Frequently Asked Questions

We believe that you should enter into psychotherapy with a good base of knowledge about the therapy process and other pertinent issues. The information presented here should help answer your basic questions.

What is psychotherapy? Back to Top

Psychotherapy has many accepted variations, but generally involves talking about, understanding, and resolving troubling personal issues with the supportive help of a trained professional therapist. Psychotherapy provides a safe place to look at those parts of your life that aren't working well and are causing you or your family pain. It is a unique and valuable opportunity to explore and work through difficult areas of your life and to reach a new understanding of yourself and your relationships. It is a time-honored and powerful approach to healing the heart and soul.

Old wounds can be healed as you are empowered to be yourself and to express your feelings in the presence of an accepting witness. The combination of new insight and freedom of self-expression can alter how you see and experience the world. It can lead to increased spontaneity, vitality, positive connection in relationships, and the ability to make new choices.

How is the Therapy Network different from other therapist referral services? Back to Top

For many therapist referral services, all a therapist has to do to be on the list is to pay their monthly premium. The Therapy Network, in contrast, is a member organization: each member is personally interviewed by the membership before being invited to join. The interview process is designed to determine if therapists are qualified to handle complex cases in ways that are consistent with best clinical and ethical practices. We also screen to make sure that our membership is diverse and provides a wide spectrum of services to our Bay Area community, which has unique needs. Learn more about the Therapy Network.

How does psychotherapy work? Back to Top

In the psychotherapy session, both you and your therapist will devote full attention to you and your situation, seeking to understand and move through difficulties. With this focused attention, you can come to understand yourself more deeply: your moods, feelings, reactions, and behavior patterns, and how it is that you have become the person you are today.

Therapy works best when trust is allowed to develop between you and your therapist. Over time, you may come to experience your therapist as interested in your life, reliable, and nonjudgmental, which leads to the development of a meaningful and rich relationship between the two of you. This process can shed light on and help heal important relationships in your life, and can enable you to grow, change, and face life's uncertainties and challenges with newly developed self-confidence.

What is the difference between psychotherapy and talking to a friend? Back to Top

The professional therapeutic relationship gives you the freedom to focus on yourself without restriction, and without judgment. In contrast, it can be difficult for friends or family to listen without judgments or expectations, or without offering advice, however well meaning.

A therapist is trained to help you come to your own solutions. Whatever you share in therapy is safe, and you are free to express what you feel. Your personal information is protected by professional standards of confidentiality, which have only a few exceptions defined by law.

What types of issues bring people to psychotherapy?Back to Top

People seek help from therapists for a wide variety of life issues, including relationship, depression, anxiety, addictions/substance abuse, and couples counseling. Click to read more about a specific issue and to see a list of San Francisco Bay Area therapists who are experienced in working with that issue.

When should I begin therapy? Back to Top

Choosing to begin therapy is a deeply personal decision: we each feel our emotional distress differently. You may want to consider beginning therapy when:

  • You have trouble making or keeping satisfying relationships, and you want to understand the patterns that underlie the difficulty.
  • You realize that an emotional issue has been causing stress for a long time.
  • You feel depressed, anxious, fearful, agitated, or have trouble managing your anger.
  • You recognize behavior that seems self-defeating, out of control, addictive, or self-destructive.
  • You are frequently distressed by traumatic memories.
  • You have trouble obtaining or keeping a satisfying job, or your behavior keeps you from advancing in your career.
  • You find that you need more support than is available in your everyday life.

When should I end therapy? Back to Top

Deciding when to end therapy is usually a collaborative process between client and therapist. You may want to consider ending therapy when:

  • You understand the source of your distress and can find relief on your own.
  • Your distress is greatly diminished.
  • You have found successful ways to take care of yourself.
  • You experience greater capacity to field life's difficulties, and you are free of the symptoms that brought you to therapy.
  • Your relationships at work and in your personal life are satisfying.

How long does therapy take? Back to Top

Therapy is a highly individual process — there is no predetermined length of time or number of sessions. Although most people want their therapy to be as brief as possible, some complex issues require longer-term therapy.

Sometimes, people see a therapist for just a few visits. This can be successful if a client is looking for a consultation or is dealing with a temporary crisis. Sometimes a therapist can help individuals, couples, or families make a change very quickly. The length of your therapy will depend on what you are looking for from the process, and on what you are bringing to therapy to be resolved, healed, or explored.

Sometimes people come to therapy to get help with longstanding and complex issues. This involves building a relationship of trust with your therapist. Often, it is this long-term relationship that promotes healing.

In general, research (Consumer Reports, November 1995) indicates that therapy is more helpful when people stay longer than just a few sessions. Talk with your therapist about your concerns and ask what sort of time frame he or she anticipates. Your therapist may not know the exact duration of your therapy but can help you understand how therapy moves forward and how you can know when it is complete.

What should I think about when choosing a therapist? Back to Top

Always approach the process of choosing a therapist with your eyes open, and with as much good information as possible. The following three areas are particularly important:

  • Is this psychotherapist qualified to help me? People bring many kinds of problems to therapists. The license indicates basic qualifications, but many professionals have additional training or particular skills. A therapist's experience, interests, and specialties can be very important in helping you decide whether they might be qualified to address your particular concerns.
  • Does this person use a type of therapy that fits for me? Make sure your potential therapist offers what you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for couples therapy and you are speaking to a therapist who only practices individual therapy, you may want to look elsewhere. There are many types of effective psychotherapy. Some are more focused on problem solving, while others value more open-ended exploration. Ask the therapist how he or she might help you approach your situation, and see if that makes sense to you.
  • Do I feel comfortable with this person? It is very important to feel comfortable, respected, and supported by your therapist. How you feel talking to the therapist initially can give you important clues about how safe you might be able to feel to be open and honest with this person. If you are not sure about your reaction, you might meet with another therapist before making a decision.

Why is licensing important? Back to Top

All members of the Therapy Network are licensed to practice in the State of California. A license to practice psychotherapy indicates that the Board of Behavioral Sciences of the State of California has verified that a psychotherapist has completed a professional training program and a period of supervised clinical experience, and that he or she has passed a formal Board examination.

Our members include licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed psychologists:

  • MFT refers to licensed Marriage and Family Therapists MFTs must complete a master's degree in psychology, 3,000 hours of supervised field experience, and pass a written examination. They work with individuals as well as couples, families, and children. Before July 1, 1999 the title for this license was called MFCC, Marriage, Family and Child Counselor.
  • LCSW refers to Licensed Clinical Social Workers LCSWs must complete a master's degree in social work, 3200 hours of supervised field experience and pass a written examination. They also work with individuals, couples, families and children.
  • Licensed Psychologists must complete a doctoral degree program (either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D) as well as 3,000 hours of supervised field experience, and they must also pass a written and oral examination. They work with individuals, couples, families, or children, and they are also trained to do psychological testing.