How effective is psychotherapy?
In a 2006 report to the American Psychological Association (again approved in 2012), Glen O. Gabbard, MD and Susan G. Lazar, MD compiled research spanning over a decade and reported that 80% of treated patients are better off at the end of psychotherapy than untreated patients. It was cited that psychotherapy is effective to a degree that makes it unethical to withhold treatment from patients during clinical trials. This result has been supported by various studies since and holds true across therapeutic methods and client demographics.
What should I look for in a therapist?
The client-therapist relationship has been shown to be the single most important aspect of psychotherapy, even above the therapeutic approach itself. There’s no boss, rather partners who work together as equals. The therapist is the expert on the counseling process, while you’re the expert on you, meaning that a therapist works best as a knowledgeable guide to help you discover your own solutions. Though therapists offer confrontation and challenges to help you recognize unhealthy patterns, this should never be done in a way that leaves you feeling judged, disrespected, or scolded. As this relationship is a model for honest communication, let your therapist know any concerns you have with the therapy or with her/him. It’s our job to invite feedback and manage our own emotions professionally. Yes, it turns out we therapists are human (no, really), but we’re responsible for taking care of ourselves so that our personal issues don’t interfere. Choose a therapist who models behaviors you’d like to adopt, not ones you’re trying to eliminate. Lastly, as in any relationship, a key factor is simply feeling comfortable with a person. This may come independently of the therapist’s training, experience, or style and may be created if not initially present by informing the therapist that you need help feeling more at ease. In the case that a therapist just isn’t an effective match, it’s okay to ask for referral to another counseling professional. A good therapist will see this as a way of, ultimately, helping get your needs met.
What about the option of medication?
Many studies show that, for some mental health issues, the most effective treatment is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. I don’t prescribe medications myself but can coordinate referral to a professional who does. If you prefer not to take medication and your symptoms don’t put you or others at imminent risk, I’ll work with you to select alternate means of symptom management when it requires attention beyond the scope of psychotherapy.
What if I’m also interested in alternative forms of therapy?
There isn’t a valid study today that disputes the mind-body relationship, and improving your overall lifestyle is critical in nurturing good therapy results. I maintain relationships with a number of professionals whose practice may assist your therapy. This includes massage therapists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and natural medicine physicians. I refer to practitioners who are professional/ethical in their practice, whose procedures are research-based, and who I believe will be a good fit for you. Though I may make a referral, it’s your choice to accept or decline.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”