Neurobehavioral Medicine Consultants
Benefitting from Psychotherapy


Successful psychotherapy is a collaboration between the therapist and the patient. Each of the two has a role to play, with obligations and duties which must be fulfilled if the patient is to receive maximum benefit from the process. This discussion is written about a single patient, but the principles discussed here apply equally well to any group of patients in therapy, such as couples or families.

The Therapist's Role and Responsibilities

During the initial phase of the therapy process, the therapist should conduct a thorough evaluation of the patient and his or her problems and should reach an agreement with the patient on an appropriate set of goals for the therapy. The therapist should also discuss with the patient the techniques and procedures most useful in reaching the goals, along with the limitations of these techniques. The psychologist has an obligation to exercise sound judgement in determining the goals and should strive to assure that the patient has realistic expectations of the therapy. To the therapeutic relationship the psychologist brings detailed knowledge and understanding of behavior and skills honed over years of experience dealing with patients.

The therapist has the responsibility to explain the degree to which information divulged by the patient during therapy can be kept confidential. Except in specific circumstances when a therapist is ethically obligated to reveal information or legally required to report to authorities information provided by a patient, the therapist should not reveal confidential information to anyone else without specific authorization from the patient.

The therapist should inform the patient of his or her rights, among them the right to have information sufficient to allow the patient to make an informed decision about whether to pursue the therapy. Each patient is likely to have specific concerns, but the patient may wish to ask about the qualifications and experience of the therapist, the estimated length of the process and the fees for therapy.

Reena Willingham

The Patient's Role and Responsibilities

The patient has his or her roles and responsibilities as well. First and foremost, the patient must be honest and forthcoming with himself and with the therapist. In many instances, the therapist may detect that the patient is not being completely straightforward and may initiate the exploration of this problem with the patient. However, such inquiries may not solve the problem if the patient has continuing reservations about the therapist.

When outlining a therapy program, with goals and an approximate timetable, the therapist expects the patient to embrace the program by regular and active participation. This participation may include homework assignments, such as reading and practicing the techniques introduced in the therapy sessions. In addition, the patient's personal growth may require the therapist to challenge the patient's comfort zone in the pursuit of the therapy goals. The patient may retain a feeling of control by discussing with the therapist how often these challenges may occur and how severe they may be. In summary, the patient's continued involvement in the treatment process greatly improves the chance that the therapy will be successful.

To learn more about the cognitive behavioral approach that the psychologists of Neurobehavioral Medicine Consultants use, click here.

To read some quotes illustrative of Dr. Yerzley's experiences with her patients, click here.

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