Therapy starts with an initial meeting where you can share your questions and concerns, and I have a chance to learn about you. Although most people feel nervous before their first session, once the conversation gets going, it becomes easier to share information. You will get to describe why you are interested in therapy, the concerns you or your family may have, and what you are looking for in terms of guidance and support. I will ask you about your background, family situation, relationships, and current stressors, and try to gather as much information as possible so that I can understand what you might need. I may offer suggestions about how therapy could help, develop a plan along with you for achieving your goals, and give some guidance regarding specific immediate concerns that are upsetting you. If I think that I cannot be of help to you, I will provide referral sources that would be more beneficial.
Therapy is a collaborative process that requires your active input and participation. You will be asked to identify topics of concern and explore your thoughts and feelings about them. Depending on your needs, therapy may be brief and focused on a targeted, specific problem area, or it may be more long-term, with an emphasis on changing entrenched behaviors or unfulfilling relationships.
I view therapy as a collaborative relationship. My approach is "eclectic" and includes a variety of approaches tailored to each individual's or family's needs. I utilize psychodynamic and family therapy approaches to aid in understanding each person's background, a relational perspective in the give-and-take of therapy, and often incorporate "tools" for change, such as cognitive-behavior techniques, stress management, mindfulness, or behavioral goals. I strive to be sensitive to cultural, racial, religious, gender, and philosophical or political differences.
Sessions usually last 50 minutes and typically occur on a weekly basis, although there may be some variability with scheduling, depending on your goals. Throughout our work together, it is essential that you let me know if therapy is still useful and whether we need to fine-tune or change our approach. This give and take, the open expression of feelings and concerns, and mutually respectful dialogue is critical to the collaborative therapy process. When you feel that you have achieved your goals, we can discuss your decision to stop therapy. Even after therapy ends, the benefits of therapy continue to unfold over time, as individuals, couples and families assimilate the skills and self-awareness they have learned.
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.