Elena Makarova, MFT Psychotherapy in Palo Alto, South Bay and Mid-Peninsula
About Therapy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What is psychotherapy?
Why should I seek help?
What should I expect from the first visit?
How long does therapy last?
What populations do you work with?
What other outcomes might I expect from therapy besides symptom relief?



What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is an intentional pursuit in which an individual, a couple, or a group works in collaboration with a therapist with the goal of improving a sense of wellbeing, achieving a balance in daily living, and reducing distressing emotional experiences, all caused by myriads of factors.

Why should I seek help?

Life often takes unexpected turns, and we suddenly find we have lost our footing, our sense of wellbeing, and are no longer clear what we should do or how to grapple with these life challenges. Many factors and situations cause one's distress: the loss of a loved one, the persistent pressure of a stressful situation, a life-threatening illness, or just the accumulation of too many things coming at us at the same time.

Such stressors can exhaust our inner resources and even our ability to conceptualize what we need to do, especially if these stressors have been in place over a long period of time. Psychotherapy gradually allows you to regain your psychological wellbeing and feeling of balance in your life.

What should I expect from the first visit?

It is quite normal to feel nervous about meeting a therapist for the first time. Usually, however, meeting with a therapist in his or
her office dispels this nervousness as one of the primary tasks of psychotherapy is to create a space in which you feel comfortable, safe and relaxed. My first task, as I am getting to know my clients by asking them what has brought them to therapy and what are their current and past life circumstances, is to begin to formulate the understanding of what causes their distress. Another goal of this first therapy session is to determine whether we are a good match.

How long does therapy last?

The length of the treatment varies greatly, depending on the nature and severity of a particular problem as well as your goals. Motivation, effort, frequency of meetings, and life circumstances all contribute to the course of treatment. Some specific, delineated problems can be treated in a relatively brief time period (e.g., 10-12 sessions), while other longstanding problems require a longer-term commitment. Many of my clients start to feel relief after only the first few sessions. However, for a more grounded and sustained sense of progress and relief, I have found that this generally occurs within the first several months of treatment and continues, as underlying causes of the client's distress are further explored and comprehended.

What populations do you work with?

I work with the following populations:

Adults. I work with adults individually, providing treatment for most psychological concerns that generally occur, often unexpectedly, and disrupt our daily lives and sense of well being. I have a particular specialization in helping individuals to resolve their relationship difficulties.

Couples. I work with couples, helping them to overcome and navigate through life's many challenges. Being able to engage in and maintain a successful relationship is not an innate quality or an easy task to accomplish; rather, there is a lot we can learn in order to create and sustain a meaningful partnership with another.

Immigrants. As a bilingual therapist I offer therapy in both English and Russian. However, I work with immigrants from all countries and cultures, as well as people with multicultural backgrounds. Although our languages may be different, all problems and issues are often the same.

Older Adults. I also work with older adults and immigrants who often find it more difficult to adjust to a new culture and language, as well as younger immigrants dealing with aging parents.

What other outcomes might I expect from therapy besides symptom relief?

A growing number of people are coming to psychodynamic / psychoanalytic therapy to get answers to longstanding questions about the quality of inner life. Therapy provides an opportunity to understand how to strengthen one's lifelong ways of coping in a way that would bring more sense of control and pleasure in life.
There are a number of valuable results that may occur from psychodynamic / psychoanalytic therapy:

  • Preventing the past from interfering with the present;
  • Improving personal relationships;
  • Unfolding vitality and creativity, and
  • Achieving a better understanding of yourself and having the sense of being understood as a unique individual.