For those considering or seeking psychotherapy services, many questions may arise, and sorting through information and options can be overwhelming. Below, we attempt to elucidate what happens in psychotherapy and the important factors to consider when selecting a psychotherapist.
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychologists offer the expertise, guidance and support of a professional who has been extensively trained to treat emotional and psychological issues. Psychotherapy is the process used to work with clients to identify and clarify issues and diagnoses and to treat problems. By setting short-term and long-term goals, implementing techniques to reach those goals and reviewing progress, a good therapeutic relationship is one in which a forward-moving process occurs.
While our psychologists have a variety of approaches, techniques and theoretical orientations, we all believe that therapy is an active, collaborative approach between the psychologist and the client that requires hard work on the part of the client, both during and in-between therapy sessions.
What happens in therapy?
Effective therapy calls for an active effort on the part of the therapist and the client who work as a team to address the client's particular needs. The process varies depending on the personalities of the psychologist and client, and the particular problems clients bring forward. There are different methods and techniques that may be used to deal with the problems that clients hope to address; for example, cognitive restructuring of thoughts, reality checking, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or passive muscle relaxation, active listening and support. In order for the therapy to be most successful, the client works on what is discussed between sessions.
What is the duration of therapy?
Therapy may be short-term or long-term in nature, depending on the presenting problem. For example, some clients enter therapy for crisis intervention while other clients enter therapy with a specific goal in mind, which is met relatively quickly. Clients with more challenging issues may need therapy of a longer duration. A good number of individuals remain in therapy as long as they are seeing ongoing progress as measured by feeling better, achieving goals and resolving issues.
What else should I know?
Since therapy often involves discussing unpleasant aspects of one’s life, clients may experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, loneliness and helplessness. On the other hand, psychotherapy often leads to better relationships, solutions to specific problems, and significant reductions in feelings of distress. Sessions are confidential with the exception of situations in which the client poses an imminent life-threatening risk to themselves or somebody else (or in response to ongoing client-reported child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse) at which time the therapist is obligated to intervene. Consultations may occur with other significant individuals, such as a primary care physician, only with the client's permission.
What is a psychologist?
The practitioners at BNC are all psychologists licensed in New York state. With few exceptions, only a licensed psychologist may use this title. By definition, New York psychologists have earned a doctoral degree in psychology from a program registered or accepted as equivalent by the New York State Education Department. Psychologists with doctoral degrees with the letters Ph.D., Psy.D. and Ed.D. all have met the same educational requirements. In addition, New York psychologists have completed two years of supervised experience, including one year after the doctoral degree. They have also passed a national licensing exam. Specialties such as neuropsychology require additional post-doctoral education and training. Among the other types of licensed mental health practitioners in New York State are Psychiatrists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Licensed Mental Health Practitioners, each of which has its own specific educational and training requirements (see here).
Why is licensing important?
The use of the term "licensed" is often used in a professional title to distinguish from non-licensed professionals. Why is licensing important? The rationale is that the licensure requirements protects you, the consumer, from fraudulent professionals and maintains a certain minimum standard in the field. It is important to note that "therapist," "psychotherapist" and "counselor" are unregulated, generic titles. They can be used as a title by anyone providing any type of treatment, with no requirement of specific education, training or licensure. At the very least, one seeking mental health or neuropsychological services should be sure that the practitioner they choose is licensed in their field of practice. The licensure status of practitioners working in New York State can be found here.
How should I go about choosing a psychotherapist?
In addition to the importance of finding a licensed practitioner, what else should inform your choice of a psychotherapist? Studies have shown that a comfortable working relationship is one of the factors most highly associated with successful therapy outcomes. Specifically, a client's positive ratings of the "alliance," or working relationship between therapist and client, is the best predictor of success, regardless of the client's diagnosis or presenting problem, or the theoretical orientation or particular training of the therapist. Therefore, taking the time to interview and select a therapist who's feels just right to you, and trusting your judgment in doing so, is not just a good idea - it's essential!
Links & Resources:
American Psychological Association
Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
For general inquiries, please call: 212.840.8410, x301
or contact a specific therapist
Mark J. Evans, Ph.D., x303 MEvans@BNCnyc.com
Robert S. McMillan, Ph.D., x306
Guissoo Nabavian, Psy.D., x301
Rockville Centre, Long Island
Guissoo Nabavian, Psy.D.