What Can I Expect When I See A Psychologist?


You may have never stepped inside a psychologist’s office let alone engaged in psychotherapy. However, many men and women, as well as children and adolescents, find that talking to a trained neutral, objective, confidential, non-judgemental psychologist (psychotherapist) is of enormous benefit to themselves and to their relationships.

Psychotherapy comes in many different forms. The psychotherapy that I, and many other psychologists, will provide you with depends on what you wish to achieve through the process. If, for example, you wish to gain insight and understanding of the conscious and unconscious beliefs and feelings that may be holding you back from a fulfilling life, then you will be helped to engage in gentle self-enquiry.

On the other hand, if you do not really want to spend time exploring your past and how it affects you in the present, then the psychotherapy will give more attention to strengthening the particular skills that will enable you to thrive… no matter what experiences you may have endured. Building your mindfulness abilities may be important.

During your first consultation, the psychologist will listen to your description of your current struggles, challenges and/or problems, assist you in examining your thought processes, feelings, and behaviours and then together with you decide on what sort of approach should be taken in helping you move towards a life of thriving.

You may up until now have tried to avoid or ignore the unpleasant feelings caused by your difficulties or problem/s. But neither the feelings nor the problem/s will go away until the issue is at least explored and verbalised. Psychotherapy provides a safe and accepting space to make this possible and is as effective for individuals as it is for couples (and family groups).

Individual Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is often very beneficial for individuals who are experiencing ongoing and/or significant difficulties, needing support or striving for personal growth. The difficulties and adolescent experiences may arise within the school, home and/or social environments. Likewise, an adult may experience difficulties within the work, home and/or social environments.

Support may be required around challenges and issues such as anxiety; depression; stress/anger management; trauma; bereavement; health problems; interpersonal difficulties; emotional, behavioural and educational problems; sexual identity issues; or abuse for example.

Couples Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on partners in a relationship who are experiencing difficulties and need assistance. A variety of challenges and issues may be covered, including communication facilitation, marriage preparation or guidance, and divorce mediation for example. Couples therapy assists couples in resolving their differences in a safe and nurturing environment.

Therapy to assist with Trauma

Trauma debriefing is a very specific type of psychological therapy. It helps a person who has survived a traumatic experience deal with the negative and uncomfortable, often very painful feelings and behaviours that come to the surface after a traumatic event. The survivor will be helped to explore everything that affected him/her during the trauma and be given information and tools to help through the difficult time ahead.

Traumatic experiences can be defined as events involving actual or perceived threat of harm, injury and/or death. Such events include physical assault, armed robbery, hijacking, rape, domestic violence, car accidents, near death experiences like being washed out to sea, and natural disasters, etc.

Psychological intervention is very important to obtain after a traumatic experience, to assist the individual (or group) to work through the frightening experience. At first a person will be in shock. It is important that at this time the person receives support physically and medically [if necessary] from family members and friends. Debriefing at this time is not usually productive due to the natural defence mechanisms of the body kicking in. Psychological intervention is best obtained between 24 and 72 hours after the trauma.

The number of sessions required is generally around 4-6 sessions, but everyone is different and therefore it depends entirely on the individual and the severity of the trauma. It is usually unrealistic to think one session will suffice as it is a process and needs time to be worked through.

If you don’t seek help it may be that you ‘suppress’ your experience in an unhealthy way. Post-Traumatic Stress [PTSD] may then develop over a period of time and is harder to treat psychologically than the initial traumatic stress.