FAQ Selection

What do I need to know about how psychotherapy works?

The first appointment you will have with one of our doctors is called an intake session.  During the intake session, the doctor will introduce you to important aspects of the counseling process (such as confidentiality), will ask you relevant background questions to get a sense of your personal and family history, and will then invite you to share what is going on in your life and what you are looking for help with.  Follow up sessions are typically scheduled on a weekly basis.  Over time, you and your doctor may decide to taper the sessions to every other week, monthly, etc., as needed. Finding a psychologist with whom you feel comfortable opening up to is a personal decision and may vary based on individual needs and reasons for treatment. People who get the most out of psychotherapy are typically the ones who put the most into the process, and are willing to keep an open mind and engage in the work of personal change. 

What is Depression & What Causes It?

Depression is more than just sadness.  While it is normal to feel sad or “blue” sometimes, when feelings of sadness last for two weeks or longer and they interfere with daily life activities, it suggests something more serious, such as clinical depression.  Symptoms of depression may include low mood, a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, reduced ability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, a tendency to think very negative thoughts, reduced energy and/or motivation, significantly increased or decreased sleep, significant weight loss or gain, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.  Depression is the most common mental health disorder and occurs in about 20% of the population.

Depression is not caused by one thing, but by the interaction of biological and psychological factors.  Biological factors can include genetics (family history), hormones, and brain chemistry, as well as medical illness, injury and pain, while psychological factors can include stressful life events, response to loss or transition, and unhelpful/ negative thinking styles.

How is Depression Treated & Will it Come Back?

Depression is highly treatable. Depression can be treated successfully by both medical and/or psychological methods. Psychotherapy helps people identify the factors contributing to their depression and learn how to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people Identify negative or distorted thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany depression. CBT also helps identify and change aspects of behavior that may worsen the depression, such as through goal setting, activity scheduling, and problem solving. Having one episode of depression greatly increases the risk of having another episode. There is some evidence that ongoing psychotherapy (and/or antidepressant medication use, if helpful) may lessen the likelihood or reduce the severity of future episodes. Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology and the American Psychological Association website (APA.org)

Anxiety Disorders

Everyone feels anxious from time to time.  Experiencing mild anxiety may help a person become more alert and focused on facing challenging or threatening circumstances.  But individuals who experience extreme fear and worry that does not subside may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.  The most common types of anxiety disorders include: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Panic disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Social phobia, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  When left untreated, people who suffer from anxiety disorders may also suffer from other psychological disorders, such as depression, and the greater likelihood of abusing alcohol, drugs or food.  Their relationships with family members, friends and co-workers may also become strained and their work performance may be affected.  

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders. Psychologists use CBT to help people identify and learn to manage the factors that contribute to their anxiety.  Patients learn relaxation training including breathing and meditation techniques to counteract the agitation and rapid, shallow breathing that may accompany certain anxiety disorders. Through CBT, patients learn to understand how their thoughts contribute to their increased anxiety symptoms, and how to change those thought patterns to reduce the likelihood of occurrence and the intensity of reaction. The patient’s increased cognitive awareness is often combined with behavioral techniques to help the individual gradually confront and tolerate fearful situations in a controlled, safe environment.
Source: American Psychological Association (www.APA.org)

What is Mindfulness?

The simplest definition of mindfulness is paying attention to one’s experience in the present moment. It involves observing thoughts and emotions from moment to moment without judging or becoming caught up in them. During a practice session, when the mind wanders, the meditator ideally takes note of where it goes, and calmly returns to the moment at hand, perhaps focusing on breath, bodily sensations or other sights and sounds in their present environment.  Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is used by the providers at FMPA to help clients manage stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, disordered eating, interpersonal conflict, and other issues. MBCT seeks to teach people to disengage from the deeply ingrained dysfunctional thoughts that are common with negative emotional states.  Experts have hypothesized that mindfulness may be effective because, “It fosters selective attention — if you focus on your breath, you have less bandwidth to ruminate.”  Like any skill, the more one practices mindfulness, the more one benefits.