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Common Questions

 Is therapy right for me?

Seeking out therapy is an individual choice. People come into it for many reasons. Some need to respond to unexpected changes in their lives, while others need to deal with long-standing psychological issues. Some want to increase their capacity to love, work and play with greater freedom, passion and honesty. Many seek the advice of counsel as they pursue their own personal exploration and growth. When coping skills are overwhelmed by guilt, doubt, anxiety, or despair, or when we are just ready to take the next step in becoming who we want to be, working with a therapist can help provide insight, problem-solving skills and enhanced coping for issues such as depression, anxiety, facing conflict, lack of confidence, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, spiritual faith & practice, stress, body image issues and creative blocks. Therapy is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self & other awareness and working towards change in their lives. 

Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle things on my own.

Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who want to flourish and have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns and overcome whatever challenges you face. Having an ongoing relationship with a skilled therapist who knows you well and whom you trust can smooth the rough roads and optimize the meaningful experiences of your life.

The benefits you obtain from therapy will depend on the partnership between you and your therapist: how well the two of you use the therapeutic process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:

• Developing insight and better understanding of yourself, your goals and values

• Renewing vitality and Rekindling the love for life
• Developing skills for improving your relationships

• Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy

• Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety

• Managing anger, grief, depression and other emotional pressures

• Improving communications skills - Learning to listen from your heart and your head will also increase your ability to share

• Getting "unstuck": changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones

• Discovering new ways to solve problems 

• Improving your self-esteem and perhaps even your humility and self-confidence

What is therapy like?

Every therapy session is unique and caters to each individual and their specific goals. It is standard to discuss the primary issues and concerns in your life. Weekly 45-minute sessions are common though some people find that meeting twice a week can more than double the potency of treatment. Whether therapy is conducted intensively or intermittently, whether it is short-term (2-4 months) or long term (years), it should be goal directed and characterized by a trusting relationship that enables us to address your aspirations and concerns. There may be times when certain actions outside of the therapy sessions are suggested such as reflecting on a topic, reading a relevant book or keeping records to track certain behaviors. It is important to process what has been discussed and integrate it into your life as you are ready. Therapy will be most effective when you are an active participant, both inside and outside the therapy room.

The collaborative process produces the capacity for self-reflection, empathy and insight into self and others. Greater insight leads to more eloquent statements about your desires, goals and even your hesitations. When you find your voice in this way, you will be well on your way to more satisfying relationships and fulfilling self-expression at home, work and play. Here are more qualities you can expect within therapy:

• Compassion, respect and understanding

• Perspectives to illuminate persistent patterns and negative feelings

• Real strategies for enacting positive change

• Effective and proven techniques along with practical guidance

What if I don't know what my goals are for therapy?

Establishing a direction for therapy will help you get the most out of the experience. If you aren't sure what your goals are for therapy, then figuring it out will be one of the first task. Sometimes, in such instances, it may take several sessions before a direction is clarified. During the course of therapy, it would be common for your goals to change as you accomplish a better understanding of yourself or your situation. As a therapist, I will let you know up front if I can or cannot facilitate a particular goal when you share it with me. My own goals as a therapist remain fairly consistent: I enjoy providing the conditions necessary for others to express themselves, I enjoy facilitating personal fulfillment and the behavior change needed to enter into responsible and loving relationships.

How long will therapy take?

The simple answer is that it depends on the needs and goals that you bring to therapy. Most everyone begins therapy in some type of emotional pain. I will try to be active and pragmatic, but hopefully not intrusive, as we address your concerns. Basically, it takes as long as it takes to understand the pain and accept the pain, even embrace it together so that it can be transformed. If you are committed to going further than solution-oriented counseling that merely reduces symptoms, I will stay engaged with you and our process to promote healing and growth toward long-term development and maturity. In the end, just as the decision to enter therapy is your choice, the decision to end therapy will also be your choice.

The length and outcome of therapy has been shown to depend on the formation of a positive working alliance between us. Our relationship becomes both the laboratory and the playground for finding meaning and creating change. So after we have met several times, ask yourself the following questions and share your answers with me the next time we meet. Do you feel you are in good hands? Does it seem that I understand you? Do you believe I have the knowledge and expertise you need? Do you feel that I have your well-being in mind? These types of questions might be answered once you take the time to get to know someone, but we should be able to discuss your feel for our working alliance within the first month of therapy.

What is Emotion?

Emotion is a primary part of our mental and physical experience. Emotion is our first language, it is what we spoke with our primary care givers when we first came into the world, before we had words to describe our experience. I firmly believe that our ability to speak this native language can be renovated in adulthood through talk-therapy. In adulthood it is helpful to think of emotion as information about what we and our loved ones need. Understanding our emotions allows us to respond helpfully to your own true needs as well as the needs of others. The opposite is also true, research increasingly demonstrates (and many individuals have experienced) that difficulty in identifying our emotions eventually leads to personal and interpersonal deadening. Consistently, when people have felt traumatized by past experience and responded by trying to deaden their emotions in general with intellectualization, self-attack, hypersexualization, or other addictions they unwittingly cut themselves off from needed internal resources, eventually cutting themselves off from loved ones (including God), personal fulfillment, and their own sense of self.

Is emotional pain necessary before joy is experienced?

Sometimes. Let me explain with an analogy. You can think of me as a “physical/emotion therapist” because I believe that therapy is a way for men and women to exercise their “emotion muscles” much like the way you might use a gym and personal trainer to exercise the muscles in your body. What happens when we don’t use a muscle? It atrophies. Likewise, our emotion muscles atrophy and anytime we use "retired" muscles, it hurts until we get used to it again. With our bodies, if we avoid motion that causes pain in a specific muscle, we can literally end up with a body dysfunction such as a frozen shoulder. Mobility is key: use it or lose it. It is similar with emotions, if we shy away from any experience that causes emotional pain, we will eventually end up with emotional constrictions (debilitating depression) or habitual avoidance (debilitating anxiety). Practical application: embracing the grief process, for instance, accomplishes both the mental processing for dealing with the past and the emotional strength for dealing with the future.

Who is Dr. Swan?

Over the years I have found that some people naturally want to know a bit about the experience and background of the person helping them, while others find it helpful to know very little personal information about the therapist in order for the therapy to bring the most benefit. In my attempt to respect both approaches, I will generically answer the experience and background questions here. If you find that more information would be helpful we can discuss it in person.

Is medication a substitute for talk-therapy?

In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. In session we can discuss if you should consult with your medical doctor or a specialist. It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Talk-therapy produces longer lasting changes. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the causes of distress and the behavior patterns that curb progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. 

Is therapy confidential?

In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychotherapist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.

However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:

• Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.

• If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. The therapist is required to notify the police.

• If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. If an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.

How Private is your office setting?

Very. My office has two features in particular that I value for the added privacy. First, my exit door is separate from the waiting room entrance. This provides a qualitative advantage over other offices where clients have to exit back through the waiting room. In other words, after your session is over, you can continue processing your thoughts and feelings while you leave without the interruption of worrying about who you might encounter in the waiting room. Second, I do not have a receptionist, my voicemail is confidential and answered only by me. If I am not able to answer the phone, I will respond personally to your message.

Does your office provide Emergency Services?

No, in a life threatening emergency you need to get ahold of help right away. For immediate assistance please call Metro Crisis, 503-215-7082, or dial 911 or go to a hospital emergency room for assistance.

Further Questions?

You are welcome to discuss with me at any time your questions or concerns regarding psychotherapy.

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