Frequently Asked Questions
How does therapy work? What exactly happens in therapy?
You may be familiar with the image of a patient on a couch free associating while a therapist nods along silently. While therapy is intended to be a safe space for you to explore and express your concerns, experiences, and feelings; it is also a place where we actively colloborate to identify where you would like to see positive change happen and introduce interventions that might help you meet your goals. We work together to help you relate differently to difficult feelings and thoughts, improve your relationships with others, and make behavioral changes that can help you live a better life.
How often should I come to therapy?
Therapy is most effective when it is consistent and regular. In my clinical experience, a weekly 50 minute session allows us to build momentum toward positive change and meeting your goals. Some clients prefer more frequent sessions when things are challenging and others prefer less frequent sessions. You and I will work together to determine what is most appropriate for you.
How long does therapy take?
There is no one answer to this one. It really depends on your goals and the amount of work you would like to do. Some clients come to therapy with a specific timeframe and goals that they wish to address. Others may wish to do long term, deeper work around their core beliefs and histories or resolve traumas that still feel very present in their lives.
You and I will collaborate as a team to ensure that you are making progress. I regularly check in to see if we are meeting your goals and to identify when you are ready to finish therapy.
Keep in mind that progress also depends on what happens outside of therapy. We will often consider actions that you can take between sessions to move you forward.
Is therapy confidential?
As a psychotherapy client, all of our work and communications are confidential. This means that every thing that happens in therapy - what we talk about, any notes that I take about our work together, even the fact that you are my client, is confidential. In fact, I need your written persmission to communicate with anyone about our work together.
Please note that California law dictates some exceptions to this. I am required by law to disclose information when there is a reasonable suspicion of child, dependent or elder abuse or neglect and when a client presents a danger to self, to others, or is gravely disabled.
What exactly is mindfulness? Can it help me feel better?
Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment, in a nonjudgmental way. It is about getting in touch with your internal experience from a place of curiosity. While it seems simple, it can have a huge impact on your life. Being present to what is actually going on inside of you can allow you to create space to make changes, understand yourself better, and live a fuller, richer life.
We often don't notice the thoughts, memories, urges, and feelings that show up inside but they have a powerful effect on our behavior. Mindfulness has many forms and is simply a way of noticing these things. Once they are in your awareness you have the power and space to do something with them. There is a great deal of research on how mindfulness can help with a variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, anger, negative thoughts and other issues that many struggle with.
Is mindfulness the same as meditation?
There are many ways to bring more mindfulness to your life and meditation is one approach that works well for many people. While meditation is a formal practice that fosters mindfulness, there are many techniques and approaches that can help you be more mindful in your life.
How can I stop feeling anxious?
There are lots of different kinds of anxiety symptoms and experiences and every individual has different ways of coping. The most effective approach to dealing with anxiety is learning how to have a different relationship to it. This could include learning ways to soothe yourself when you feel anxious or changing the way you deal with the anxious thoughts and feelings that show up. There are a variety of approaches that we use in therapy so that you feel like you are living a fuller, richer life where anxiety doesn't have the same effect on you.
Does meditation help with anxiety?
Meditation (and more broadly, mindfulness) provides many benefits that help with anxiety. First, many meditation practices involve the breath which can calm the nervous system. Second, meditation helps to create an observer experience. Being able to create space between you and your anxiety by becoming an observer often means being able to relate to it differently and suffering less. Finally, meditation hones your focusing skills. When anxiety feels overwhelming, being able to shift your focus can be helpful in reducing the painfulness of anxiety.
How do I better understand my sexual identity?
One way to better understand your sexual identity is to embrace it's complexity. Your sexual identity is not necessarily a fixed aspect of your personality. It can be fluid and evolve over your lifetime. Your experiences have an effect on your identity, including cultural and family influences. Adding to the complexity is that while society and popular culture often view sexuality as a binary (gay vs. straight, male vs. female, femme vs. masculine, etc.), there are actually many gradations to how you experience sexuality and where you land isn't necessarily where you stay. Starting from a place of curiosity can be helpful in understanding who you are.
I think I may be bisexual/gay/genderqueer/genderfluid? What do I do now?
Stay curious. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings and the experiences you have. Notice if you have thoughts that sound rigid or absolute - I should, I must, I never, I always. Be open to where you are today and see if you can hold it from a nonjudgmental place. Notice thoughts that sound like society telling you to be or feel a certain way. Notice beliefs that sound like there is something wrong with you or defective.
The best way to understand and integrate your identity is to be open to what your actual experience is. We often take in what the prevaling culture tells us even when it doesn't necessarily make sense or match how we intuitively see ourselves. We can often hold old messages from childhood and adolescence that no longer work. Taking a more open stance can be helpful in better understanding yourself and feeling more integrated.
I don't seem to have any desire for sex anymore. What can I do?
Sexual desire (also called libido) is a complex human experience and lots of factors contribute to it. Consider it the intersection of your physical body, your mental/emotional experience and your relationships with others, as well as the impact that external stressors and experiences have on you. All of these things can influence your libido.
In therapy, we always check to see if there are any physical causes of desire issues by working with a physician. We also explore what thoughts and feelings may be contributing to low desire, as well as sexual and other interactions with others that may be contributing factors. Finally, we address stressors that may be having a negative effect on your desire levels as well.