Therapy with Alan Jacobson, PsyD

Alan Jacobson is a Psychologist in Norwood, MA specializing in anxiety, depression, life transitions, student mental health, and psychological testing. In sessions, Dr. Jacobson integrates many different therapeutic approaches into his work, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, and Solution-Focused Therapy. As a PSYPACT credentialed psychologist, Dr. Jacobson is licensed to provide virtual therapy to clients in over 30 states and is dedicated to ensuring that virtual therapy sessions are accessible yet just as effective as those in-person.

We asked Dr. Jacobson more about his work with clients and his guiding philosophies on therapy.

Dr. Jacobson’s background and personal life

How did you decide to become a therapist?

When I was in college, I was a volunteer Big Brother and then ended up running the program when I was a junior and senior. Throughout that time I started to see how I could make a real difference in someone's life.

I began to study child development and psychology and was fascinated and excited by the potential of learning new ways to create change and positivity at an even higher level. I was also fortunate to have a fantastic therapist myself, and he became a role model for the potential of the art of therapy.

What was your previous work before going into private practice?

I also have my MBA and worked for a variety of nonprofits, working my way up to CEO of a large company that provided a wide range of human services. I still consult to nonprofits, with a focus on using both of my degrees—helping them weave solid business principles and strong clinical practice in order to help the most people in the most profound ways.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I have four busy, wonderful kids—which is most of the answer. But I also help produce independent human interest films.

Dr. Jacobson’s specialties and therapy philosophies

What guiding principles inform your work?

The guiding principles of my work include creating a safe space where people are not judged, can safely explore their inner world, and where I can create an atmosphere ripe for change. Then, I enjoy watching my clients use their energy, insight, and motivation to grow and find contentment. They are often surprised when I end up telling them that they really did all the work, and then they realize it is true - that in itself becomes a lasting lesson in resilience and power.

What clientele do you work with most frequently?

For individual work, I see older adolescents and adults of all ages. I see families with children, and parents who would like some help with parenting strategies, but I do not see clients in individual therapy under the age of 14.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety?

I am seeing a dramatic increase in general anxiety during and post-COVID. So many people are walking around with a sense of impending doom and persistent worry, and they're not entirely aware of why. I work to help people develop a deeper understanding of the cause(s) of their anxiety and stress. Then I use a positive, insight-oriented approach to help them simultaneously develop coping strategies and explore the larger and more existential issues that may be present.

Can you tell us more about your work with clients navigating life transitions?

After a few years in practice, I noticed that so many people were coming to me, almost regardless of the reason, during a life transition. Whether the presenting challenge was panic attacks, sadness, OCD, or job stress, it often coincided with a transitional point. From there I decided to make working with people during life transitions a focus of my work, and studied ways to help both the symptoms and the cause!

Can you tell us about your expertise in conducting psychological testing?

I provide psychological testing to help people gain new insights into their potential, needs, and inner workings so that they can be more effective, happy, and self-aware at school, work, and socially. My specialties include testing adults who may have previously undiagnosed ADHD, testing for emotional IQ, mild autism (also often previously undiagnosed), compatibility, and sports performance. I also test college and graduate students and adults who need accommodations at work or school.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Watching as my clients reach goals they may have been skeptical they could reach, and hearing from former clients who say that their work in therapy has helped them set and reach new goals!

Therapy sessions with Dr. Jacobson

What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

I am humbled when people choose to see me for therapy. It is a great responsibility, and I take it very seriously. In our first sessions, I want to fully understand why you are seeking help and exactly what it would look like if therapy was "successful." I'll give you feedback about how therapy can help, and we'll design a treatment plan that should be motivating and clear.

Then, therapy should bring you results that are meaningful, measurable, and clear. We'll change things as we need to to make sure we get to that point, and that is why I've made sure to become trained in a wide variety of therapeutic techniques.

How long do clients typically see you for?

My clients fall into three categories. Some people come in with specific challenges (such as fear of flying, public speaking anxiety, or an upcoming life transition), and we set up a time-limited course of treatment. Others come in for something specific, but then they realize the potential of therapy to solve other issues, and they stay longer, maybe 3-9 months.

Finally, I do see people who have a challenge that is best served with longer-term therapy. The bottom line is that it is up to you, and at the beginning we'll design a plan of treatment that realistically sets goals that fit the length of time you are hoping for.

Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

I often recommend:

All of these are books that are powerful, insightful, and practical, and they do not interfere with or contradict the therapeutic process. I also recommend several workbooks, including the Anxiety and Stress Workbook, The Stress Management Workbook, and the CBT Workbook.

Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

I almost always provide couples homework outside of sessions, usually based on some aspect of communication, problem-solving, or relationship-building they need to do. This way, they can check in at the next session, and we can make sure we are staying on course with what we are exploring in our time together.

With individuals, I usually give thought experiments - asking them to reflect on something we talked about or some new insight they gained. This often involves self-observation - asking you to track thoughts, emotions, and outward actions in specific situations.

How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?

I ask! It is my responsibility to make sure I am providing the environment that is conducive to change, choosing the techniques most likely to help you, and fully understanding what you are saying so I can develop accurate empathy. I rely on you to tell me whether it appears to be addressing the challenges you came in with. I also hope that the results of therapy will go beyond those initial concerns, and make you feel generally stronger, more content, and more effective.

How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?

Therapy can help in so many ways. Sometimes you may feel an existential sense of not being at your best regarding your mood, motivation, or outlook, and therapy can help. Other times, there will be a specific challenge you are facing, and efforts to overcome it have not produced the results you need.

Finally, you may feel like something inside is keeping you from being at your best in some way, and therapy can help you develop new insights into what that might be.

How can I prepare for our first session?

Clients do not need to bring anything. For those who have never been in therapy before, my suggestion is to know that therapy is actually much more comfortable than you may think. I am trained to go at your pace, and I'll make sure you can let me know if we are moving too fast or too slow. Therapy will end up being a warm, positive, and nonjudgmental place, I promise!

How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?

We will stay in close contact about how therapy is going and when it may be time to end or reduce session frequency. It's all about your goals, and as you reach them in meaningful and clear ways you can choose to set new ones or we'll decide together whether and how often to continue.

Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?

Therapy presents a place where you can say anything without being judged or without worry that the response you'll get will be mixed in with their own "stuff". It also takes place with a professional specifically trained in techniques designed to help with the challenges you bring.

These techniques have been proven, powerful, and refined over time. That said, in therapy, you'll also learn how to best turn to loved ones because they can be extremely helpful!

What advice would you share with therapy seekers?

Try it. You may have reservations or get hung up on which therapist to choose, what to say when you contact them, or whether therapy will work. This is normal, but especially with virtual therapy it's so easy to pursue treatment, and most people who do quickly realize the potential incredible benefits rather quickly.

Visit Dr. Jacobson’s profile to watch his introductory video, read more about him, and book an initial call!