What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a treatment for emotional and psychological problems, similar to counselling in many ways. It involves meeting with a therapist usually once a week for a period of time, to talk things over in a safe, supportive and completely confidential place. Most of the time the therapy takes the form of a conversation, and occasionally it may be suggested that you try some exercises. Nothing is ever forced upon you and you always have choice and control over what happens in sessions. You do not need to be mentally unwell to benefit from psychotherapy, although it is helpful for issues such as depression and anxiety.
What is the difference between Psychotherapy and Counselling?
Counselling and Psychotherapy are very similar, but broadly speaking psychotherapy pays more attention to that which is unconscious whereas counselling usually focuses more on what you are personally conscious of. We do not always know why we do what we do, or why we feel how we feel. Psychotherapy helps to make sense of these things by becoming more acquainted with the deeper aspect of our feelings. Counselling is useful for getting through a difficult patch in life, airing one’s feelings or resolving a problem that has come up.
Do I need Psychotherapy or Counselling?
The decision to have psychotherapy or counselling is often a big step. You might make this decision because a situation in life has arisen recently that is too emotionally difficult for you to handle alone. Or there may be longer term issues or patterns of distress coming from your history which you have been unable to resolve. In your first session you may explore whether therapy is suitable for you or not. Each person’s needs are unique, so your own therapy is tailored to your own needs.
There are various issues that might bring you to therapy. You may have problems with relationships, work, family matters, past or present abuse, depression, anxiety, physical illness or problems with ageing. Or you may have no particular problem that can be identified except for a chronic feeling of emptiness, dissatisfaction or lack of purpose. Whatever you bring, a gentle exploration of the issues usually reveals a deeper picture that helps you to make sense of what is happening.
How should I choose which therapist to see?
It is important you choose a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who understands you. The therapeutic relationship is the relationship between the client and therapist. This relationship is kept safe and confidential by means of professional boundaries, and it provides you with a warm, compassionate and respectful space to explore your most difficult issues. Therapy can sometimes be challenging as we encounter our own blind spots, so it is important to feel understood and supported by your therapist.
What happens in the first session?
The first appointment is spent taking a life history and understanding the issues that bring you to seek help. This also allows you and therapist to get to know each other and decide whether to go ahead with counselling. You should feel ready and happy to proceed before therapy begins. Normally, six sessions are planned initially which will be followed by a review, when the decision is made to book further sessions as appropriate.
How does Psychotherapy work?
Research indicates that psychotherapy is effective for depression, anxiety and stress-related ailments by focusing on the psychological roots of emotional suffering. It involves self-reflection, self-examination and the use of the relationship between therapist and client as a window into problematic relationship patterns in the patient’s life. Inner contradictions and emotional blind-spots are gently revealed and resolved. Psychotherapy sets in motion psychological processes that lead to ongoing change even after therapy has ended (Shedler, American Psychologist Journal,Feb 2010)