Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions and our answers. These questions are based on those that have come up most often in our contact with our treatment clients. Please contact us with any other questions you may have.d

Do I need to see a psychologist?

Many people seek the help of a psychologist even if they are not suffering from a particular psychological disorder. Life coaching is a good example of when the use of a psychologist's skills and expertise can be helpful in the absence of any diagnosable problem. However, if your experience matches any of the psychological problems described on this web site, it may be in your best interest to see a psychologist for a professional consultation to determine whether treatment is needed. Your responses on the anxiety and depression questionnaires may also provide you with some indication in this regard.

Do I need a referral from a doctor for psychotherapy?

No. You can refer yourself by simply calling or filling out the contact form.

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is based on the idea that thoughts, behavior, and mood all reciprocally influence each other. As such, a change in thinking or behavior will also lead to a change in mood. This is true for someone who is feeling emotionally healthy as well as for those who are struggling emotionally. The cognitive aspect of CBT focuses on challenging cognitive distortions in order to replace them with less distorted and more adaptive thinking. However, a therapist skilled in CBT can often go beyond surface level thinking to help the individual understand and change beliefs underlying patterns of emotions, thoughts, and behavior. The behavioral component of CBT differs depending on the disorder, though it almost always involves having a person behave in a way that is inconsistent with the emotional problem. For example, because a person who is feeling depressed will withdraw from socializing and engaging in activities that he or she used to enjoy, the therapist will help the person develop a plan to begin re-gauging in activities formerly enjoyed. With respect to anxiety, the person must slowly learn to face the fear in a systematic manner that does not overwhelm the person. CBT is a skills based treatment, in which the therapist teaches the client specific strategies to overcome the problem. As such, homework or between-session tasks are an important component of treatment, with sessions focusing on refining the client’s skills and teaching new strategies. However, sessions are also used to process the insights that the claimed gains from approaching life differently.  The skills learned in CBT are experiential – that is, talking about them will have very little impact; you must do them.

The historical sources for cognitive therapy are Albert Ellis’ development of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) in the 1950s and Aaron Beck’s research beginning in the 1960s. Aaron Beck and his techniques have continued to strongly influence therapy to include treatments for a wide variety of psychological problems. Cognitive therapists began integrating a number of effective behavioral techniques to create Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which is one of the most thoroughly researched treatments for psychological problems being used today. CBT methods appear to be some of the most effective in alleviating symptoms when used alone or in combination with medication. CBT techniques appear to be especially effective in reducing relapse. There are an overwhelming number of self-help CBT books available, which appear to provide some people with relief from symptoms. Noteworthy, however, is some recent research that indicates that people fair much better when having learned CBT techniques from a skilled psychologist rather than from self-help books. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, including the therapist’s training and experience when it comes to hurdles on the road to recovery, as well as the unfortunate fact that many self-help books simply collect dust on the shelf. However, self-help books appear to provide people with an excellent introduction to the skills they will learn in therapy. There is also research indicating that a strong therapeutic relationship is an important factor in recovery.

What is Mindfulness and Acceptance therapy?

Mindfulness and acceptance is a relatively new form of treatment that has received promising support in recent research, especially with regard to the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness strategies are also helpful with overall stress reduction. Mindfulness helps individuals to learn to live in the present moment, as opposed to living in the future (worry) and the past (regret). The practice of mindfulness involves intentional, non-judgemental observation of one’s present moment, including anxiety and depression symptoms. Mindfulness strategies often begin with learning to observe non-threatening everyday events in order to learn how to observe more personally relevant or threatening internal and external stimuli, including thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.

Acceptance strategies help individuals to fully embrace the present moment for what it is without attempting to change it: “thoughts are just thoughts,” “feelings are just feelings,” and “bodily sensations are just bodily sensations." As such, acceptance is often related to an individual's ability to be mindful.

Although acceptance is often the exact opposite of what people with anxiety and depression desire, such individuals are keenly aware that their attempts to "control" or "change" their emotions often result in increased anxiety and depression. Moreover, because everyone experiences some anxiety and sadness, learning mindfulness and acceptance strategies is important in terms of preventing normal fluctuations in emotions from being perceived as a sign of relapse. This is especially important in light of research indicating that it is a person's perceptions of emotions as threatening that often leads to a downward cycle of anxiety or depression.

How effective is psychological therapy?

Approximately 50% of people get some relief from symptoms after 8 weeks and approximately 75% improve after 6 months. In other words, most people improve after 8-12 sessions and treatment can usually be completed in less than 20 sessions.

How long and how often do I need to see a psychotherapist or psychologist?

This really depends on the particular problem(s) being treated and the severity of the problem. Usually a person meets with a therapist for a 45-50 minute session at least once a week in the beginning. However, as treatment progresses sessions can be spread out to allow more time for particular skills to be practiced. Some people who attend therapy from out of town prefer to meet for longer sessions every 2 weeks. However, a person's particular goals for therapy impact the length of treatment, especially because goals can range from “getting back to the way I used to be” to “changing my life.” The length of treatment also depends on your engagement in sessions and between-session exercises.

Should I stop taking medication?

This is a question that should be answered in consultation with your prescribing physician. Although some forms of psychotherapy have been shown to be more effective than medication, some people achieve greater relief of symptoms with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Regardless, it may be important to learn new strategies prior to reducing or stopping medication. Again, changes in medication should be done under the supervision of a physician.

Is my information kept confidential?

All information you provide to a psychologist is kept strictly confidential. Your written permission will be required to be able to share your information with others. There are some circumstances under which certain information must be shared without permission, such as when someone is imminently at risk of harming him or herself or someone else. Keep in mind that there is a difference between thinking about it and intending to do it. It is the latter that requires disclosure to protect the client or others. There are some circumstances under which the courts order that a psychologist disclose information, such as during messy child custody cases. Finally, by law a psychologist must disclose to authorities when a child is being harmed or at risk of being harmed. This does not include adults who have previously experienced child abuse, unless children continue to be at risk from the perpetrator of the abuse. In any event, psychologists will take all reasonable steps to only disclose a minimal amount of information that is required under the circumstances. Occasionally, a psychologist will consult with a colleague in order to provide you with the best possible treatment. However, no identifying information will ever be disclosed during such consultations and, again, only a minimal amount of information will be given. Under no circumstance would a consulting psychologist be allowed to see session notes or identifying information without your express written permission. Please also see our privacy policy.

Is the cost of seeing a psychologist covered by provincial health care?

Unfortunately, the provincial health-care system does not cover the cost of seeing a psychologist.

Is the cost of seeing a psychologist covered by Extended Health Benefits?

Yes. All major insurance companies offer plans that provide coverage for psychologist’s fees. Check your individual plan to see if you are covered and how much yearly coverage they provide.

Why does psychotherapy cost so much?

Part of the problem is that seeing a psychologist is not covered by health care. As well, the cost reflects the individual attention that you receive from a psychologist. Whereas you may receive 10-15 minutes from your family physician, psychotherapy appointments are usually at 45-50 minutes. The cost of psychotherapy also includes time that a psychologist spends outside of the session writing notes from the session, reviewing notes from previous sessions, and planning the next session.

Does Maven Health provide therapy to children?

It depends on the problem and the age of the child. Some problems are easily addressed with children, whereas other problems require a certain level of maturity to treat adequately. As such, treatment may be an ongoing process, with the child learning better coping strategies as he or she gets older. The average 15 year old is usually at an age when he or she is able to engage in psychotherapy and benefit from the skills that we offer. Younger children usually need to be accompanied by a parent, with the parent learning the strategies in order to help the child implement them. Sorry, we cannot give a more straightforward answer. Give us a call to see if we can be of help. If we cannot, we can usually recommend someone who can.

If I have an emergency, what should I do?

Contact your local emergency department or distress line:

Calgary: 403-266-1605

Edmonton: 780-482-4357

Vancouver: (604) 872-3311

Toll Free: 1-866-661-3311

TTY Service: (604) 872-0113

Toll Free TTY Service: 1-866-872-0113

BC Province Wide: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)