By Valerie Gerechter
There is a saying that is often used in the helping professions. “Give a person a fish and they will eat, Teach a person to fish and they will eat for the rest of their lives”.
I believe that saying is also relevant to psychotherapy. Hailed as “talk therapy”, the basic structure of psychotherapy consists of a person meeting with a psychotherapist on a fairly regular basis over a period of time to talk about their problems. The therapist is not there to give advice, but rather to work with people so that they can find their own unique solutions to their problems. Our expertise is in facilitating this process.
Talking about very personal aspects of life can be daunting. It takes a certain amount of courage to decide to seek therapy and we have the greatest respect for those who decide to take this step towards bettering their lives. We strive to make them comfortable in our interactions and to assure them that while their particular situation is unique, having difficulties coping with life is a part of being human that we all share in one way or another.
We listen to our clients with a special ear. We are trained over many years to listen for what is said, how it is said, what is not said, what is being rigorously avoided, what is emotionally charged, what is longed, what is feared. Through it all we bear them company as they find ways to navigate the complex and sometimes very difficult aspects of their lives. This deceptively simple process can help a person resolve issues that may have plagued them for years, but that they have not been able to deal with alone.
But does it work?
The American Psychological Society stated in August of last year ““Be It Resolved that, as a healing practice and professional service, psychotherapy is effective and highly cost-effective. In controlled trials and in clinical practice, psychotherapy results in benefits that markedly exceed those experienced by individuals who need mental health services but do not receive psychotherapy.”
Whom should you refer?
We work to promote wellness in our clients. Although “mental illness” is in the news a lot lately, our orientation is to promote “mental health”. We see therapy as a potential route to better health for a wide scope of people, from those who are suffering from severe disturbances to those who are very functional but not thriving as they could be. To refer someone to a psychotherapist with the understanding that it is a natural process that helps to maintain good health allows the person the chance to address issues early on rather than waiting till their situation becomes unbearable. This keeps them working, promotes their wellness, and heads off hopefully any kind of serious attrition from work.
How we suggest you refer?
For any medical professional, you probably have a fairly good sense of whether the patients you see might benefit from talking to a therapist. We are aware however that the idea of seeing a mental health professional can be alarming for some people who may see your suggestion as a judgement on their sanity or even their self-worth. Demystifying psychotherapy is probably the first thing you should do – let your patients know that therapy is really a conversation between two people. That alone might make them feel more comfortable about pursuing it. The job of the therapist is to work with them to help them feel better, stronger, more fulfilled and to provide help and insight about how this might be achieved.
Profiles of our therapists along with contact information can be found at torontopsychotherapists.ca