Psychotherapy in general
Psychotherapy is the usage of psychological interventions to improve a person’s mental health and individual well-being. The process is usually collaborative – the individual works with the psychologist to achieve specific goals by changing his/her thought patterns, behaviours, as well as attitudes and beliefs. These goals can include overcoming specific issues such as insomnia, managing conflict, improving relationships, and bettering one’s social skills.
There isn’t an exhaustive list of issues that you can work on with a psychologist, and we have helped our clients with a wide range of problems at Asia Psychology Centre. These can include but are not limited to, managing conflict with loved ones, workplace stress, poor sleep quality, substance abuse, and mood regulation matters. For a look at some of the most commonly addressed issues, you can check our range of services here.
There is a common misconception that people seek psychotherapy only when they have a clinical disorder that needs to be managed. In reality, therapy serves much more than just this group of people. Many others see psychologists for various reasons. Some of our clients are functioning fairly well in most aspects of their lives, but cope poorly in a few areas. We thus work with them to iron out the problems that they are facing. Others come to us to get clarity and perspective on specific issues – whether at work or in their personal lives – and to see if things can be improved or optimised further.
Therapy’s effectiveness is highly dependent on the client’s willingness to make changes to his/her life, in areas like general attitude, thought processes, and patterns of behaviour. If a person doesn’t see the need to change anything, and is not open to accepting other perspectives, then psychotherapy’s effectiveness will be limited, even if this person attends sessions.
Essentially, therapy frameworks provide a structure for case formulation – the psychologist uses it to define the problem and develop the necessary intervention together with the client.
At Asia Psychology Centre, our clinicians use various therapy frameworks – often in combination – depending on the client’s needs. They include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Solution–Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT). This is not an exhaustive list of the therapy frameworks used, but they are the most commonly applied ones.
Clients often come to us with specific problems to solve or issues to iron out. These end goals, however, are not necessarily achievable immediately, and may require other short- and mid-term objectives to be met first. During sessions, our psychologists will work with you to define the scope of issues to work on at that point in time, and to discuss progress markers that indicate that specific milestones or goals are being met.
The number of sessions that a client requires depends on the complexity of the issue.
On one end of the spectrum, we have worked with clients with very specific issues and expectations, and have seen progress with them within a couple of sessions. One client, for example, wanted to work on better communication strategies with his mother-in-law, and was able to see some positive changes in their relationship dynamic by the third session.
On the other hand, clients may sometimes have deep-rooted issues that require several sessions to unpack, before we even begin to work together on management strategies. A couple seeking help for conflict management, for instance, may uncover with the psychologist that years of grievances and unmet needs have led to a dysfunctional and rigid communication dynamic. This will take time to improve, since it entails uncovering and resolving the couple’s pain points with each other during therapy. For such a case, several months’ worth of work over multiple therapy sessions may be needed.
It is important to note that therapy effectiveness is not just dependent on the psychologist’s aptitude and ability to connect with clients – clients themselves need to be motivated to apply what has been discussed in therapy and make the necessary changes to his/her situation. Only then will clients be able to see an improvement in the issues faced.
We recommend weekly sessions for new clients, as there will be more things to work through with a psychologist initially. As progress is made, sessions can progressively decrease in frequency from weekly to fortnightly, monthly, etc. Our goal is to wean every client off psychotherapy by helping them to make progress and see improvements in the areas of their lives that they are having issues with. Eventually, a check-in every three, six, or even 12 months will be all that is needed. Some clients also opt to stop sessions entirely once they feel confident enough about overcoming their problems.
We safeguard client confidentiality very seriously. Whatever you choose to share with the psychologist in sessions is privileged information that we safeguard very seriously.
At the end of each session, your psychologist will log case notes that detail what has been discussed during the session. This allows your psychologist to track your progress, while also helping with case prep before each session. These case notes are logged in our secure clinic management system, and only your psychologist will have access to them.
No one else will have access to this privileged information unless you grant explicit permission to your psychologist to share them with a third party. The only exception is if the case notes are subpoenaed by a court, or if any failure to disclose the information can result in harm to either yourself, or another person.
Preparing for sessions
No preparation is required or the first session. Many clients aren’t able to pinpoint exactly what they want to act on, but know that there are issues they need to work through. Thus, during the initial sessions, the psychologist will work with the client to frame the issues to be worked on in a concrete way. This is a critical part of the therapy process.
In between your sessions, the most important thing for you to do is to work on what you have discussed with your psychologist. This is what will bring about the changes that you want to see in your life.
Beyond this, however, it is helpful for you to reflect on what has been done, what you are doing, and any changes or results that you see – the psychologist will be able to guide you through this. At Asia Psychology Centre, our psychotherapy work is structured; the psychologists prepare for every session in advance (case prep) by reviewing the previous session’s progress and setting agendas for the upcoming one. This structured approach gives our patients clarity in how each session’s time is used, and to be able to chart their own progress as the weeks go by.
Of course, we maintain a degree of fluidity in sessions – you are encouraged to bring up any new feelings, thoughts, or observations about the issue that you are working on. You can thus add to the agenda that your psychologist has prepared for you by coming in with your own input.
Therapy for adolescents and children
This isn’t an easy question to answer, because the specifics differ for every single child. It helps to frame the issue by asking yourself a few questions. For a start, what exactly are some of the issues observed? Does your child have difficulties managing his/her emotions? Is he/she displaying problematic behaviour either in school or at home? Have you noticed that your child is unable to concentrate in school?
If there is an issue that has been identified, then you should also consider its severity, and how it might be affecting your child (or others). Psychotherapy should be considered if your child’s daily function is affected. For instance, if your child displays low mood but feels better after a few days with no other accompanying changes in his/her functioning in other aspects of life, then intervention may not be necessary – at least until new data points or concerning patterns have been observed. On the other hand, if this is affecting his/her quality of rest and, in turn, performance in school, then intervention may be necessary.
It’s understandable that you will want to know whether your child is making progress with psychotherapy. In our experience, the effectiveness of therapy depends on how willing the child is to share his/her thoughts and feelings. If a report is to be given at the end of every session, a child may not feel safe to share candidly with the psychologist. This in turn affects the rapport between the child and the psychologist, and lowers therapy effectiveness.
In general, unless a child is at high risk of harming themselves and/or others, an update will not be given. In addition, we will discuss with the child first before giving any information to the parent, so that the child feels safe and respected in sessions.