FAQ - Adults
Do I need therapy?
Good question. I’m assuming that you’re here because you know something is not quite right in your life, and the usual ways of dealing with the problem (talking, drinking, drugs, etc.…) haven’t helped. You lean on friends and family but they offer the same opinions that they always do and you’re not feeling better. You’re wanting to seek out professional help so talking to a therapist is a good idea, and a good place to start.
But it’s kind of weird talking to a stranger, right?
Talking to a therapist is like talking to a friend who is there to listen to you fully and completely. Often friends and family members have strong opinions and may give you unwanted advice based on their own lives and problems. Unlike friends and family members, your therapist is trained to listen, observe and give unbiased advice, without judging or criticizing you. It may feel strange when you first start talking to a therapist, but people usually come to find the process cathartic and stress relieving.
How does this work - I tell you what’s wrong and you fix it?
Attending therapy is a different process than say, taking your car in to get it fixed, where you wait for someone to tell you what’s wrong and then fix it for you. Therapy is a collaborative process that involves active participation from both therapist and client. Sometimes I help you troubleshoot solutions to the issues that you want to work on, and sometimes you talk and I listen, and that alone can be very helpful. You’ll start by telling me what you want to work on and we’ll go from there.
Does it take a lot of work?
Yes and no. One of the requirements of getting something out of therapy is being open to the process. That means being able to look at yourself with a critical eye and being willing to make changes that may seem difficult at first. It may feel strange to do things differently than what you normally do, so we will figure out a pace that is right for you. When coming to therapy you’ll have some days where you feel like working hard on a problem and other days where you just want to sink into the couch and complain about a coworker. Both are fine, and the work naturally ebbs and flows.
But what if I don’t like it?
That’s okay! Not everyone likes to open up and dig around inside their brain and figure stuff out. Not everyone likes to talk about their problems. Sometimes people just aren’t ready to uncover painful stuff and that really is okay. You will not be pushed to do anything that you are uncomfortable doing, and if therapy isn’t right for you then you don’t have to continue. I will never pressure a client to continue when they tell me they want to stop.
I’m worried you’ll judge me for things I’ve done or think, so maybe I shouldn’t talk about that stuff?
I understand that people do all sorts of things for all kinds of reasons and I don’t place blame or judge. Really.
But aren’t there some things that I’ll get in trouble for if I tell you?
There are strict rules guiding what needs to be reported. If a child is being abused, if someone is going to seriously harm someone or themselves, and I believe that this will happen, then yes, I have to report it.
How much therapy will I need?
There is no set time table and different problems require different amounts of time in therapy. That’s a vague answer for sure, but we can also discuss what you’re expecting and how to stay within those parameters. For example, if you want to work on a single issue without getting to any deep stuff and have the time and budget to be in therapy for 6 months then we will set that as the goal. Some people want to see where therapy takes them and want to work on issues with no timeline. No therapist should make a client feel bad about not wanting to continue if the client is ready to stop.
FAQ - Children and Adolescents
Does my child need therapy?
As children grow, they absorb and respond to stimuli in their environment. Their brains learn and develop from positive interactions and create defense mechanisms as a response to negative interactions. As a result they may have learned dysfunctional ways of coping with stressors. Over time, dysfunctional behaviors can create bigger issues and problems if they are not corrected. Therapy is used to help kids learn new ways of managing their feelings and emotions and to instill positive ways of coping.
Is it my fault, did I do something wrong?
Parenting is hard work! As a parent, you're doing the best parenting you can, so don't blame yourself if your child needs therapy. Even if you’ve always thought of yourself as a good parent, your child may still have issues from other factors, not related at all to your parenting. Along with parenting, genetics and society also play a big role in kids' behaviors, so it's often difficult to determine the cause of a particular issue, and there are often many reasons why a child needs help. The purpose of therapy is not to place blame on the parents, it’s for moving forward and figuring out where to go from here.
But what if my child comes home from therapy and tells me I messed them up?
They might say that and that’s okay. Here's why: Sometimes children may have feelings of shame and they may not yet be able to handle the way it makes them feel. So, to divert the feelings of shame, they sometimes push the blame off of themselves and on to a safe target. For most kids, their parents are that safe target, so if a child can tell the parent it is their fault, it takes the pressure off of themselves. It’s part of the process of therapy, especially in the beginning, so although it can sting, try not to take it personally!
I ask my child what they talk about in therapy but all I get is silence. Don’t I have a right to know?
You do have the right to get an overview of what the therapist and child work on in therapy, but not necessarily a detailed account. This helps the therapy room remain a safe place for children to talk. They may not want to tell you what they discussed, and as painful as that may be, it is also part of the process. Sometimes, it may be embarrassing for them to tell you, or they might be afraid that you’ll take it too personally. Of course, if there is information that needs to be shared for safety reasons then it will be shared.
My child said all they did was play in therapy, how can playing be therapy?
Play therapy is a highly focused and intentional type of therapy that works very with children. They feel like it is fun - and it is fun - but is it also full of small therapeutic interventions that happen while they are engaged in play. Playing also creates a safe and secure place where trust is developed in the room between child and therapist. Once trust is present, a child is able to open up and talk about things that are bothering them, often they talk about these things while they are in the middle of playing.
But you’ll make them take responsibility, right? I want to you tell them to... (do homework, get a job, etc)
This is one of the big questions that parents have, and one of the hardest to explain why it’s the wrong question to be asking, but I’ll give it a shot:
The first goal of therapy with a child (or un-launched young adult) is establishing trust. Trust is established by creating a safe space for them to talk, complain, blame, cry, vent, and so on. Trust is a critical component of therapy because once trust is established then the child will be able to open up without fear of being judged, punished or shamed. Once trust is obtained, the therapist and child will work on what the child wants to work on. The child may want to be better at talking to their crushes, they may want to be less anxious, they may want to improve their grades, smoke less weed or get a job. Whatever they decide to talk about, the important part is that the therapy room is their special space, and this is where the magic of therapy happens. They get to be in control and work on their problems in an environment that is unbiased and nonjudgmental. This process over time actually helps them learn to take responsibility from the inside out.
Okay, so you do therapy and my child gets better?
Children and young adults are incredibly complex. Sometimes talking to a therapist is exactly what the child needs to sort things out, but for other kids more treatment may be warranted. Therapy may be just one piece to a larger puzzle. A child may have other issues going on, such as sensory needs, learning disorders or a diagnosis that requires medication. If this is the case then the therapist will coordinate with an additional professional to add needed treatment.