Everything You Wanted to Know About Psychotherapy but Were too Afraid to Ask

Posted January 19, 2021 by in Health + Fitness

Psychotherapy, alternatively known as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy, and simply just therapy, is a way of treating mental health problems through talking. It is best practiced with a licensed and experienced professional mental health provider, such as a therapist or psychologist.

This particular method of treatment is done for many reasons, and has numerous benefits. When going into this treatment, it is best to be prepared and to know what to expect:

How it Works

Psychotherapy usually involves a psychologist or therapist encouraging their client to speak about the issues and feelings troubling them in a nonjudgmental climate. These can lead to intense emotional discussions, which can involve crying, anger, and feelings of exhaustion after the session has concluded. It is the job of the therapist to help their client figure out and deal with the root of their problem, whether it be ideas, behaviors, or emotions.

Sometimes therapists will assign work for the client to do outside of sessions in order to better their treatment. Sessions can be either long term, which is usually the case for long-standing issues, or short term, which is usually the case for more immediate problems. 

What to Expect

At an initial psychotherapy session, one can expect their chosen psychologist to ask them questions about themselves to better understand their needs. However, it may take multiple sessions for a psychologist to have a full grasp over what is troubling their patient and how to help their patient resolve their conflict.

Clients should use this time to figure out if the approach and personality of their therapist is a good fit for them. It should be expected, by the time a session concludes, that a client and their psychologist have a trusting relationship and that the client leaves with new perspective on the world and new skills for taking on life.

Types of Psychotherapy

On top of there being numerous types of psychotherapy, there are also different psychotherapy formats. These formats include individual, couples, family, and group therapy. Regarding the different types of psychotherapy, certain types work best for certain conditions.

In most cases, though, a combination of different types of psychotherapy are used to help patients. Listed below are some of them:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This form of psychotherapy helps people replace harmful ways of thinking or behavior patterns with more positive ones.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy

This type of psychotherapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps patients learn to control their emotions by teaching behavioral skills.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy

This form of psychotherapy is based on the idea that current conflicts stem from past, unresolved conflicts and involves increasing one’s awareness of unconscious thoughts.

  • Interpersonal Therapy

This form of psychotherapy addresses an individual’s relationships with others, for example families and friends, and aims to improve a client’s communication skills.

  • Supportive Therapy

This type of psychotherapy is meant to improve an individual’s ability to deal with stressful situations and issues regarding their mental health.

Man laying on couch during a therapy session with a psychologist.

Why It’s Done and What It Does

Psychotherapy has a number of proven benefits, which is why it is widely practiced. This practice can be used to help treat mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, addictions, and more. However, psychotherapy isn’t limited to dealing only with mental health conditions and can be sought to deal with interpersonal conflicts and coping with stressful situations. Psychotherapy, in general, can be of use to anyone struggling with coping with life. 

This version of therapy differs from venting to trusted friends or family members because psychologists and therapists are trained individuals with experience in helping others improve their lives. There is a substantial amount of evidence confirming psychotherapy’s effectiveness, with most feeling that they are better off after treatment than they were before. Benefits of this practice include learning healthy ways to cope with issues, understanding problematic behaviors and thoughts and learning how to change them, and being able to take back control of life.

Getting Psychotherapy

Those interested in getting psychotherapy should keep a few things in mind, for instance how to find the right therapist. In order to have productive sessions, patients should have a therapist they are willing to be open with and that they feel comfortable with. Also, the patient should be willing to follow the therapist’s advice whether that involves doing certain work during sessions or completing work outside of sessions.

It is also important to find a qualified therapist, and this can be done with the help of a primary care physician who should be able to provide a reputable recommendation. Friends and family can also be good sources to draw from, especially if they have had an especially positive experience with a certain therapist.

It should also be noted that some therapists specialize in certain areas, for instance counseling for sexual abuse survivors, which is important to note should one be seeking therapy for a specific reason.

At the end of the day, a good therapist should be able to understand where the client is coming from, because then they will be able to offer useful insight.

*Photos by Alex Green