Frequently asked questions
Where do we begin and what can I expect?
There is an initial 3-session information gathering process looking at reasons you are seeking therapy, your personal background and your expectations. This period gives you a chance to get a sense of how I work and for us to evaluate your needs and whether this type of therapy could be useful to you. It also gives you an opportunity to see whether you feel comfortable working with me and for us to both see whether we potentially connect or “fit” with each other.
Once a joint decision is made to start psychotherapy, a treatment plan will be negotiated and we will decide upon a set weekly session/s time which then becomes your regular slot.
How often does one attend therapy?
The effectiveness of this type of therapy is based on creating a consistent, reliable and safe therapy space. This enables a strong therapy relationship to be built and for important unconscious issues, patterns and resistances (to healing) to arise and be effectively worked with. Therefore regular and consistent sessions are an essential foundation. This takes the form of between (minimum) 1 to 3 sessions a week, scheduled at the same time each week. Greater frequency of sessions potentially allows for more in-depth and quicker work.
Breaks from the therapy process are significant as they can interrupt the process and goals of the work.
What do sessions involve?
Psychotherapy sessions will involve you beginning each session by sharing whatever thoughts and feelings are present at the time. You therefore set the agenda of the sessions and bring the content you wish to explore and address. My role is to facilitate and guide a reflective and exploratory process.
How long does therapy take?
It is not possible to predict how long therapy will take. It’s length can vary depending on a number of factors. These include the nature of the difficulties, the goals you have in mind and practical considerations like finances and time. How the therapy process unfolds is unique to each person. We may decide to work in an open-ended way, reviewing the therapy at various times and then, in the course of this, deciding on an end date. We may decide to work together for a certain period and then assess whether to continue or not.
Each therapy has a beginning, middle and an end. Having an ending process is an important part of the therapy so we can explore and fully understand the reasons for ending. It also allows us to reflect on the benefits and limitations of the therapy. The choice to end therapy at any point is always yours.
How soon can I expect to see change?
It’s important to know that therapy is not a “quick fix” and there will not necessarily be a marked “ïmprovement’’ after each session. Therapy is a challenging process on many levels and there can be both improvements and setbacks. It can feel relieving and fulfilling and it can also feel slow and frustrating at times especially in light of the fact that real, long lasting change (quite literally in the brain) requires repetition of new experiences and feelings over time. Also, since therapy often involves discussing and exploring sensitive or unpleasant aspects of your life and yourself, feelings of distress may arise or increase at certain times. This is often a normal part of the growth and healing process and all such experiences are openly discussed and worked with.
What is your payment policy?
The first three information-gathering (assessment) sessions require payment at or before the session by either cash or EFT (with proof of payment). Thereafter, if we decide we are going to work together, I send a monthly invoice on our last session of the month which is payable by the 3rd of the next month. A statement reflecting your payment will be emailed to you within 24 hours of payment.
Are you contracted in to Medical Aid?
I do not bill medical aid schemes directly. You are responsible for settling your account in full to the practice and submitting it to your medical aid for reimbursement. Please note that the benefits offered for psychotherapy by medical aids vary according to the scheme and your choice of plan.
What is your cancellation policy?
All sessions cancelled less than 24 hours in advance, or that are missed, will be charged for at the full rate. Please note that medical aids do not reimburse for these sessions.
Is therapy confidential?
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychotherapist. No information is disclosed without prior consent from the client.
However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. These include:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. The therapist is required to notify the police.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. However, if an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, primarily using psychiatric medications such as anti-depressants or anxiolytics. They are experts in the biological aspects of mental illness. While some have training in psychotherapy, this is usually quite limited. A psychologist, depending on the type of qualification (Clinical, Educational, Counselling), is trained in various ways in the understanding of human development, mental and emotional processes and behaviour. They use a variety of non-medical treatments/interventions to work with a wide spectrum of mental health difficulties. At times, both psychiatric medication and psychotherapy can and are used together to address mental health problems.
Why do people enter therapy?
The term “therapy” implies someone you can talk to confidentially about whatever is bothering you. Unlike talking to a helpful friend or family member, a psychologist provides a broader and deeper perspective and comes with a particular skill set to explore, identify and work with the many (often unconscious) reasons people choose to enter therapy. These may include anxiety, depression, burnout or anger issues. Some people come in order to deal with chronic issues such as poor self-esteem or repetitive dysfunctional relationship patterns. Others may come in response to stressful life events such as divorce, work changes, a health crisis or the death of a loved one. There are also those that enter therapy for the purpose of self-exploration and growth.
What types of therapy are there?
Nowadays there are a multitude of therapies on offer for individuals, couples, families, children, adolescents and adults. These include Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (sometimes known as Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy), Psychoanalysis (an more intensive form of therapy on which PT is based), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), art therapy, long-term therapies, short-term therapies, couple, family and group therapies. Studies show that different approaches suit different people.
What are the benefits of therapy?
Besides the treatment of specific mental health difficulties and symptoms, psychotherapy can also promote:
- The ability to self-reflect and be self-aware
- Self-compassion, empathy and self-acceptance which is a prerequisite for loving others
- More authentic and creative living
- Greater inner resources and wisdom
- Embracing the many different and conflicting aspects of oneself – what it means to be human
- Curiosity of self and life
- Improved verbalising of feelings/thoughts
- Identifying of and better regulation of emotions
- Ability for humour and play
Gabi Levine Clinical Psychologist Morningside Sandton Johannesburg