I often ask my new clients what would you like to get out of this experience. Psychotherapy, therapy, or counseling are words thrown around, but somewhat abstract in content. They can mean a lot of things, and to many people sound a bit formal. Just like whether you should call yourself a client or a patient. All these words are labels. Fundamentally, people (and I use the word client) call because they have a problem that they are having difficulty solving. So in a way a therapist (which also is a little too formal for me) is like a consultant. You go to a consultant to get help on something you need. Usually when people go to a consultant they already have some idea of the problem, and may have already used their own solution skills. Most people when they call for a therapy appointment have already made some attempt to address their concerns.
I often ask clients what are their goals. Goals can be specific to abstract, short-term to long-term. Usually when a client comes to my office their issues can be translated into both short-term and long-term goals. Relationships, communication, anger management, depression and anxiety, and even substance abuse are all concerns that can be improved with specific skill building and behavioral practice. This can be done in a relatively few number of sessions. I also work with my client on what I call developmental issues. These are the underlying pieces that make up psychologically who you are, your unique strengths and areas of difficulty. They are a combination of genetic, family, and learned experiences. To understand yourself in a more self-reflective manner is the important piece to make change more real and not just behavioral. The more you can understand your psychological self, the easier it will be to not only achieve your short-term goals, but to grow as a healthier person in this very complex world. Jim Harris, LCSW, CAADC