Dr. Lani Chin
Dr. Lani Chin
Phone: 310-344-5550



What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental and emotional disorders through the use of psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being relief of symptoms, changes in behavior leading to improved social and vocational functioning, and personality growth.

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Why do people seek therapy?

People come into therapy for many reasons. Some need to respond to unexpected changes in their lives, while others seek self-exploration and personal growth. When coping skills are overwhelmed by guilt, doubt, anxiety, or despair, therapy can help. Therapy can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping for issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of confidence, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, bereavement, spiritual conflicts, stress management, body image issues, and creative blocks. People seeking psychotherapy are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives.

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What can I expect in a therapy session?

During sessions you are expected to talk about the primary concerns and issues in your life. A session lasts 50 minutes, but some people request longer sessions. Usually weekly sessions are best. Some people who are in crisis or extreme distress need more than one session per week, at least until the crisis passes. During the time between sessions it is beneficial to think about and process what was discussed. For therapy to "work," you must be an active participant, both in and outside of the therapy sessions.

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Is there a difference between therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the most specific term referring to the process of therapy on psychological issues as defined above. Therapy is often used interchangeably, but is the more general term referring to the treatment of any illness or disability, e.g., physical therapy, or any healing power, e.g., aroma therapy. Counseling is also a more generic term, and is often used in describing an exchange of ideas or advice giving, e.g., pastoral counseling, career counseling, or providing legal counsel.

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Who provides psychotherapy?

There are four main types of licensed mental health practitioners providing psychotherapy:

  • Psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D)
  • Psychiatrist (M.D.)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT)

A licensed clinical psychologist has a doctorate in clinical psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). Psychologists have completed the most rigorous training for providing psychotherapy, either a 4 or 5 year graduate program. Elements of this program include completing a dissertation (Ph.D.) or doctoral project (Psy.D.), a minimum of 1,500 hours of pre-doctoral supervised practiced in a formal training program, 1,500 hours of post-doctoral supervised practice, and passed the appropriate state licensing examinations. In California, psychologists are overseen by the Board of Psychology.

A psychiatrist (M.D.) is licensed as a physician and surgeon in California. It is important to know that any physician can call himself a psychiatrist although physicians get minimal training in psychiatry in medical school. If you consult a psychiatrist, check for proper training in the field of psychiatry, such as post-graduate residency training in psychiatry and board certification in psychiatry. In California, psychiatrists are overseen by the Medical Board of California.

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) possesses a master's degree from an accredited school of social work, typically a 3 year program. LCSWs have obtained 3,200 hours of supervised experience and passed the appropriate state licensing examinations. In California, LCSWs are overseen by the Board of Behavioral Science.

A marriage and family therapist (MFT) has completed as masters program in psychology, typically a 2 year program, obtained 3,000 hours of supervised experience and passed the appropriate state licensing examinations. In California, MFTs are overseen by the Board of Behavioral Science.

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How do I choose a psychotherapist?

There is no one way to find the right psychotherapist. The most common method is word of mouth. Friends, family, clergy, or other trusted individuals often are the best referral source because they know you and/or the therapist personally. While there is much research about the best type of therapy, the most consistent finding is this: the relationship between therapist and client is the most important factor in determining outcome. Finding someone that you can trust, feel will be hopeful, and have hope in you is the best criteria to use.

It is encouraged that you phone a potential psychotherapist. Ask your questions and see if he/she is the right fit for you. It is also important to ask if he/she can work with the particular problem that you want addressed, e.g., couples therapy, coping with depression, etc. I welcome such phone calls in my practice.

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How long does psychotherapy take?

This depends. Unlike other health conditions, there is not one procedure that can be done to you to fix your problems. Psychotherapy is a collaborative process between you and your therapist. The initial consultation should help you to get a feel if this is the right person with whom to work. Over the first few months, one should not ask the question, "Am I fixed?" Rather ask, "Am I moving in the right direction?" Spinning off of the old adage, "Psychotherapy is a journey, not a destination."

Psychotherapy often requires a deeper examination of core issues, childhood events or past traumas. Akin to an archeological dig, this excavation of old material unsettles things which have been dormant for many years. When this happen, you may actually feel worse. Know that this too can be part of the process which will ultimately promote healing.

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What benefits can I expect from working with a therapist?

A number of benefits are available from participating in psychotherapy. Often it is helpful just to know that someone understands. Therapy can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. Many people find therapy to be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, and the hassles of daily life. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:

  • Attaining a better understanding of yourself and your personal goals and values
  • Developing skills for improving your relationships
  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
  • Find new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Managing anger, depression, and other emotional pressures
  • Improving communications skills - learn how to listen to others, and have others listen to you
  • Getting "unstuck" from unhealthy patterns - breaking old behaviors and develop new ones
  • Discovering new ways to solve problems
  • Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
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Is therapy confidential?

In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a psychotherapist. Information is not disclosed without written permission. However, there are number of exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include:

  • Suspected child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
  • If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s. The therapist must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
  • If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in insuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, further measures may be taken without their permission in order to ensure their safety.
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