“Just Talking, Right?” & Other Misconceptions About Therapy

After assessing my patients, I often suggest that they consider therapy. There are many misconceptions about psychological therapy. This may perhaps be due to the way therapy is portrayed on television (e.g. in Infernal Affairs, Tony Leong is talking to his therapist, Kelly Chen, while lying on the couch). Here, we answer commonly asked questions about therapy. We hope to provide you with a better understanding before you embark on this journey.

What are the types of therapy for depression and anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy are just some of the therapies used to treat depression and anxiety. Psychological therapies aim to promote self-awareness and self-understanding, and in turn these can be used to build skills to manage negative emotions. Therapy may also involve identifying personal values and taking positive actions. Sometimes, it is helpful to explore long standing beliefs in the context of previous experiences. In these cases, there are other types of therapy (e.g. Schema Therapy) that may be helpful.

How many seasons do I need to attend in total?

The number of sessions will vary for each individual. Most medical guidelines recommend at least 6 to 12 sessions to get the most benefit from therapy. However the eventual number of sessions will vary greatly. The eventual aim is to empower you to reflect and practise the psychological and behavioral life skills independently – to become your own therapist.

How many times do I need to see the therapist each month?

Everyone moves at different pace. The frequency of therapy varies for every individual, and is something you would want to discuss with your psychologist. We recommend that sessions are not spaced too far apart, ideally on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This is so we can remember and build on what was discussed in previous sessions. However, there are also clients who prefer monthly sessions.

When do I see results?

You can expect to see some positive results after 3 to 4 therapy sessions. It is essential to persist with therapy until there is significant improvements in your anxiety or depression. Recovery is work-in-progress which can take many weeks or months. Ongoing self-reflection and engagement with your therapist is key to a full and sustained recovery.

Does ‘talking’ really work?

Therapy is more than just talking. The dialogue and relationship with your therapist promotes self-reflection and processing of difficult emotions. During therapy sessions, we identify patterns of thinking and behaviours which get in the way of living a life that is personally meaningful and fulfilling. We look at how these narratives developed, and work on changing some of these patterns.

Research has shown that psychological therapy in combination with medications have the highest efficacy in treating most mental health conditions. Therapy is not “just talking”. Advanced brain imaging techniques have shown that psychological therapy literally changes the brain through creating new neural circuits (connections between brain cells) and modifying neurochemistry (the chemical environment in which our brain cells live in).

Can it be done via zoom?

Yes, but it is strongly recommended that at least the first session should be face-to-face at the clinic. If you are very keen for tele-therapy through video conferencing, speak with your therapist to make arrangements.

What are the types of therapy available at your clinic?

See the full list here.

How do I prepare for my first session?

During the first session, we hope to understand the challenges you have been facing and identify some treatment goals together. We will ask you about your family, work, school etc., to get to know you as a person, and to help us understand how your beliefs and coping might have evolved over time. You may decline to answer any questions which you are not comfortable with. In other words, there is no need to prepare. Just be yourself. It is the ongoing dialogue between you and your therapist that is the key.

Do I need to talk about my parents?

We may explore your childhood experiences and family relationships to help us understand what have shaped you as a person. However, you don’t have to share anything which you are not keen to. Often, it takes awhile for the client to be comfortable and mentally ready to share more. It is our duty and privilege to build trust and a strong therapeutic relationship with you, if you allow us to.

Is it really confidential?

Yes, the information which you share with us will be kept strictly confidential. Under exceptional circumstances in which your safety is compromised, your therapist may discuss your case with our doctor (e.g. very strong suicidal urges). Rest assured that we always have your welfare and interest in mind. Another exception is when the Court requests for information for legal purposes if our client is suddenly under police investigations. We will have to comply with the Court/Police order and provide the information they need.

What if there are things about my past that I really don’t want to share?

You don’t have to share anything which you are not ready to. It is okay to tell us so. We want to provide a safe space where your needs are heard and respected. It is our job to build trust with you, so that you may be more comfortable to share in a future session. We will work with you as a team, and go at a pace which you are comfortable with.