- Short-term therapy: When we are faced with a difficult moment in our lives, we may feel the need to consult a professional psychologist in order to sort things out or simply to get a different perspective on a specific situation. A particular anxiety, the loss of a loved one or a transitory obstacle can engender difficult moments. Through listening and reflecting, the therapist can help you look at a situation differently. Sharing your anxieties in a strictly confidential setting will help break the pattern of loneliness and stress.
Issues specifically linked to traumatic experiences can be addressed with the use of Eye Movement Integration (or EMDR) over a relatively short period of time (less than a dozen sessions usually suffice).
- Medium-term therapy: By working on understanding (both emotionally and contextually) the problems that have led us to consult a professional, dynamics that had been more unconscious, more in the shadows, emerge. Putting things into perspective in this way may trigger the desire to explore more deeply our personal history, and the words, images or memories that it evokes. We may then feel the need to commit to a longer period of time that can extend over several months.
- Psychoanalysis: Analysis is a more profound process and requires a longer commitment. We listen to what is trying to emerge from the unconscious through words, images and dreams. Confronting one’s unconscious will lead to more fluid dialogue with our inner world. Along that journey, we gradually learn to let go of conventional discourse. In fact, we often adopt a specific style of discourse or role at work, another at home or another again with our friends, partner or spouse. The analytical process requires that we verbalize EVERYTHING that comes to our mind and follow our associations. Sometimes using a couch can help, as a more relaxed and self-focused position may facilitate associations, though it is not mandatory. A new understanding of who we are will emerge: It (the unconscious) speaks.
Generally speaking, the reasons people consult a professional evolve with the society in which we live. Society changes, and modern psychoanalysts do not work like their predecessors. The differences among the various schools of thought have tended to blur with time. Often psychoanalysts have taken the same psychology courses and may also work in a field other than psychoanalysis, generally as clinical psychologists. Whatever their training, they often also integrate modern techniques such as active imagination, hypnosis, art therapy and EMDR into their practices.
While in the past, psychoanalysts were mainly physicians, today they are more likely to have come from the professions of psychology or social work.
Less theory-oriented and using a more clinical approach, the modern analyst is more open to other forms of therapy. Even if the framework remains analytical, modern psychoanalytic practice is more flexible, more humanistic, more sensitive and sometimes more pragmatic. (*)
(*) Free adaptation and translation from Pourquoi la psychanalyse ? by Elisabeth Roudinesco, Ed. Flamarion (Why Psychoanalysis?)
Reasons for consulting a psychologist
People seek help from a professional psychologist for a variety of reasons. For some, therapy provides a way to become more aware of their mental blocks, complexes, obsessions or neuroses, in other words, the shadows that exist in all of us. For others, it is an inner journey leading to deeper self-knowledge and self-affirmation. In all cases, it is a demanding task that requires deep commitment and is based on the desire to understand our conscious and unconscious minds, including the use of dream interpretation.
When we look into our own past and decide to explore and share with a professional the difficulties of our day-to-day lives, we will inevitably revisit difficult moments in our existence. Gradually, events that have been dismissed, hidden away or forgotten will resurface. A different understanding will arise as we integrate our shadows into our present existence. Our behaviour will be modified as we become more conscious of situations that keep repeating. Eventually we will let go of our sufferings.
We cannot simply erase our history to create a new one. Even our most painful memories are part of our personality and to a certain extent they contribute to our inner richness. One thing is certain; the way we look at ourselves will change.
What is the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst ?
In Quebec, the term ‘Psychologist’ is a legally reserved title. Only members of the Board of Psychologists are allowed to call themselves ‘Psychologist’. The Quebec Board of Psychologists validates the academic training of its members (PhD level), and ensures that they work according to the Code of Deontology.
Amongst psychologists there is a variety of theoretical orientations. Psychoanalysis is one of them, except that it requires an additional training at a psychoanalytic institute (please refer to the chapter on the training of a psychoanalyst).
The Psychiatrist is foremost a physician, who mainly prescribes medication when required.
Confidentiality is crucial in the psychotherapeutic process. Everything you share with your therapist is strictly confidential. Your therapist is legally bound by the code of conduct of the Quebec Board of Psychologist, which is itself governed by the provincial professional code. Your therapist will keep all information confidential, even the fact that you are consulting or have consulted, no matter how long ago it has been.
What is the frequency of sessions?
Every situation and every person is unique. Typically, a session will last around 50 minutes once a week. You may feel the need to increase the frequency to two or three times a week, especially when dealing with complex situations. My experience has shown that if there is less than one session a week, deep work is seldom done, since current situations occupy the whole session (except perhaps when therapy is winding down).
Is psychotherapy different from coaching or counselling?
They are radically different services. Coaching and counselling are concerned with a specific issue or problem in a given environment. The aim of coaching and counselling is to get an opinion from someone who is not a psychologist. Psychotherapy attempts to go beyond the issue or situation being presented, and to take a holistic view of the conscious and unconscious personality structure in relation to the issue or situation.
Can I make an appointment only when I feel the need?
Psychotherapy does not work like that. Stability and consistency are required, especially when your situation is unstable and in a state of flux. You can count on your therapist to commit to your appointment. In other words, it is your time and nobody else’s. This security has multiple advantages in the psychotherapeutic process. You are not passively accepting a prescription from a physician. Psychotherapy is a collaborative process that rests on mutual commitment.
What about insurance?
You will pay the fee directly to the psychologist at every session. It is your responsibility to submit receipts to your insurance company when applicable thereafter. Your therapist will issue monthly receipts, unless your needs are different. It is important for you to feel free to discuss this issue with your therapist.
What about missed appointments?
Your therapist should be informed a week in advance if you anticipate missing a session. Otherwise, you will be required to pay for that session, except under exceptional circumstances. Your therapist is willing to make changes to appointments when feasible.
Certification as a Jungian Psychoanalyst requires completion of an extensive post-graduate training program (PhD status) at an institute approved by the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP). Analysts must undergo their own rigorous and sustained personal analysis. The training culminates with the submission of a thesis. Certification is designed to ensure a high level of competence, quality and integrity.