What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy, sometimes called talking therapy, is a process designed to help you understand your feelings and explore the reasons behind the negative emotions you might be experiencing. This often involves challenging your existing set of beliefs and even your very own self. For this reason, talking therapy is most likely to succeed if you are able and willing to take this risk in a safe environment. In addition to focusing on healing, psychotherapy provides you with support when going through a difficult or stressful phase of your life. An increased awareness of the ways you think, feel, act and react can help you develop adaptive and healthy ways of coping when facing difficult and challenging situations.
Our past emerges in the present and problematic symptoms often arise as a result of traumatic events, relationship issues, dysfunction within family history, or loss of vision. In the course of therapy, working on understanding the rules for living you have established for yourself and exploring which ones are still valid today and which ones are unsound, you can learn to better understand yourself and consequently find your own answers rather than seeking outside advice. Psychotherapy also entails identifying what obstacles, internal and external, prevent you from moving forward and consequently feel more in control of your life.
Depending of your reasons for seeking therapeutic help, treatment plans can be short term and last only a few sessions, while others are long-term, and can carry on for months or years. Sessions typically last 50 minutes, take place on a weekly or fortnightly basis and normally follow a carefully structured process.
Counselling versus Psychotherapy
Counselling is often short term and focus orientated. It entails working on a specific issue that causes internal conflict while psychotherapy is generally long term, usually involves formative years and affords the opportunity to work at a deeper level.
Everything that is discussed within our session remains confidential and is reinforced through the ethics of the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) to which I belong. In exceptional circumstances, confidentiality can be broken when your safety or the safety of others is judged to be at risk or when ordered by a court of law.
A Sample of Talking Therapies
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the belief that events do not cause us to feel anxious or depressed, rather it is our interpretation about those events that determine our emotional reaction. Exploring our core beliefs and the rules for living we abide by can help us clarify the unhelpful thinking patterns we have developed, reframe the situation, and adopt healthier ways of thinking and behaving.
Person-Centred Therapy (PCT). PCT is a humanistic approach based on the premise that each one of us has the internal resources to fulfill our potential for growth as long as the right conditions are in place. The aim of PCT is to provide three core conditions – empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence – to help you develop a stronger and healthier sense of self and move towards self-actualisation.
Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytical Therapies. These insight-oriented therapies concentrate on the unconscious and its manifestation on current behaviours and thoughts. The focus is on understanding the influence of the past on the present, and on developing self-awareness.
Integrative Therapy. The integrative approach takes into account many views of human functioning and incorporates different elements of specific therapies to suit your style and the difficulties you experience. The aim is to facilitate self-understanding and wholeness.
The most important aspect of counselling and psychotherapy is the professional relationship between therapist and client. A climate of trust, mutuality, safety and support is essential to positive outcome.