The word psychotherapy literally means a “cure for the soul”. Psychotherapy is an interactive and collaborative process of communication between therapist and client that is focused on producing change in the client’s emotional health and daily functioning. Psychotherapy assumes we are capable of a greater degree of conscious control of our lives. Rather than relying on medications or on rules, it relies on various therapy methods and techniques to help clients deal with the issues that are preventing them from living fully.
Psychotherapy involves talking in an open and honest way. Almost all types of psychotherapy rely on a close therapeutic relationship or what Psychologists call a “working alliance”. Verbal and nonverbal communication, in turn, is used to foster insight, to increase a client’s sense of agency for change and, ultimately, to overcome problematic thoughts or behaviors.
There are many reasons why our clients seek therapy. Some are struggling with significant life, health or relationship stressors. Others are looking to address longstanding and unresolved issues from their past. Still others look to psychotherapy for personal growth. Clients may see us when they are acutely distressed, while others utilize therapy for maintenance of emotional and mental wellness.
Whatever the reason, our clients are looking to actively engage in the change process in a structured, progressive and meaningful way. We believe that there are many paths to change. Our therapy approach best suits individuals that have an active change orientation and that are invested in their own wellness and growth.
Our approach to treatment draws primarily on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles and strategies. CBT is an evidence-based therapy. This means that there are literally thousands of studies to support CBT’s effectiveness for a wide range of psychological problems.
At the heart of the CBT approach is that much of how we feel and behave is caused by our thoughts—that is, how we think about ourselves, others and the world around us. CBT uses a skills-oriented approach, that can help us change both how we think (that’s the “Cognitive” part) and how we act (that’s the “Behavioral” part). Another defining feature of CBT is that its present-focus. CBT focuses on “here and now” problems as opposed to focusing on distant or “root” causes to your symptoms or distress. It is also a shorter-term therapy, with the goal of effecting enduring client change in as little as six sessions.
At Mission Psychology Group, we also may draw on Mindfulness approaches to CBT. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) uses CBT as its foundation and adds in newer, evidence-based psychological strategies such as mindfulness meditative practice.
Core to the MBCT approach is the mindful practice of becoming aware of thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them. Many depressed or anxious individuals not only harbor repetitive, distressing thoughts, but more importantly, they believe in and are highly attached to these thoughts. With MBCT, we teach clients to “have” versus “buy into” certain thoughts and feelings. Relatedly, we teach clients to avoid resisting or trying to get rid of upsetting thoughts. MBCT sees psychological pain as normal, inevitable and even important in our lives. Clients are educated on strategies to “let go” of distressing thoughts. Ultimately, the goal of MBCT is to teach clients to simply observe—without judgment—their thoughts and to accept both adaptive and maladaptive thoughts as they come and go in our lives and experiences.
How sessions will look depends a lot on the challenges you’re facing and your own goals for therapy. Speaking generally, in the first session we will review your background – including your family background, current relationship, medical history, and so on – and your present circumstances and experience of the problem(s). We will ask you about your understanding of the problem(s), and will share our thoughts about these challenges as well. By the end of the first or second session, we will share with you our impressions of the problem and how we envision us proceeding.
In second and subsequent sessions, we will continue to build our working relationship, while focusing on specific areas of concern in your life. Good therapy requires effort, perseverance, and your active involvement in exercises we do, both in and between sessions. Good therapy also relies on a strong working alliance between therapist and client. We hope that our knowledge, experience and therapeutic approach is a good fit for you. If it isn’t, we will be more than happy to refer you to another Psychologist in your area. We greatly value our clients’ commitment to therapy, and want you to derive optimal benefit from your emotional and financial investment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a short-term psychotherapy, generally lasting between 6 and 24 sessions. Each session is 50 minutes in length. We usually see clients every week or every other week initially, though appointment may be less frequent depending on the nature and severity of your concerns. The frequency of appointments will taper off, as you begin to feel confident and proficient in using the techniques we practice in sessions. Ultimately, our goal is that you become your own therapist.
At Mission Psychology, we prefer that our clients have a referral to see us. Ideally, this referral would be from your Family Physician or other family care provider. In some cases, clients are referred by other mental health providers, or by their lawyers, clergy members or other care supports. Referrals are important, as they assist us in booking appointments as efficiently as possible. Referrals may also give us information about your concerns, as well as your medical and personal background. Last, referrals ensure a degree of continuity of care. We believe that clients are best served when their relevant care providers work collaboratively and continuously with one another.
While we do our best to book new client appointments as soon as possible, clients may wait a few weeks to several months, depending on the nature and urgency of the referral. We strongly encourage existing clients to pre-book several appointments in advance, as both Dr. Ellwood and Dr. Towill are fully booked months at a time.
Therapy appointments are 50 minutes long. We greatly value our time with clients and try our best to see clients punctually. Relatedly, we ask that our clients arrive on time for therapy sessions. Some of our clients travel long distances to see us and cannot attend therapy regularly. In these cases, clients may request double sessions. Assessment sessions may be booked for longer durations, depending on the nature of the referral. Clients will be informed of the length of sessions and other relevant administrative issues by our Office Manager, Carla.
We treat, with great care and respect, all the information that you share with us during sessions. It is your legal right that our sessions and our records about you be kept confidential. This privacy is also protected by the ethics of our profession. There are a few situations, however, in which we cannot ensure that your confidentiality will be protected. These include but are not limited to:
1. If you are involved in legal proceedings, our records could be subpoenaed and/or we could be asked to testify in court;
2. If you make a serious threat to harm yourself or another person, the law requires us to try to protect you or that other person. This usually means telling others about the threat, for example, the police.
3. If we believe that a child has been, or will be, abused or neglected, we are legally required to report this to authorities.
4. If some or all of your therapy is being covered by an insurance company, we may be obliged to provide basic information to them (for example, the dates we have met; presenting problems; a treatment plan and possibly your progress).
Additionally, in the interest of continuity of care, we may ask your permission to speak to other members of your care team (for example, your Physician). This will always be discussed with you prior to any correspondence and we will secure your express, written consent before talking to any other care providers.
The terms and limits of confidentiality are clearly stated in our “Limits of Confidentiality” form. All new clients must read, understand and consent to these terms. Additionally, there will be an opportunity to review and discuss these terms in first appointments.
Our fees are charged based on the length and nature of services rendered. You will be notified—both verbally and in writing—of your session fee prior to your first appointment at our office. We ask that clients pay for each session at its end with cheque or cash payment. We issue formal receipts for all payments made.
If you have partial or full coverage for our sessions through an insurance provider or other extended health provider, it is usually your responsibility to look into such benefits and seek reimbursement for your insurer.
We require 48 business hours notice to cancel an appointment, in most situations. The full session fee will be charged for appointments cancelled without the required 48 business hours notice.