What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a process by which psychological problems are treated through communication and relationship factors between an individual and a mental health professional. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. Youyou’re your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best.
Psychotherapy involves communication between patients and therapists that is intended to help people:
- Find relief from emotional distress, as in becoming less anxious, fearful or depressed.
- Seek solutions to problems in their lives, such as dealing with disappointment, grief, family issues, and job or career dissatisfaction.
- Modify ways of thinking and acting that are preventing them from working productively and enjoying personal relationships.
Talking with a psychotherapist differs from talking with a friend in three respects that increase its likelihood of being helpful:
- Friends may be able and willing to listen and give advice, but qualified and duly licensed psychotherapists are trained professionals with specialized education and experience in understanding psychological problems.
- Whereas friendships are typically mutual relationships in which people take turns being helpful to each other, psychotherapy is devoted entirely to the patient's welfare. Psychotherapy is focused solely on the patient's needs for symptom relief, problem solutions or lifestyle changes.
- In contrast to the mutuality, informality and multiple shared interests that usually characterize friendships, psychotherapy involves a formal commitment to meet regularly at a designated time, to talk just about the patient's concerns, and to continue meeting as long as doing so serves the patient's best interests.
Psychotherapy begins with some discussion of a person's background and the concerns that led him or her to seek help. Following this initial assessment, the patient and therapist come to an agreement, called the treatment contract. The treatment contract specifies the goals of treatment, treatment procedures, and a regular schedule for the time, place and duration of their treatment sessions.
Many different kinds of psychotherapy have proved effective in helping people feel better, resolve problems in living and modify their attitudes and behaviour in constructive ways. While working with patients I select and recommend a treatment approach that is known to be well-suited for addressing a patient's needs and concerns, and I tailor my procedures to fit each individual patient's personality style and life circumstances.
When should you consider psychotherapy?
Because of the many misconceptions about psychotherapy, you may be reluctant to try it out. Even if you know the realities instead of the myths, you may feel nervous about trying it yourself.
Overcoming that nervousness is worth it. That’s because any time your quality of life isn’t what you want it to be, psychotherapy can help.
Some people seek psychotherapy because they have felt depressed, anxious or angry for a long time. Others may want help for a chronic illness that is interfering with their emotional or physical well-being. Still others may have short-term problems they need help navigating. They may be going through a divorce, facing an empty nest, feeling overwhelmed by a new job or grieving a family member's death, for example.
Signs that you could benefit from therapy include:
- You feel an overwhelming, prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness.
- Your problems don't seem to get better despite your efforts and help from family and friends.
- You find it difficult to concentrate on work assignments or to carry out other everyday activities.
- You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
- Your actions, such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs or being aggressive, are harming you or other people.
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