Here at MY Psychology’s center (@Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), we offer psychotherapy services for the general public. But we always encounter the same questions about what it is about, as well as confusion regarding its nature.
So here we are, to list out the top 3 things you should know about therapy before you decide to sign up for one, as well as to clear up some confusion regarding some of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of psychotherapy.
1. Privacy & Confidentiality
The famous rule of privacy and confidentiality. P&C. What is it though? What does it even mean to have P&C in a therapy session?
Well, it basically means that anything said and disclosed inside the therapy room and during the therapy session will never be said or passed on to anyone else or anywhere else outside of it. It means that our clients’ information is safe with our clinical psychologists and psychotherapists.
Just like Vegas, what happens in the therapy room, stays in the therapy room.
And this is bread and butter for psychologists and therapists all around the world, the golden rule. Even if our clients’ friends or family members were to call our office number and ask anything about our clients, we are in no position to disclose that information, unless we have gained the approval of our clients themselves.
Unless the clients’ circumstances fall under certain conditions, THEN we are obligated by law and ethics to release said information, here are a few of them:
- When the client poses a danger to him/herself (i.e. self-harm or suicide)
- When the client threatens violence towards someone identifiable
- When the client has provided written authorization to request the release of information.
- When involved in a court case, and the Court orders a release of information (*Our centre does not provide psychological services for court cases or police cases. Kindly discuss with your Therapist if you have any queries regarding this matter).
- When the client is below 18 years of age, parents/guardians have the rights to access therapeutic information (* However, we hope parents/guardians acknowledge the importance of confidentiality. The therapist will brief parents/ guardians of the summary of the session).
- When a child / an elderly person is abused or neglected
Only then, will the golden rule of privacy and confidentiality be broken. If all else goes smoothly, the clients’ rights to their own privacy will be upheld and respected.
2. Psychotherapy is Collaborative
It is common to think that when someone is seeking help in therapy, they are the ones receiving help, while therapists, counselors, and psychologists are the ones giving said help.
But that is not entirely true. Psychotherapy is always about the collaboration between therapist and client. The client presents an issue or a problem, and together, the therapist and client will analyze and dissect the said issue, thinking up ways to confront it and, if not to solve it, make life easier and more satisfying for the client.
Not only does the therapist need to be competent enough, and perceptive enough to be able to assess and treat the client (which is unarguably an important factor in the progress of a therapeutic journey), but the client needs to be willing to participate in the process as well, and to be eager for change and improvement.
This is not to place the blame solely on the clients’ side, but this is important to remember because ultimately, psychotherapy is a joint effort. It requires both sides to be active in the process, just like the Chinese saying, “you can’t clap with just one hand.” So when problems arise during a therapy session, or when there is resistance towards something on the side of either party, work towards solving it, hand in hand, as both parties put aside their differences to reach for a common goal: growth.
3. Psychotherapy is a Voluntary Process
Lastly, psychotherapy is a voluntary process. Now I am not saying that our services are for free, and we are volunteers working in an NGO. What this means is that to participate in a therapeutic journey, the client has to be willing to join and be a part of it.
Much like the previous point, the clients’ willingness to participate is key in psychotherapy. But what this also means is that if the client has decided for whatever reasons to terminate their therapeutic relationship with a psychologist/counselor/therapist (e.g. their house being too distant from the location of service, or they are busy with schoolwork/family, or they felt they have become better, or just that they simply don’t like the therapist), then they are entirely free to do so, and they are not bound by rules that forbid them to forfeit such a relationship.
What we can do as service providers are to do follow-ups, referring them to some other professionals if they are unsatisfied with someone’s services, or if a therapist feels like he is not competent enough in the domain that the clients’ problems fall in. Or we can greet them once in a while to ask how they are getting along in life, how are they doing, just general updates and some encouragement from our side, and such things, while requiring small amounts of effort, can be very helpful towards clients.
Psychotherapy isn’t just about talking. In a session, psychologists or counselors aren’t just there to take down notes, and the client is not just there to spill out their cans of worms. It is genuine work, and in work, there are rules that we have to abide by, or attitudes we have to adopt so that we can be proficient in it. Some rules are flexible, others not as much, but if we follow them, and follow them long enough, they can point to a brighter direction, a better place. That’s what I hope I have provided in this article.
With you, MY Psychology.
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