Psychotherapy is a treatment that focuses on the relationship between you and the therapist and which provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. You and your therapist will work together to identify and process the thought and behaviour patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best. Likewise you will not only sort out the issue that led you to therapy in the first place but you will have learned new skills that support you to cope better with future challenges.
There are many myths surrounding the need for therapy. Many believe that therapy is only necessary for people passing through severe psychological or psychiatric conditions; at times psychotherapy is actually confused with psychiatry. In reality therapy can also help many everyday life situations like anxiety, relationship issues such as marital breakdown, parent-child conflicts, work-related problems, loss and grief and self issues like lack of self esteem and problems with image.
Signs that you could benefit from therapy include:
- You feel an overwhelming, prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness.
- Your problems don’t seem to get better despite your efforts and help from family and friends.
- You find it difficult to concentrate on work assignments or to carry out other everyday activities.
- You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
- Your actions, such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs or being aggressive, are harming you or others.
What is Gestalt psychotherapy?
Gestalt is a word derived from German which means “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts“. That is, in fact, the rationale of Gestalt psychotherapy where the resultant growth and change from the therapeutic experience is not only the result of all the experiences put together but also that extra experience coming from your internal processing and the new awareness and perception you have of yourself and and world.
The mainstay of Gestalt psychotherapy is awareness that comes from genuine contact in the form of the therapeutic relationship. It is through the new experience in relating that old ways of relating, and the resultant unhealthy contact with ourselves and our world, that is the way we affect our world and are in turn affected by it, are revisited and worked through with the support of the therapist.
During a session the therapist primarily focuses on the setting up of the relationship with you both to give you support and to understand better how you function in your world. Therapy is mainly done through talking but there are times when the therapist chooses to do certain interventions called experiments both to understand you better and to help you get better awareness of yourself and your situation. Such interventions are done only with your permission and only if you feel comfortable. In the case of young children and adolescents parents and other family members are sometimes asked to join in some sessions to get a better idea of the environment the child lives in.
A psychotherapy session usually lasts one hour unless there is a specific arrangement between you and your therapist. This timing of the session is important in supporting the therapist’s assessment of your behaviour – whether you tend to come late or whether you find it hard to leave for example and this information can be processed with your therapist during the sessions. Although at times hard to accept any issue needs its time to process and there is a limit to how much processing can be done at one go as that can hinder your natural growth and awareness.
It is important that sessions are done on a regular basis, not less than a week, unless there is a specific reason and not more than three weeks’ interval as then too much distance can hinder the establishment and maintenance of the therapeutic relationship and the work done in previous sessions. Most of the time the timing of the sessions are decided between you and your therapist depending on the issue/s you would be working on at the time.
The therapist is duty bound to be on time for the sessions and to inform the client if there is any delay or cancellation as soon as possible. You must be made aware of the cost of the sessions and of what is expected of you, as the client during the first session.
As a professional, the therapist is also duty bound to keep himself/herself abreast with the latest developments in the field and by attending regular supervision to ensure optimal work with you. It is also important that the therapist is of sound moral background and lifestyle; this however must not in any way impede him/her from accepting you in a non-judgemental way.
It is your choice, as a client to start therapy and as such it is your responsibility to attend the sessions booked on time and inform your therapist within a specified time-frame decided between the two of you at the start of therapy. Your therapist might deem it necessary to charge you a cancellation fee.
Though considering that it might be hard to divulge certain information about yourself, it is important that you avoid as much as possible giving wrong information to your therapist as this will then hinder the therapeutic relationship and the process of your work together.
You are the one who decides to start therapy. It is a decision taken from a need to reach out for support and awareness. Once you decide to start therapy the next step is choosing the right therapist as this will greatly affect the outcome of your therapeutic process.
The first session is usually about introducing yourself and your issue and setting the contract – that is terms of payment, time of sessions and cancellation policy – with your therapist. This is important as it gives the necessary structure and guidance to your therapeutic process.
You can stop therapy whenever you choose; ideally however this should be discussed with your therapist so that adequate closure is reached for the time even if you might intend to resume therapy in the future.