THE PROCESS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
It is not easy to set yourself apart in the virtual world, so I am going to do my best by showcasing my skills in a series of blog posts. This introductory series covers various topics related to initiating counselling and psychotherapy.
This post is about the process of psychotherapy treatment.
I suspect some are hesitant to attend counselling because they don’t know what to expect. And I suspect that few attend psychotherapy because most do not even know what it is. Whatever brings you here, if you are interested in learning more about the process of psychotherapy, read on.
It is important to note that not every practitioner may run their sessions as I have laid out in this post. This post is meant to provide a general guideline. Most practitioners will have these components somewhere in their initial session, though the order may differ.
1. The Initial Meeting
The psychotherapy process begins at first contact. First contact can occur in a number of ways. Maybe you send an email, make a phone call or book an appointment online and fill out an intake form. Maybe you first speak on the phone, in person or through video. However it begins, this is the start of the client-psychotherapist relationship.
During the initial consult, you and the psychotherapist will decide if the psychotherapist's skill set is a match for your counselling goals. The psychotherapist will describe their background and their methods. For example, I ask a LOT of questions intended to promote reflection (utilizing the Socratic method).
Some people come to counselling for an issue the psychotherapist is not qualified to manage. It is not uncommon that the relationship does not progress past this step of the process. If this is the case, the practitioner should provide resources to support you going forward.
It is also important to note that the initial meeting may actually last a couple of appointments. The complexity of the situation, how much history there is to collect and various other factors affect how long it takes to complete an assessment.
2. Assessment and Planning
If you felt a connection during the initial consult maybe you went on to book your first appointment. This first session is largely a question-and-answer period. The psychotherapist needs to collect background on your situation to determine if they can help.
Depending on the complexity of the issues at hand, the assessment and planning stage can last 1-3 appointments. This stage is designed to help identify problems and prioritize issues.
After assessing your strengths and resources, you and your psychotherapist will create a plan based on goals. This plan will consist of goals broken down into achievable objectives as well as a times line for implementation.
3. Implementation & Evaluation
This is the part everyone wants to get to. You want to implement your plan, make the changes, and get to living your best life.
This is the part of psychotherapy where you learn new skills through practice and behavioural experiments.
Placeholder for a link to a future post on Behavioural Experiments
Some skills will focus on gaining control through grounding and mindfulness exercises. For those experiencing overwhelming emotions or uncontrollable thoughts, grounding and mindfulness help bring our focus back to the moment.
Other skills will help you grow through reflection and insight. This part can be uncomfortable. This is why learning grounding skills are important. After a time in counselling, you should have a number of new skills that you can apply across a number of settings in the real world.
It is not uncommon to cycle through steps 2 and 3 a few times before reaching this final stage. In general, people attend psychotherapy for a period of time not forever. My recommendation is that people attend psychotherapy intermittently. Periodically, having a group of sessions allows you to balance growth with living life. It allows you to take what you’ve learned in session, internalize it and start to implement it in your daily life.
The fact that your psychotherapy relationship ends is actually a good thing. It is an opportunity to experience a full healthy relationship cycle. The termination doesn’t have to be permanent but it does give you the experience of ending a relationship without any negativity.
It is important to know that you won’t be abandoned. Your psychotherapist will assess the timing and together you will determine when it is appropriate for the sessions to come to an end. When the time comes, you also won’t leave empty-handed. You and your psychotherapist should have created a discharge plan and often you will be given an invite to return in the future or recommendations for future counsellors.
I believe everyone would benefit from counselling and psychotherapy, but not everyone is ready for it. The timing matters. Motivation matters. Now might not be the right time, but if you feel ready to try psychotherapy, contact us at your preferred coordinates (online, email, phone) or click here to book your free consultation today.
LAH Counselling is not a crisis service. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, mental health crisis, or there is a concern you may hurt yourself or someone else, contact 9-1-1 (for residents of Ontario) or go to your nearest hospital emergency department. You can also click here for a list of crisis services.