Therapy Etiquette

  • Turn off your cell phone when in session. Too distracting otherwise. (Thank you.)

  • Feel free to bring a beverage. Sometimes I have water to offer, but not always. (No food, please.)

  • If you must cancel or reschedule, given 24 hours notice. This allows me to give the time you release to someone else. (Thank you.)

  • Wondering what to talk about? Reflect on your week. Where did you struggle? (Everybody struggles.) What was going on, what were you feeling? What was it like? Being in therapy is like unraveling a ball of yarn. We start pulling on strings and eventually we unravel everything.

  • Arrive at your session on time. Unlike medical doctors, I try very hard to be on time for every session. It helps if you do the same.

  • We stop five minutes before the hour so we can have time to check out.

  • If you decide to have someone to sit in on your session (e.g., spouse), give me a head's up: call or email. Check to make sure it is okay with me. It usually is, but sometimes, well, sometimes it might not be.

  • I do not share much of my personal life, but it is okay to ask me how I'm doing or whether I had a nice weekend or vacation or whatever. I am human being, after all. You will come to know me over time, though not in the way you know a friend.

  • Sometimes people want to know how to address me. I am okay if you call me by my first name (John). Some clients still insist on calling me "Dr. Gibson." Yes, I do have a doctorate, but I am not a medical doctor. I am a psychologist.

  • Did I miss anything?

Down Time

I will be out of the office on June 25 and not returning until July 9.

In other words, I'm taking a vacation. As much as I love my work, I need to do other things. Taking breaks is one of the ways I have of taking care of myself.

Americans are notorious for not using up all of their vacation time. Compared to other countries, we work too much. I say, step away. Play with your kids. Take a walk on the beach. Read a book, or maybe two. Travel — open yourself up to new experiences. Sleep in. Do something creative that involves your hands. Take a long drive with someone you love, or talk late into the night about your dreams (remember those?)

I know, I know, everybody talks about embracing the grind, and work harder, and working on your "side hustle." But if you let yourself come to a full stop, if only for a little while, it just might make the grind a little easier. Worth a try, don't you think?

See you in a couple of weeks.

See also:

Practicing What I Preach part I
Practicing What I Preach part II

What is Therapy?

Many people equate therapy with advice, but they are not the same. When well-meaning friends or family members give us advice, they are generally trying to pass on the benefit of their wisdom. This isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, sometimes the advice turns out to be just the ticket for solving the problem at hand. But what do you do when your personal problems prove immune to common advice? That’s when a therapist can be of use to you.

Your mind is (delightfully) complex. Your senses give you information, which your mind turns into perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. You have attitudes, opinions, values, and beliefs. You are motivated to do some things but not other things. Much of your behavior is governed by forces outside your awareness. Human beings are amazing creatures, capable of wonderful achievements, but this does not mean we are entirely logical or without conflict. Sometimes these complex processes get complicated, and that’s more or less when we get stuck.

Therapy is a process of learning about your own psychology so that you might move through life with a little less friction. Everyone knows that life can be difficult. But sometimes life hurts. If you are depressed, anxious, or struggling in a relationship, you might not know why you feel the way you do. The underlying problem may not be obvious, let alone the cure. But think of it this way: symptoms tell us that something about your life isn’t working. Yes, you want those symptoms to go away; of course you do. But to do this we have to dive a little deeper into your personal life to see if we can discover what your symptoms might
mean. This will require you to talk about yourself as honestly and openly as you can.

Therapy is also a relationship. Human beings are hard-wired to connect, which means we grow and develop through relationships. This starts the moment we are born and it continues throughout the entirety of our lives. Some of the most important things we can learn about ourselves (and others) occurs in the context of human relationships. We all need someone in our corner who cares about us, listens to us, encourages us, worries about us, roots for us, and occasionally gives us feedback that we need but would rather not hear. Unlike ordinary caring relationships, however, a therapist also has specialized training and knowledge. He listens not just with his ears, eyes, and heart, but also with his head.

And yet a therapy relationship is not like other relationships. It does not have the natural give-and-take, the mutual sharing and reciprocity that friendships have. One reason for this is because the session is
your time –– the focus is strictly on you and your needs. But also, a therapist generally does not talk much about himself because it allows him to maintain a degree of objectivity about you and your concerns. This is something your friends and family members might not have if they try to help you, but it is necessary if we are trying to give you an unbiased experience.

So let me circle back around to the original question. What is therapy? The short answer is this: it is a process where another imperfect human being with professional training joins forces with you as you work to solve your problems. We
create a relationship for the purpose of helping you heal, grow, or make progress towards some goal.

Make no mistake, therapy does not change the fact that life is hard, nor does it give you magical results. But it can help you feel better, cope better, and get better.

If your personal life isn’t working for you, you might give it a try.

Happy New Year. Or at least it could be.

Are you looking for a good therapist? I should have some openings in January, if you're interested.

I could tell you about the various problems I help individuals and couples address in my practice –– anxiety, depression, relationship issues, traumatic stress, infidelity, panic attacks, and more –- but what I'd really rather you know is that I specialize in joining forces with people who are trying to make their lives better.

My ideal client is the person who is trying to make
progress towards some goal. Our job, should we work together, is to figure out what's stalling the progress you've been trying to make on your own.

No magic bullets, no judgement, no b.s.

If you're interested, give me a call. If my openings don't fit your schedule, I'll give you the names of some other good therapists to call.

One last thing. Yes, you really can make your life better. It might take effort, time, and commitment, but even small changes can alter the course of your life.

Best wishes,

— John

Practicing What I Preach

As of this moment, I am not in the office. I'm on Christmas break. Each year I take a week off between Christmas and New Years to spend time with my family. This is one of the ways I recharge my batteries. I like my work, indeed I see it as a calling or a mission. But it is also important that I nourish those relational connections in my personal life that keep me sane.

I love Christmas. I love the anticipation, the excitement, the traditions. But what I enjoy most is giving. I give presents, of course. But I also give my time, energy, and attention to the people I care about. Giving is good for the soul.

Happy holidays.

Copyright 2008-2018 John Gibson. All rights reserved.