A Consumer's Guide to Psychotherapy

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What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy consists of a working relationship between you and a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker. This page focuses on the work of psychologists, who must hold a state license to use that title. Psychotherapy gives you a chance to explore your problems and try to change behaviors, attitudes, or feelings you may find troublesome. While a therapy session may seem like other conversations on the surface, it is different in several ways. You, the patient, are the central focus in therapy, discussions have specific goals, the psychologist is a neutral, objective person who is not otherwise invested in your world, and what you say is kept confidential. You will be asked questions and provided comments to think about. You may be asked to complete exercises or be assigned "homework" between sessions. Some psychologists also work with couples (although Dr. Spayd does not) and groups.

What Kind of Psychotherapy Approaches Are Used?

Different psychologists view problems and how to treat them differently, because there are many theories about how and why we become the way we are. Common psychotherapy approaches include:

Psychoanalytic: Difficulties originate in experiences and unresolved conflicts from early childhood, which can be identified and resolved in therapy.

Behavioral: People learn to behave in certain ways that create difficulties, but can re-learn more positive behaviors.

Cognitive: Faulty or irrational thinking creates psychological problems but can be changed.

Interpersonal: Psychological difficulties influence and are influenced by our close relationships and can best be solved by changing how we interact with others.

Actually, most psychologists are "eclectic", making use of a variety of techniques to best match your concerns and strengths. Dr. Spayd tends to use cognitive-behavioral strategies and some interpersonal techniques in her work. The psychologist's warmth, experience and knowledge are also
important.

What Are My Rights in Psychotherapy?

The right to learn the fees up front. Check to see if they are reasonable-What is the going rate for that professional's level of training?

The right to question any unusual recommendations or comments. If, after attempting to resolve any conflicts with your psychologist, you find him/her unresponsive, you have the right for referral to another therapist, and to have your records transferred.

The right to confidentiality.

The right to know the psychologist's qualifications, training, and experience.

How Do I Know if I Could Benefit From Psychotherapy?

While someone may suggest you would benefit from psychotherapy, the final decision should be yours. If you feel burdened by troublesome feelings, trapped in an unwanted situation, or "stuck" and unable to make changes you'd like to make, psychotherapy may help. Even if you do not know what is troubling you, but are upset over a period of time, a psychologist can help you identify the problem and a solution. Some of the many other reasons for entering psychotherapy include:

Noticing a significant change in yourself that makes you unhappy.

Feeling inadequate or badly about yourself.

Troublesome relationships or poor communication with others.

Feeling overwhelmed by stressful life circumstances.

Physical symptoms related to stress like headaches, ulcers, or high blood pressure.

Sleep or sexual disorders.

A desire for personal understanding or personal growth.

For Further Information

To express questions, concerns, or complaints, you may contact the Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, at (717) 232-3817