Q. What will happen in my first session?
A. The session will be approximately one hour. I will first explain my credentials, fees and guidelines regarding confidentiality. You will have a chance to ask questions about the process before proceeding. You will then be given a chance to describe your concern in your own way. I will listen and ask questions to clarify my understanding of your concerns. Some of the questions may be about family background and history of the presenting concern. These are asked to gain an understanding of its origins and to rule out other psychological problems. At the end of the session, we will develop an action plan together.

Q. Are my sessions confidential?
A. Yes. Nothing you tell me can be released to anyone without your written permission. However, there are several legal exceptions to confidentiality, which will be explained at the beginning of the first session. These exceptions are:

  1. Information is sought with a court subpoena.

  2. When an individual is in immediate danger, steps must be taken to warn or to protect the individual. This occurs when there is a direct threat made against an individual or when you, the client, are seen to be in immediate danger of suicide.

  3. There is a child in need of protection.

Q. How long does therapy usually take?
A. The length of therapy varies considerably depending on the nature of the issue. The average in my practice is about four sessions per case. Many people only require one or two sessions to gain the understanding, support or direction necessary to address their concern. Others may need more assistance. My approach is action-based, meaning that you will likely have activities to do between sessions. This tends to speed up the process and reduce the number of sessions required.

Q. What is your opinion about medication?
A. Psychologists do not prescribe medication. My belief is that most psychological disorders can be treated effectively with psychotherapeutic approaches. However, there are medications for the treatment of psychological disorders that, when correctly prescribed and monitored, can be effective in the treatment of psychological disorders. There is also some evidence that the combination of medication and psychotherapy can maximize treatment gains for certain psychological disorders. Some medications can also be counter-productive in the treatment of psychological disorders and can make them worse. Medications sometimes have side effects that outweigh their benefits for particular clients. I will usually discuss the issue of medication with you during the initial session. Ultimately, your general physician or psychiatrist will be responsible for prescribing and monitoring any medications. My practice is to collaborate with your physician (with your permission) to ensure an effective overall treatment plan.

Q. What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?
A. Psychiatrists are physicians with special training in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. They can prescribe medication and, though many do psychotherapy, they more often take a medical approach to the treatment of mental disorders. Their services are covered under the Medical Services Plan, but there are usually long waiting lists to see a psychiatrist. Psychologists have a Ph.D. in either clinical or counselling psychology. They are particularly trained in assessment, diagnosis and psychotherapy. Their approach to mental disorders is to provide psychotherapy aimed at helping the client solve their own problems. Psychologists are highly trained in research and their practice tends to be informed by research into the psychological treatment of mental disorders. Psychologists, along with physicians and psychiatrists, are the only mental health professional able to provide official/legal diagnosis of a mental disorder. Psychologists’ fees are not covered under the MS P, but are covered by many extended health plans.

Q. What is psychotherapy?
A. Psychotherapy is a general term for techniques used to assist clients to resolve psychological problems. There are many forms of psychotherapy and each form has its own body of evidence regarding its effectiveness. I tend to use a form of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT helps people understand and change the beliefs and behaviours associated with emotional problems. There is a significant body of research supporting the effectiveness of CBT. I also use other techniques as appropriate. An important part of psychotherapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Apart from the specific technique used, clients who feel that their therapist is warm, genuine, supportive and empathetic (i.e. they feel like the therapist understands them and is in their corner) do better in therapy. Consequently, I do my best to listen and understand before embarking on a specific course of treatment.