Richard V Sansbury, PhD ·

Frequently Asked Questions

What sorts of problems are appropriate for psychotherapy?

We all know that life is not always easy. How do we decide if a problem is serious enough for professional help? Here's a quick rule of thumb: if you have been dealing with an issue for a few weeks or more, and that issue is interfering with your normal life functioning, then it's a candidate for professional help. It doesn't matter how big or small an issue seems to be; if it continues to interfere with the quality of your life, maybe it deserves attention. On the other hand, professional help has its own drawbacks: even the best psychotherapy requires an investment of your time, effort, and financial resources. In the end, the choice is yours: is it worth your trouble to fix your trouble?

There's a caveat: if you are considering suicide, you are having a mental health emergency and should take immediate action. Call a suicide hot line at 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255; call a family member, a friend, or the police for help; or ask someone to help you get to your nearest emergency room.

How does psychotherapy help?
Psychotherapy is helpful in a number of ways. It can, for example, help you discover what you need to do differently in order to get more of what you want in your life; it can help you eliminate or reduce unwanted feelings or behaviors, while nurturing desired ones. It can help you understand yourself and enhance your personal awareness; it can help provide emotional support through life's difficult transitions; it can help you cope with any sort of psychological distress, nurture a more positive personal attitude, and develop your skill sets for living your best possible life. And those are just a few examples of how therapy can be helpful. A more in-depth discussion is avaiable here.
What sorts of problems do you work on?
I help individuals and couples with a huge range of issues. It's easier for me to specify the sorts of troubles I do not usually work on because I believe they fall outside my area of expertise: drug abuse, abusing others, or anger management. I restrict my services to adults; my kids usually baffle me as much as yours do you.
How do you work with clients?

In my experience, the therapeutic process works best when it is congenial to the client's world view, skills, and goals. That means each client's therapy will be as unique as he or she is. At the outset of therapy, we typically have at least some idea about where we want to end up — exactly how we will get there only becomes clear as therapy progresses. That said, there are some common themes in the work I do. In most cases, for example, we will be considering your perceptions, beliefs, and habits as they relate to the issues you wish to resolve. That's because these factors are hugely important contributors to your life experience. If you are experiencing unnecessary or excessive difficulties, one or more of these subterranean players are almost certainly involved.

We'll have a wide range of choices for addressing your issues. We might, for example, draw on Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Memory Reconsolidation, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Western and Eastern Philosophies... or any of a host of other wellness technologies I've gathered together over my more than 35 years as a therapist. In the end, which techniques/approaches we use will depend mostly on your needs, preferred style, and goals.

While we are on this topic I should mention that you have options for how and where we meet. You may prefer the traditional setting of my office for our meetings. Or, if you have broadband Internet, you may like the convenience of meeting via teletherapy software such as Skype or FaceTime. If you express yourself well in writing and prefer a slower pace for your therapy, you might even choose to "meet" via email. Please note that while teletherapy options offer a number of benefits, insurance typically does not reimburse for them.

How is "solution-focused" different from "traditional" psychotherapy?
There are a number of differences. The traditional approach to psychotherapy, for example, typically makes the perfectly reasonable assumption that we need to understand a problem before we can fix it. That understanding usually includes how the problem got started, and how it has evolved over time. In contrast, the solution-focused approach is more present and future oriented. It focuses on how the problem works today, what you want instead, and what needs to happen in order to achieve what you want. In other words, solution-focused therapy is more focused on creating the conditions you want, rather than deeply understanding what you do not want. Because it does not expend as much effort in understanding a problem's history, solution-focused therapy can often proceed more rapidly than the traditional approach and has come to be known as "brief" therapy.
Is Solution-Focused Psychotherapy (SFP) always preferred?
Therapy is about helping people. My tendency is to begin with the SFP approach because it often quickly and easily produces the outcomes clients have in mind. But one size does not fit all. It may be the case, for example, that what a client mostly wants is for another human being to hear his or her story and accompany them as they go through a difficult life transition. That's an entirely legitimate use of the therapeutic space and it calls for a perspective other than SFP. Fortunately, we are in no way limited to the SFP approach. There are many perspectives at our fingertips, the "preferred" ones will be those that are best suited to your needs.
Can my relationship be saved?
Often, the answer is "yes". Here are a few hopeful signs: do both of you love one another? Are both of you interested in doing things that nurture your partner and enrich his or her life? Do both of you value a relationship that lasts, and desire to make your relationship work? Do you share similar values about most of the important things in life? At the same time, are both of you willing to tolerate at least some differences in your partner? Does your relationship meet most needs, most of the time, for both of you? Do you often laugh together? Do both of you feel you can be open and honest with each another? The more often you were able to answer those questions positively, the brighter the prospects for your relationship. There's some fine print in all this. Isn't there always? If you're headed in a direction you want to change, the simple truth is that you will need to do something different. A big part of the challenge of couples work is to discover exactly what that "something different" is.
How will I know when I am done?
Another good question! How do you know when you have had enough to eat? Maybe you don't feel hungry... you don't feel like you need to eat more? In a similar way, clients know when they are done with therapy. Often it's because they have resolved the issues that brought them to therapy in the first place. Often it's because they have become so much happier with their new lives... they have better things to do than sit around and hobnob with a crotchety old therapist.
Have a question you don't see answered here?
Send me an email. I'm more than happy to answer questions about my practice.
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