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How Therapy Works

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Perhaps you are considering therapy.  Or you have already been to therapy and are interested in the “behind the scenes” workings!  Many years ago, Freud used to conduct therapy sessions by sitting behind his client, with paper and pen, carefully detailing his client’s dreams.  We have moved on from this: Therapy is now more personalised and is a face-to-face meeting (or by Telehealth at the moment).  You don’t need to have a significant mental health diagnosis to attend a psychologist.  Psychologists can help with many difficulties, including goal setting, weight and eating issues, low mood, anxiety, or to help you with your journey of self-discovery.

Therapy is different for everyone, depending on what your presenting issues are, or what you hope to achieve. Grief and loss, for example, is treated very differently from relationship issues.  Sometimes a few sessions of therapy may be all you need, to obtain some strategies which will support you at the present time.  Sometimes, therapy is over the long term, such as for people with complex trauma.  Medicare allows for rebates for ten sessions per calendar year (or 40 for a diagnosed eating disorder), however health care funds or privately paying allows you to access additional sessions.  Psychologists work in different ways, such as using Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, depending on their preference and training.  Some psychologists use a mix of therapies in an integrative approach.  It is important that you are comfortable with your psychologist – therapy works better that way.  You may be offered a group therapy approach also to maximise gains made in individual therapy.

A word of caution – psychologists don’t offer advice per se; rather the therapeutic space offers a non-judgemental space for you to share your difficulties.  Psychologists work with you to develop a plan to face challenges and improve your quality of life.  This might include the provision of strategies to try, ways to manage communication or big feelings, or teaching social or parenting skills, for example.  Even if you don’t have any problems, you could still benefit from therapy – a mental health check-up if you will.

In the therapy room, you are the expert.  You know what goes on in your body and mind (despite misconceptions, psychologists are not mind-readers!).  Psychologists are guided by what you say is going on and work with that.  Therapy is sometimes a hard process.  It is sometimes difficult to look into yourself, recognise faults, and/or make changes.  This can be assisted by a good relationship with your psychologist.  Oftentimes, change occurs in between sessions, much like meditation.  It is worth persevering, even if it feels like nothing is happening. Sometimes, simply sharing your issues within a non-judgemental and safe space in therapeutic in itself!

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Sharon Connell

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