John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

Common Questions

“What advice would you give for–– “

Let me stop you right there. Psychotherapy goes well beyond simple information or advice. It’s ultimately a process of understanding how your unique psychology–-complex patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions––contribute to your distress or problems.

Unlike self-help books or advice columns, therapy is tailored specifically to you. Your concerns, your situation, your personality, your history. Common advice tends to be universal. Therapy is specific.

“Okay, but does therapy really work?”

Most people report that it does. There are many ways to feel better. Mood, symptoms, relationships, satisfaction with life, problem resolution–-these are just some of the changes clients may report. And scores of research studies have consistently confirmed that therapy does indeed help people.

Which doesn’t mean it’s a panacea or even that a successful outcome is guaranteed. Truth is, the outcome of therapy depends on your goals, the type and severity of the problem you are trying to address, and your motivation to do psychological work. Still, most people report after seeking treatment they feel better off than before they started.

“What can I expect from the process? How does it work?”

The first session is a bit unsettling for many people. After all, you’re talking to a professional that you don’t know yet, and you’re talking about the most problematic aspects of your life, which can arouse strong feelings. But the good news is, the process of opening-up gets easier. We go at your pace, and we seek to understand, not judge.

In the early sessions, I do a lot of careful listening. Your life is like a story, complete with characters, plot, and narrative. My first task is to listen for those themes that tie your life story together. But as we go, you can expect me to begin making comments. These are anything but casual. They are designed to give you input, feedback, direction, suggestion, and interpretation, and they are directed at the way you think, feel, act, and react.

Sometimes the changes that people need to make are obvious, but sometimes not. And almost all change is accompanied by resistance. The middle stages of therapy are all about working together to understand the various forces that are holding you back. Frequently these “forces” are psychological, but sometimes they are social or practical. Therapy is as much about figuring why you haven’t been successful in personal change as it is in knowing what to change.

“How long does therapy take?”

There is no set length for therapy. To a large extend, it will depend on the problems you are trying to address and the goals you are trying to accomplish. Although some problems require longer-term work (e.g., maladaptive personality patterns), most problems do not.

Frankly, therapy is best viewed as an investment in your best asset–-you. Yes, it costs money, time, and energy, but if you improve your psychological functioning, you might just end up happier, wealthier, and wiser.

“But I’m not crazy–-I don’t need a therapist. I just want to feel better.”

Well, my definition of crazy and your definition may be two different things. What I can say is that most people have problems, issues, imperfections, struggles, and suffering of some kind. That just makes you human. Seeking assistance with these things makes you smart.

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