What to Expect
Well, we talk. That’s the first thing we do. We take our time on the phone so that I can get a sense of you and your problem and whether I think I can help you, and you get an opportunity to size me up to see if you think I can help you.
Next, we meet for a 50 minute session where we both take a closer look at what seems to be the problem. At the end of the first session, I will provide you with a preliminary assessment of your problem and a treatment recommendation, which may include a series of therapy sessions.
So what happens during those subsequent 50 minute sessions? Much, of course, depends on the nature of the problem, and the nature of you. The approach we take with you is, of course, personalized to your needs. Take a look below at the sketches of the most frequent problems people bring to me, and some of the tools I use.
Anxiety and fear are very human feelings – we all feel them at times in our lives, and in some situations can be useful if not essential. These feelings become problematic when they become so intense that they negatively affect thinking, work or school performance, relationships, or your own inner experience. Anxiety and fear can affect your ability to comfortably and effectively connect with your world and others, to speak in public or demonstrate your abilities. They can inhibit your ability to feel safe and secure in your own skin. Fortunately, with the right therapies anxiety disorders are highly treatable.
Depression, like anxiety and fear, is a very human experience. Who hasn’t had a period of feeling down, sad or discouraged? At such times, we might not be interested in the usual things we enjoy, and we may even be irritable and not want to socialize. When feeling depressed affects how we live our lives… the way we think, feel, eat and sleep, our energy level, our relationships, productivity, and sense of well-being, then it’s time to get some help. The good news is that there are highly effective therapies for treating depression.
Conflict in relationships is as inevitable as taxes in April. How can you get close to someone without inevitably rubbing them – even a little bit – the wrong way? Partners suffer from major relationship problems when they have hidden their true feelings about each other, themselves, and other important people in their life. When partners’ unresolved feelings and defenses collide, hostility and withdrawal occur. We all can have spats which last but a brief while, but when these reactions become damaging and last long enough, the basis of the relationship corrodes, and ultimately the relationship itself can become threatened. As grim as this picture may seem there is much reason for hope. When treatment is sought – and this is an area where I have always had a special interest – much can be done to improve the relationship.
Whatever the problem you bring, our ultimate goal is to free you as much as possible from your crippling symptoms and to enable you to live the life you wish to have.
There are number of well-established and effective psychological therapies that can help you relieve your symptoms and achieve your goals for personal, relationship, educational and work success. Below are thumbnail descriptions of the main therapies I use.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
For anxiety problems, e.g., panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety, treatment is aimed at getting you ‘back on the horse’ . This is done through gradual and tolerable exposure to whatever it is you’re afraid of and finding ways to help you stop avoiding what’s making you feel anxious, To do this we look at and help you change the way you think about what makes you anxious (Is the cup half empty or half full? Are planes safe or dangerous?), and teach you how to relax (which for many people is not so obvious) so that you’re able to get closer and closer to ‘the horse’ until you’re riding it comfortably. This approach is known as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
For depression, CBT is also used where we focus on your negative patterns of thinking about yourself, your future and your world. Additionally, where depression is associated with relationship problems, Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is used to address the social and emotional aspects of the problem that may be contributing to depression.
Mindfulness focuses you on the here and now of what you are experiencing but without judgement or belief. It can be used in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Just because you think something doesn’t mean you have to believe it. For example, if you were to have the thought that you must be perfect and not make any mistakes, being mindful of that experience would enable you to react not with anxiety as if the thought were true, but with curiosity and compassion, as in “Oh, there goes my brain sending me those thoughts again”.
Simply put, hypnosis, is a technique for intensifying your focus. It is nothing like stage-hypnosis where a volunteer from the audience behaves like a chicken while eating an onion. It is an ordinary and universal human experience not unlike the experience of lost time while driving on a long distance trip. More directly it is an experience of relaxation and sustained, focused, and receptive attention which facilitates whatever it is you wish to accomplish, e.g., quitting smoking.
In couple therapy, individuals usually expect to be seen by the therapist in the same session (conjoint therapy). My approach is different. I work with each partner in separate and confidential individual sessions (concurrent therapy). In my view conjoint therapy is inefficient because the therapist spends much of his time putting out fires started by the defensive manoeuvres of the individuals, e.g., blaming, attacking. Couple conflict results when the unresolved issues and defences of each partner collide. Thus the focus of your individual session is not your partner but you and your feelings.
Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychological therapy
Whatever your problem, we look at your feelings because feelings that have been buried away may be driving your problems. Where dealing with your feelings is problematic, the psychological therapy I use is called Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychological therapy (ISTDP) which is a unique combination of psychodynamic and cognitive psychotherapies. The aim of ISTDP is to enable you to face your true thoughts and feelings by overcoming your self-sabotaging defenses against them, and then bringing to the surface and working through these thoughts and feelings so you can make constructive changes in your behavior and your life.
Psychoeducation is a fancy word for reading informative materials such as an articles, books, websites, or viewing videos that help you understand and address your problem.
Currently, psychologists are not permitted to prescribe medication. Nevertheless, there may be times when I suggest you consider medication. This means I would like to have conversation with you about my reasons for suggesting you learn about a particular kind of medication, its pros and cons, and that you continue this discussion with your family physician or psychiatrist about undertaking a trial of medication. Ultimately, of course, it’s your decision.