A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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About Psychotherapy


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Page Contents: The need for goals in psychotherapy.                    


I have been seeing a psychotherapist off and on for the past ten years. I felt like she did me a lot of good. After a break of two years, I returned to her to deal with heavier issues (sexual abuse and related issues) and everything seemed to have been going okay, but the six months or so, psychotherapy has been slow going. My question is this: in spite of all the time we’ve worked together, we have never discussed a treatment plan or setting goals in psychotherapy. How important is it and is this something that could be contributing to my feelings that psychotherapy is not going the way I would like?

Some forms of structured and focused treatment, such as for phobias, have very precise treatment plans; other forms of treatment, such as psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy, have no more plan than “say whatever comes to your mind, bring in your dreams, and let’s see what happens.” Yet, either one of these extremes is still a treatment plan.

Anyone in psychotherapy, however, deserves to know the treatment plan, whatever it might be. If you’re not clear about the plan, then ask, because it’s your right as a consumer to have some clarity about the treatment. Moreover, if the treatment is not going the way you would like, it is important to speak up and discuss this with your psychotherapist. Just be careful to understand that psychotherapy can be counterintuitive, and so you may be making progress even if it doesn’t seem that way to you in the moment. Thus it is important to maintain constant honest communication with your psychotherapist about your ongoing experience.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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