personal growth objectives are not covered by medical insurance but are legitimate reasons for obtaining psychological services such as coaching or evaluation.

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