A collaborative model, where an individual feels accepted, respected and understood, is critical to success. Collaborative therapists assess each client's needs, and work in concert with the individual's preferences, pace and goals to form a comprehensive treatment plan. Collaborative therapists do not impose their opinions or values, and although treatment recommendations may be offered, clients are seen as autonomous and as capable of making their own decisions. Collaborative therapists also consult with other professionals, such as physicians, nutritionists, or school counselors (with the client's permission), as part of a treatment team offering collaborative care.
Skilled therapists are creative. They draw on their training, years of experience, and knowledge of recent research to think outside the box and find the unexpected but most effective solutions to a problem. They create a safe therapeutic environment where fears, hopes and challenges can be explored, and use carefully selected comments, questions, and feedback to facilitate insight and self-awareness. Creative therapists sense when to challenge, when to offer encouragement, and how to provide support so that change is ultimately possible.
Skilled therapists approach psychotherapy with empathy, a curiosity about the human condition and a respect for differences. While no one can fully stand in another's shoes, an empathetic therapist tries to appreciate each individual's uniqueness, and truly understand the client's perspectives and views. An empathetic therapist encourages clients to progress at their own pace, make their own decisions, and experience setbacks without shame. When a therapist is attuned to what the client is experiencing, the individual feels understood and therefore more open to challenging roadblocks that interfere with success.
While not a guarantee of excellence, psychologists typically receive more years of training than any other mental health specialty. Psychologists participate in five or more years of post-graduate education, along with several years of post-doctoral supervision. Training focuses on diagnosis, psychological evaluation, counseling techniques, personality theory, psychopathology, and ethics. Psychologists are trained in research methods, use research-based strategies to inform their treatment decisions, and are trained to conduct psychological testing. Their research training helps them evaluate the latest findings in the literature, and determine what is useful to include in their work.
Psychologists receive psychotherapy training that emphasizes interpersonal listening skills, methods for providing support and guidance, and the importance of healthy boundaries in the therapeutic relationship that encourage the client's ultimate independence. They learn when and how to intervene in therapy, when to be directive, and when to keep quiet! They adhere to a code of ethics enforced by state and national licensing and professional boards, maintain confidentiality, and respect clients' differences and values. Psychologists in Pennsylvania do not prescribe medications, but work collaboratively with psychiatrists or other medical practitioners when medications are indicated. More information is available from the American Psychological Association.