Your statement about values reminds me of Dr. Laura. Are you like her?
In the first place, unlike many media therapists, I would never attempt to diagnose and treat a client without a lengthy, in-depth clinical workup with that person. Keep in mind that, more than anything, media therapists are entertainers. Some have solid, legitimate credentials, have significant clinical experience, and perform a real public service. Some are fictional.
To me, values are the key. I believe that individual mental health can not be separated from the common good. It might be that a person is not feeling well because he or she has been badly treated, maybe even is a victim or survivor of abuse. It might be that someone is not feeling well because his/her self-involvement has caused that person to treat others badly. Both self-awareness and other-awareness are essential to our happiness.
Perhaps the need for instant diagnosis/solution, like other needs for immediate gratification, points to the significance of the split between the self and others in our culture. The expression "personal integrity" implies wholeness. Finally, I'm a therapist--a healer--not a judge.
How do I know if I need counseling therapy?
Some people seek counseling because they sense that something "isn't right" in their lives. Or, the feeling may be expressed as "I'm not happy and I don't know why." Sometimes a person knows that he or she is depressed, anxious, grieving, or needing objectivity about a specific concern, such as parenting, a marital conflict or decision making.
Which is better, talk therapy or medication?
This topic seems to be debated a lot in the press, but there is no easy answer to the question. For organically based mental health problems, medications can work in what almost seems like magical ways. For some kinds of issues, no medications are available. Sometimes, we have to work through the pain of life without drugs. Other kinds of problems, such as clinical depression, seem to respond best to a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
How long does psychotherapy take?
Some clinicians specialize in short term therapy, and some problems lend themselves to a fairly quick resolution. For instance, I've seen clients who have arrived at a turning point in their lives and need an objective person to help them make a decision. A few weeks or months, and they're on their ways. Other problems are more deeply embedded and need the sort of long term psychotherapy that, in effect, helps to "rewire the brain." Victims of abuse, for instance, typically need long term treatment to learn how to see themselves and the world in a productive way. In therapy there is no "one size fits all."
You're a woman; how well do you work with men?
My clients have included men, women and couples of all ages. I believe that a focus on the genders of the therapist and the client is a false issue. What is important is that there must be a good fit between the client and the therapist. There must be trust and a willingness to work.
So, who is your favorite movie or television therapist?
We've all seen media depictions of therapists from the psychiatrist on The Sopranos to the psychologist on Monk and various extended series about therapy/therapists on HBO. Many of the more recent fictional therapists have been more accurate in the presentation of the counselor and counseling interaction than have the entertaining figures of the past.
If we're talking about real media therapists, Dr. Drew Pinsky is a compassionate and skilled clinician who combines a high level of tolerance for being human with a strong sense of genuine right and wrong. Also, he puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of parents working hard to raise healthy kids. I, too, want each generation to be healthier than the last.
Dr. Phil is certainly very perceptive about problems and solutions. However, I understand that he gave up his practice because he did not have the patience to work with people in trouble over the long term. What he does now shines a light on some real human issues and possible solutions, perhaps making it feel safer for people to seek help.