NEIL CHAMBERS Psychotherapist
Common Questions
  1. Do I need a psychiatrist? A psychologist? A counsellor? A psychotherapist? What is the difference?
  2. What should I expect in my first sessions?
  3. How often will I have to come and how long is each session?
  4. How many sessions will I need?
  5. Is there a waiting list?
  6. If I am on medication for depression/anxiety, should I undertake psychotherapy?
  7. Can you also see my wife/friend/family member in individual therapy?
  8. What if I start therapy and then really don’t like it?

 

In Ontario, and Canada in general, it is not that easy to figure out who offers what sort of therapy. Some titles, like psychiatrist and psychologist, are based on the education received (an MD or Ph.D. respectively and they require specific post graduate qualifications) while others are based more on the type of therapy provided (psychoanalyst, counsellor). The most generally inclusive term is psychotherapist, which can include everything from counselling by a (religious) minister to psychoanalysis. In short, don`t assume you know what type of therapy you will receive by the title, ask.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide if a given therapist is a good fit for you

In my studies and career to date I have met excellent therapists who were psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counsellors (M.Ed.). I have also met therapists who were psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counsellors that I really could not refer anyone to in good conscience. All of this to say that the title does not necessarily indicate the best therapist. We live in a highly regulated society that tends to emphasize science above all, and while empirical findings are extremely important to advancing knowledge, they are limited by the fact that there is so much that we cannot yet measure scientifically. That is where the art of therapy comes in. Good therapy is a carefully balanced mix of Science and Art. Art can be taught, but also requires a certain talent and passion. Ultimately it is up to you to decide if a given therapist is a good fit for you.

Very broadly, if you are looking for medication then you must go to a family physician or a psychiatrist. Only MDs can prescribe medication in Ontario. Psychiatrists and psychologists generally have the most extensive theoretical background and longest university training. Counsellors and social workers tend to be a bit more solution focused and may offer advice and guidance on the issues at hand. If you don’t know what sort of therapy you want or what sort is being offered, then ask.

Lastly, anyone calling themselves a psychotherapist should be registered with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario and have the designation RP after their name.


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Your first visit is a get–to–know–each–other visit and not usually a standard psychotherapy session. It is important for me to understand what has brought you into therapy and then begin to get a sense of you as an individual and your context. You are free not to answer any questions you would rather not and I am happy to hear anything you think I should know that might help with the therapy. This is also a time for you to get a sense whether you are comfortable with me and think you might be able to work with me. Before deciding firmly, you should probably attend at least two or three sessions, but if you are not comfortable, I will be happy to refer you to someone else.
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The frequency of sessions will be determined after your intake session(s) based on what seems to be the issue, your availability and financial situation. In some ways, going to psychotherapy is not dissimilar to going to the gym (in other ways it is very different!), that is, you can often see results and make progress if you go more frequently. In the gym you are training muscles, which are very simple mechanisms compared to the human brain, and yet most people recognize the need to go to the gym three or four times a week if they want to see change. Except in unusual circumstances, I would plan on starting out with once a week sessions so that you have sufficient time and continuity to be able to work meaningfully on your psychological issues. Sessions are 50 minutes long.
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In some types of therapy, usually termed short-term therapy, there is a set number of sessions for a particular treatment. This is often appropriate for a specific issue. If you have a phobia about flying or are having difficulty with some delineated issue in your life, your therapist may suggest a limited course of therapy.

Frequency and duration of therapy vary according to client needs
In my experience it is often hard to know in the first session what the underlying issues are that are giving you difficulties. It may take many sessions to arrive at a clear picture, so setting a pre-determined limit on the length of therapy can be counter-productive. That said, practical concerns can impinge, such as your ability or your insurance company’s willingness to pay for sessions, so this is best discussed at the outset of therapy to avoid surprises. Psychoanalysis proper is a long-term therapy and usually is not undertaken for less than a year.
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No, not currently, but the ‘convenient’ times in the morning and after work tend to be full, so you may have to be flexible as to when you want to come in. I will make every effort to accommodate your schedule.
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Most doctors who prescribe medication are very supportive of patients who want to also seek ‘talk therapy’. Often the medication can provide a level of calm or a working space that might not be there otherwise and this allows a better exploration of issues. In some cases medication can make it harder to access emotions or concentrate on one’s inner state, but rarely is psychotherapy impossible. Make sure to consult your doctor if you are thinking of changing or stopping your medication.
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In short, no, but I can certainly recommend someone else who can. If you are in therapy with me, I am your therapist and would find it a conflict of interest to also treat someone close to you. That does not extend to casual acquaintances or people with whom you have minimal or infrequent interaction.
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It is up to you whether you continue or not. I do ask my longer-term clients, if they decide to stop, to come in for one final session to ensure they have thought through the implications, that they are clear on why they are stopping and to set up a post-treatment plan, if required.
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