Jessie Goicoechea, Ph.D., Director

Linda Pasqualino, Assistant to Director
Psychology Clinic
227 Rockwell Hall
600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
Phone: 412.396.6562
Fax: 412.396.4150
Office Hours:
Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Appointment Hours:
Monday - Thursday 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.

    A A Email Print Share


    about Psychotherapy

    What is psychotherapy? It is the process of talking with a trained professional to develop greater clarity about how one's life is going, to become more comfortable with oneself, and to develop options for greater freedom. Psychotherapy involves exploring feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and relevant events, sometimes from childhood and personal history, to establish a greater understanding of oneself and one's motivations and to gain additional skills to deal with life circumstances.
    How does it differ from counseling? Different people use the words counseling and psychotherapy in different ways; there is no commonly agreed on definition and there may be considerable overlap. Psychotherapy, though, may allow for working at greater depth to consider how one's experiences have affected one's views, and to consider whether one now wants to modify those views. Psychotherapy helps a person to become aware of habitual ways of coping with life and of relating to oneself and others and to opt for other ways in some situations. At our Clinic, our therapists are being trained as clinical psychologists.
    What if all of my questions are answered in the first meeting? Would I still need therapy? Almost always it's not a case of "needing therapy," so much as being able to "make good use" of it. Most people find that subsequent therapy sessions allow them to sort out issues more thoroughly and beneficially. The intake interview can move quickly and cover a lot of territory; therapy will slow down and let you take more initiative about what is talked about, and allow you to reflect between sessions.
    What are the psychological tests looking for? We may want to see how you compare with other people, and whether there are themes that didn't come up in the intake interview. The clinician or your therapist will ask for your clarifications of anything that came up through the tests that might be different from what was already discussed. And you can ask questions about your test patterns.
    How long does psychotherapy last? That depends on the person. Some people find that half a dozen weekly meetings have provided ample opportunity to regroup and to continue progressing on their own. Other people continue for a couple of years, taking advantage of therapy being a process in which earlier themes and insights get reworked in light of new experiences.
    How often will I meet with my therapist? Again, that depends on the person and his or her situation. Weekly is most typical, but sometimes both you and the therapist might think that twice weekly sessions allow for greater discussion.
    What if I don't seem to "click" with my therapist? You should say so to your therapist. Most often, together you find out what it is that's not working, and the two of you shift accordingly as you clarify each other's assumptions. Throughout your therapy, you can initiate discussion about the therapist's goals and techniques, and about your progress. Active clients get the most from their therapy.
    But what if I still don't feel that there is a good fit with my therapist? Then you can ask your therapist or the Assistant to the Director to look into a transfer to another therapist. You can also talk with the Clinic Director if you'd like. Therapy just doesn't work well if the client remains dissatisfied with the match.
    How does psychotherapy work? Through having a safe place and time all of one's own to share one's concerns and reflections, the person becomes more aware of himself or herself, of how he or she impacts others, and of options. By explaining oneself to someone else, things become clearer. As one develops a trusting relationship with the therapist, one becomes more open to one's self!
    How do I tell if therapy is working? You will find that you're becoming ever more comfortable with yourself, accepting what can't be changed, and more open to trying yourself out in new ways. Signs of distress will diminish as therapy goes on, and you recognize what you're anxious about and what your best ways of coping with that are. You may also find that you become more resilient to face the problems that originally brought you to therapy. Therapy nearly always has its ups and downs, but the overall course is growthful.
    What if I am interested in medication to help with anxiety or depression? You'll discuss that with your therapist, and if you both agree, he or she will make an appointment with our consulting psychiatrist, who will meet with both of you together at the Clinic.
    How is therapy different from having really good discussions with a close friend? The similarity is in coming to be really understood by someone who cares about you and whom you trust, and who feels free to be candid with you. The difference is that therapy is just for you, and you don't have to consider your friend's feelings or give your friend openings to talk about himself or herself. And you know that your therapist is trained to listen, to recognize patterns, to be patient, and to help you to help yourself.
    Do the clinic therapists follow a particular school of therapy? Our therapists study many theories because theories help us to understand our clients. Primarily, our therapists are training in psychodynamic, analytical, humanistic, existential, relational, and developmental perspectives. We know that everyone is influenced by experiences growing up and by current circumstances, and that to be most helpful the therapist should enter into the client's own ways of understanding and coping with life. Sometimes you will talk about your dreams; sometimes you'll laugh together about a "Freudian slip"; sometimes you'll agree to try a new behavior during the week. Your therapist will often ask you if you've thought about this or that, or whether such and such could be true. But he or she will not tell you what to do or explain you to yourself.
    So my therapist won't give me answers or tell me what to do? That's right. Your therapist will be honest in addressing your inquiries, but telling you what to do rarely works. It is the client who knows best what fits his or her experience and sense of self, and what he or she is ready to consider.
    How do I know how long to stay in therapy? If you think you might be running away from dealing with an issue, then it's probably premature to leave. Otherwise you and your therapist will talk about how therapy is going. It's good to review goals and progress regularly, sometimes adding and removing goals. Very often the client and therapist agree to stop meeting, and the client goes on to continue growing, knowing that he or she can resume therapy either very briefly or longer term at some point that seems right. It's always advisable to meet for a closing session to review your achievements and talk about your plans.