NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: A Psychotherapist's Beliefs About Psychotherapy Affect How the Therapist Works With You

Psychotherapists' beliefs about psychotherapy can have a significant effect on the way they practice therapy. The impact of their beliefs can include the therapists' views about clients, diagnoses, the types of therapy that they practice, and length of treatment, among other things.

A Psychotherapist's Beliefs About Psychotherapy Affects How the Therapist Works With You

What Shapes Psychotherapists' Views About Therapy?
Psychotherapists' beliefs are often shaped by their psychotherapy training, their own personal experiences in therapy as well as their professional relationships with supervisors, mentors, colleagues and institutes in their early career.

For instance, psychotherapists, who were trained years ago in traditional classical psychoanalysis and who have not had any other training in contemporary psychotherapy, often believe that psychotherapy takes a long, long time for everyone (see my article: Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy Takes a Long Time).

While it's true that some clients might need a longer time in therapy than others, if this is a therapist's belief for all clients, how she practices therapy and the length of time that most of her clients spend in therapy with her, will conform to this belief, especially if long-term therapy is the only type of therapy that she practices.

Another example is that if a therapist tends to pathologize clients' ambivalence or difficulties in therapy, she will probably see the client as "resistant" or as a "help rejecting client" rather than seeing ambivalence as a normal part of therapy or taking a more nuanced view of the client and the therapeutic relationship, including that the problem might be related to something the therapist is doing or not doing (see my article: Starting Therapy: It's Not Unusual to Feel Anxious and Ambivalent and Reconceptualizing the So-Called "Help Rejecting Client").

If the therapist only focuses on looking for psychological disorders to the exclusion of seeing the clients' strengths, the therapy will tend to be pathologizing.  She will probably see mostly clients'  problems rather than clients'  strengths, resilience and capacity for change.

A Psychotherapist's Beliefs About Psychotherapy Affects How the Therapist Works With You

Working Deep in Therapy in an Experiential Way vs Working Only to Relieve Symptoms
Being able to work deep in psychotherapy is a valuable skill for therapists.

Most therapists who stopped their training in graduate school and never learned depth-oriented therapy tend to work in a way that only touches the surface.  They usually look for ways to relieve symptoms rather than looking beyond for what is transformative for the client.  This is a disservice to clients.

But working deep no longer means that the client must spend many years in therapy.  There are newer types of experiential therapy that can significantly reduce the time in therapy for many clients without sacrificing the depth (see my article: Experiential Psychotherapy, Like EMDR, Helps Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs and The Unconscious Mind and Experiential Therapy: The "Symptom" Contains the Solution).

Some forms of therapy, like certain forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solution Focused Therapy (SFT), as practiced traditionally by many therapists, sacrifice depth for brevity.

These types of treatment might help to alleviate certain symptoms, but they don't get to the underlying unconscious issues that are at the root of the problem--so that clients who complete CBT and SFT often return when their problems surface again in another way because the root cause was left untreated.

CBT and SFT therapists often ignore the unconscious as well as any transference or countertransference issues because this isn't part of the way they do treatment.  This can lead to many enactments by both the therapist and the client that aren't addressed.

Aside from EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis, and Coherence Therapy are also experiential forms of therapy where the therapist works deep and therapy is often shorter than traditional talk therapy.

A Psychotherapist's Beliefs About Psychotherapy Affects How the Therapist Works With You

These experiential forms of therapy are often mind-body oriented types of therapy, which means that the therapist recognizes the mind-body connection as well as that unconscious thoughts and feelings are stored in the body.

So, if a therapist asks clients to focus on where they feel emotions in their body, clients can learn to more easily access the unconscious in a faster way as compared to regular talk therapy (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

Getting Help in Therapy
Many clients who seek help in therapy don't know that there are different types of therapy and different approaches to therapy.

If you're seeking help in therapy, it's important to ask any therapist that you have a consultation with how he or she works in therapy and then, after a consultation, decide if that approach is a good fit for you (for tips on how to choose a therapist, see my article:  How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Look for a therapist who has skills in many different treatment modalities so that if one modality doesn't work for you, the therapist will have a repertoire of modalities to call upon.

Ask questions about a therapist's training, experience, years in practice and treatment philosophy.

Last but not least, trust your gut when you're trying to decide if a particular therapist is right for you.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I am trained in psychoanalysis as well as other contemporary experiential approaches like clinical hypnosis, ego states therapy, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing.

Rather than trying to mold the client to fit a particular type of therapy, I work in a collaborative way to develop a treatment plan that suits each client's needs.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.