A psychologist helps you work through your problems and issues. By using psychotherapy, psychologist assist persons from varying ages to live healthier, happier, and more productive lives.
Psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy, is an approach by trained mental health providers to help people with different classifications of mental illnesses and to assist individuals in coping up with their emotional difficulties.
In psychotherapy, psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people develop healthier, more effective habits. Therapy can take various forms — cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, psycho-dynamic therapy, or a combination of these — but at the center of each is the caring relationship between a mental health professional and a client.
Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. It aims to enable patients, or clients, to understand their feelings, and what makes them feel positive, anxious, or depressed. This can equip them to cope with difficult situations in a more adaptive way. You and your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best.
Psychotherapy can provide help with a range of problems, from depression and low self-esteem to addiction and family disputes. Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by their problems and unable to cope may be able to benefit from psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is called “talk therapy” because it utilizes more an open communication, rather than medications.
Quite a few forms of psychotherapy only last for a few sessions, whereas others may last for a few months to years. Sessions are usually for an hour per week and they follow a structured process. The goals of treatment and arrangements for how often and how long to meet are planned jointly by the client and therapist.
Since sessions only happen once each week, psychotherapists normally give assignments to their clients for further reinforcement of the process.
Sessions may occur one-to-one, in pair, or as a group. Approaches may extend to other forms of communication such as, role-playing, narrative story, visual arts, and music.
Psychotherapy is being facilitated by an specially-trained individual. These individuals are called psychotherapists.
A psychotherapist may be a psychologist, a marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker or mental health counselor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychoanalyst, or psychiatrist.
Psychotherapy can be used to help a range of people. According to a survey conducted by Psychology Today in 2004, 59 million people in US received a mental health treatment and around 30 million adults were in psychotherapy during a two year-period. The American Psychological Association, 50% of Americans believed that the number of stigma in their country has decreased thus perhaps the rise in the numbers of people seeking professional help. Here in the Philippines, we are making big steps towards a stigma-free community.
People come to therapy to get help. The impetus for therapy is as unique and diverse as the individuals who seek it, but typically people come to find assistance they haven’t found in other areas of their life. Depending on the issue and type of therapy, this help may come in the form of support, information, guidance, self-knowledge and/or the space to learn and practice new tools.
Psychotherapy can be helpful in treating most mental health problems, including:
However, it is important to realize that not everyone seeking out psychotherapy has a mental illness. Psychotherapy can help with a number of life’s stresses and conflicts that can affect anyone. For example, it may help you:
Depending on a person’s situation, psychotherapy may be as effective as medications. Although, in some cases it is being implemented adjacent to prescribed medications as psychotherapy may not be enough to ease some symptoms of a mental health condition.
Since mental health care and psychotherapy here in the country is surrounded by a lot of misconceptions, one may feel reluctant to reach out to professionals.
Breaking barriers and moving above the stigma are worth it. Whenever you feel dissatisfied with an aspect of your life or with the quality of your life as a whole, psychotherapy is here to help.
Short-term psychotherapy works for people who are dealing with immediate issues they need help navigating while long-term psychotherapy is suited for those who are facing long-standing and complex issues.
The following feelings are signs that an individual might benefit from psychotherapy:
There are many different approaches to psychotherapy. Psychologists generally draw on one or more of these. Each theoretical perspective acts as a roadmap to help the psychologist understand their clients and their problems and develop solutions.
The kind of treatment you receive will depend on a variety of factors: current psychological research, your psychologist’s theoretical orientation and what works best for your situation.
There are numerous styles and approaches in psychotherapy. Most commonly used techniques are:
Behavioral therapy helps clients to understand how changes in behavior can lead to changes in how they feel. It focuses on increasing the person’s engagement in positive or socially reinforcing activities.
Cognitive therapy starts with the idea that what we think shapes how we feel. Depression, for example, may stem from having thoughts or beliefs that are not based on evidence, such as “I am useless,” or “Everything goes wrong because of me.” Changing these beliefs can change a person’s view of events, and their emotional state.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
pairs cognitive with behavioral therapy, to address both thoughts and behaviors.
This approach focuses on interpersonal relationships. Learning skills for improving communication patterns may help the client to manage the depression. Therapist helps the client to identify relevant emotions, and where these are coming from. Then, they can help them to express the emotions in a healthier way. The client learns to modify their approach to interpersonal problems, understand them, and manage them more constructively.
A family therapist looks at symptoms in the family context. Some conditions require the treatment of the family unit. It focuses on improving communication within the family. Participants learn new ways of listening and how to ask and respond to questions openly rather than defensively. An example is when a client has depression because of marital problems.
Cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and especially interpersonal therapy may help.
Identifying family patterns that contribute to behavior disorder or mental illness can help family members to break negative habits and patterns.
Family therapy generally involves discussion and problem-solving sessions with the client and the family, as a group, in couples, or one-to-one.
A group therapy session usually involves 6-12 clients and one or more therapists. The participants have similar problems, and they benefit from the therapist/s, and by observing how others handle their issues and respond to feedback.
Getting feedback from other people with related problems can give a new perspective and help to facilitate improvement and change. Although, speaking up in a group may seem intimidating, the sense of support provides a rewarding and fulfilling to individuals.
Psycho dynamic therapy, or insight-oriented therapy, focuses on the deep-seated causes of behavior. For instance, patterns of behavior stemming from a person’s upbringing or earlier life experiences, which continue to impact present-day behaviors.
The aim is to increase self-awareness and understanding of how the past affects present behavior.This can help people to understand the source of their emotional distress, usually by exploring motives, needs, and defenses that they are not aware of.
Generally, there’s a little risk in having psychotherapy because it can explore painful feelings and experiences, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. However, any risks are minimized by working with a skilled therapist who can match the type and intensity of therapy with your needs.
The coping skills that you learn can help you manage and conquer negative feelings and fears.
Is Psychotherapy effective?
Research shows that most people who receive psychotherapy experience symptom relief and are better able to function in their lives. Hundreds of studies have found that psychotherapy helps people make positive changes in their lives.
Reviews of these studies show that about 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit. Other reviews have found that the average person who engages in psychotherapy is better off by the end of treatment than 80 percent of those who don’t receive treatment at all. Psychotherapy has been shown to improve emotions and behaviors and to be linked with positive changes in the brain and body. The benefits also include fewer sick days, less disability, fewer medical problems, and increased work satisfaction.
To help get the most out of psychotherapy, approach the therapy as a collaborative effort, be open and honest, and follow your agreed upon plan for treatment. Follow through with any assignments between sessions, such as writing in a journal or practicing what you’ve talked about.
You and your psychologist will decide together when you are ready to end psychotherapy. One day, you’ll realize you’re no longer going to bed and waking up worrying about the problem that brought you to psychotherapy. Or you will get positive feedback from others. For a child who was having trouble in school, a teacher might report that the child is no longer disruptive and is making progress both academically and socially. Together you and your psychologist will assess whether you’ve achieved the goals you established at the beginning of the process.
It is strongly advised that once you are done attending psychotherapy sessions, you visit your physician/psychiatrist for periodic check-ups. You can also do the same with your psychologist so you can do a report on how you are doing.
Psychotherapy does not have a beginning,a middle, or an ending. You may solve one problem then face another life situation where you will feel like your learned skills and knowledge on your last course of treatment needs to be upgraded. You may contact again your psychologist, after all they already know your life-story.
However, you don’t have to wait for a life crisis to happen to see a psychologist/psychotherapist. You might want the skills and knowledge you already have to be refined, or to further enrich your personal strengths and virtues. Think of it as a mental health tune-up.
American Psychological Association. Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. 2016. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx
Karlsson, H. How Psychotherapy changes the Brain. Psychiatric Times. 2011.
Ryan, H. (2008). Fundamentals of Therapy #1: Who Goes?. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/in-therapy/200804/fundamentals-therapy-1-who-goes
Wiswede D, et al. 2014. Tracking Functional Brain Changes in Patients with Depression under Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Using Individualized Stimuli. PLoS ONE. 2014. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0109037