Individual therapy (sometimes called "psychotherapy," "talk therapy" or "counseling") is a process in which a client works one-on-one with a licensed therapist to explore an emotional, relationship or mental health issue. Ideally, the therapeutic space should be a safe, nurturing and confidential environment where the client is free to explore their feelings, beliefs and behaviors.
When should a person seek Individual Therapy?
People seek therapy to address many types of concerns, including:
- depression or anxiety
- challenges in a relationship
- premarital counseling
- problems coping with a major life challenge such as divorce, job loss or illness
- childhood trauma (emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse)
- anger management
- parenting challenges
- family issues
- job stress
- problems with school
- grief, such as grief over a deceased loved one, loss of relationship or other kind of significant loss
- intimacy issues
- sexuality issues
- a desire to improve oneself or experience personal growth
- a desire for greater self-knowledge
Why do people avoid seeking Individual Therapy?
People avoid therapy for a variety of reasons, including:
- fears about the stigma associated with seeking mental health care
- talking about current and past hurt is a difficult, sometimes painful process
- reluctance to make the changes necessary to improve coping skills
- doubt that therapy will be helpful
- a negative or unhelpful experience with therapy in the past
- worry about how to build trust with or confide in a stranger
- concerns about confidentiality
- concerns about the cost of therapy
How does Individual Therapy work?
During the first therapy session, the therapist will do a lot of information gathering, including information about the client's past mental, emotional and physical health. The therapist also will speak with the client about the issues that bring the client to therapy. The goal is for the therapist to develop a good understanding of the client's situation in order to determine the best approach for helping the client.
Each session will also be an opportunity for trust building, which is vital to success. Clients are encouraged to discuss openly any concerns they may have about the process or therapy itself. It is not unusual for a therapy session to bring out strong emotions, including sadness or anger. The therapist will offer tools and techniques to help the client handle these emotions and become more comfortable with the process. The therapist may assign "homework" designed to help the therapist develop a better understanding of the client's issues or to help the client improve coping skills.
Clients can expect the therapeutic space to be safe, caring and non-judgmental. Clients also can expect the issues they discuss in therapy to be confidential, except if there is potential harm to the client or to another person. During the first session, the therapist will discuss the limits of confidentiality, types of disclosures required by law and provide written guidelines regarding the therapeutic process.
Is Individual Therapy effective and will it help me?
Research shows that therapy improves clients' ability to cope with a variety of issues. With an effective therapist, science shows that therapy works better in the long term and is more enduring than medication. For example, not only is therapy more cost effective, but it leads to fewer relapses of anxiety and mild to moderate depression than medication use alone. Many therapeutic approaches are evidence-based, which means their effectiveness has been proven by research studies and clinical observations.
While some client issues can be addressed in a few sessions, chronic or more complex concerns may take much longer. For example, severe trauma often requires long term treatment. Even with complex conditions or situations where therapy cannot cure a condition, research shows that therapy can help clients cope better and improve day-to-day functioning.
At Bolton Therapy & Wellness, we view therapy not just as a process, but as a partnership between therapist and client. The therapist brings her, compassion, integrity, expertise and the tools to help the client address their issues. The therapist provides a safe space where the client can work through challenging memories or past experiences, identify things they would like to change or improve, better understand themselves and others, and set personal goals. The client brings their best efforts and an open-mindedness about therapy and the process. Working together, therapist and client partner to create the client's best life.
Brownawell A. & Kelley, K. (October 2011). Psychotherapy is effective and here's why, Vol. 42, No. 9. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/10/psychotherapy.aspx
Grohol, J.M. (2018). Psychotherapy. https://psychcentral.com/psychotherapy/
Soeiro, L. (Oct. 23, 2017). 10 reasons why people refuse to talk to therapists. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/i-hear-you/201710/10-reasons-why-people-refuse-talk-therapists