As you begin therapy, you should establish clear goals with your psychologist. You might be trying to overcome feelings of hopelessness associated with depression or control a fear that is disrupting your daily life. Remember, certain goals require more time to reach than others. You and your psychotherapist should decide at what point you may expect to begin to see progress.
It is a good sign if you begin to feel a sense of relief, and a sense of hope. People often feel a wide variety of emotions during psychotherapy. Some qualms about therapy that people may have result from their having difficulty discussing painful and troubling experiences. When you begin to feel relief or hope, it can be a positive sign indicating that you are starting to explore your thoughts and behavior.
Examples of the types of problems which bring people to seek help from psychotherapists are provided below.
A man in his late 20s has just been put on probation at work because of inappropriate behavior towards his staff and other employees. He has been drinking heavily and is getting into more arguments with his wife. Once the contributing factors that may have led to the man’s increase in stress have been examined, the psychologist and the man will design a treatment that addresses the identified problems and issues. The psychologist will help the client evaluate how he coped with, and what he learned from, any earlier experiences he had with a similar problem that might be useful for dealing with the current situation.
Functioning as a trained, experienced, and impartial third party, the psychologist will help this client take advantage of available resources (his own as well as other resources) to deal with the problem. The psychotherapist also will assist this client with developing new skills and problem-solving strategies for confronting the problem he faces.
Crying spells, insomnia, lack of appetite, and feelings of hopelessness are some of the symptoms a woman in her early 40s is experiencing. She has stopped going to her weekly social activities and has a hard time getting up to go to work. She feels like she lives in a black cloud and can’t see an end to the way she feels. The symptoms of depression are extremely difficult to deal with, and the causes may not be immediately apparent. Significant life changes–such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a child’s leaving home for college–may contribute to depression. Psychologists have a proven track record in helping people deal with and overcome depressive disorders.
A psychologist will approach the problems this woman presents by addressing why she is reacting the way she is reacting now. Does she have a history or pattern of such feelings, and, if so, under what circumstances? What was helpful to her before when she dealt with similar feelings, and what is she doing now to cope with her feelings? The psychologist will work to help the client see a more positive future and reduce the negative thinking that tends to accompany depression. The psychologist also will assist the client in problem-solving around any major life changes that have occurred. And the psychologist may help facilitate the process of grieving if her depression resulted from a loss. Medical problems may contribute to the symptoms the woman is experiencing. In such cases, medical and psychological interventions are called for to help individuals overcome their depression.
William, a successful businessman, has been laid off from work. Instead of looking for a job, he has gone on endless shopping sprees. He has gotten himself into thousands of dollars of debt, but he keeps spending money. What can be more perplexing than someone who does the opposite of what appears to be reasonable? William’s friends and family members will likely be confused by his behavior. Yet, such behavior is not unfamiliar to psychologists who understand bipolar disorders. Of course, any psychologist would have to do a thorough evaluation to be able to understand the apparently contradictory behavior William exhibits.
Following an evaluation, the psychotherapist might conclude that the behavior actually is a symptom of a depressive or some other form of mood disorder. Typically, the best results for such a condition have come from treatment that combines medication and psychotherapy. Although psychologists do not provide medication, they maintain relationships with physicians who are able to assess a patient’s need for appropriate medication. The psychologist offers understanding of human behavior and psychotherapeutic techniques that can be effective in helping William deal with his disorder.
Scott, a teenager, has just moved across town with his family and has been forced to transfer to a new high school. Once an excellent student, he is now skipping classes and getting very poor grades. He has had trouble making friends at this new school. For most teenagers, “fitting in” is a critical part of adolescence. Scott is attempting to make a major life transition under difficult circumstances. He has been separated from the network of friends which made up his social structure and allowed him to feel “part of the group.”
Young people often respond to troubling circumstances with marked changes in behavior. Thus, an excellent student’s starting to get poor grades, a social youngster’s becoming a loner, or a leader in school affairs losing interest in those activities would not be unusual. A psychologist, knowing that adolescents tend to “test” first and trust second, will likely initially spend time focusing on developing a relationship with Scott. Next, the psychologist will work with Scott to find better ways to help him adjust to his new environment.
(c) Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association
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