What is Psychotherapy and Is It Effective?

Throughout history human beings have always needed a special person, most often outside of their friends, family and relatives, to assist in understanding and changing their lives.

Psychotherapy is often referred to the the "talking cure" because of the focus on talking interventions rather than the use of drugs, and although medication can assist and enhance the experience, in psychotherapy the goal is to discover and rekindle the resources and strengths that already exist an individual, couple, or family.

Who Seeks Psychotherapy Services?

Most often the people seeking psychotherapuetic services are looking for relief from emotional distress. Psychotherapy assists in the understanding of what is causing the problems and what can be done to alleviate the emotional pain.

Who Can Practice?

In order to practice psychotherapy, psychotherapists have to have graduate level training and a clinical license. 

What Happens During the Sessions?

As a clinical psychologist I have received doctoral level training in many therapuetic techniques. They range from changing our thoughts (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), understanding our emotions and feelings (Person-Centered), the challenge of existence and just living in this world (Existential-Humanistic) to a deeper understanding of the parts of us that are unknown and unconscious (Psychodynamic and Jungian). Most often these and other techniques are integrated into a session. I try to orient my approach to the problems and needs of the client.

Sessions are typically 45-60 minutes. It is good to reflect on issues for discussion before the session. However, during a session other issues can and will arise.

The length and duration of treatment depends on client needs, goals, and progress. Many concerns can be resolved with short term therapy. More complex problems may require a longer term commitment before progress occurs. Continual feedback between therapist and client is essential in determining course of treatment.

What Makes Psychotherapy Work?

Techniques and theories aside the most important aspect of psychotherapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Since the experience is very personal the client needs to feel comfortable with the therapist. The client needs to feel understood and that the therapeutic environment is open and safe. That doesn't mean that there is always agreement.

Sometimes it isn't easy to really look at ourselves. Change can be difficult for all of us. However I have found that clients often find more positive things about themselves than negative. In the final analysis for psychotherapy to work the client needs to feel respected and supported throughout the process.

Ultimately making a strong committment to the psychotherapeutic process is what makes it work. This means taking the time to use what is learned in psychotherapy into our daily life.

Is Psychotherapy Effective?

The simple answer is that psychotherapy is effective, years of clinical research indicate that psychotherapy is effective. There is even a book title that indicates that it is not only effective but cost-effective, Psychotherapy Is Worth It: A Comprehensive  Review of Its Cost-Effectiveness (Edited by Susan Lazar, 2010, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc).

From my view psychotherapy is effective primarily because when we work towards understanding ourselves we make the needed changes and take responsibility for our physical, mental, and spiritual lives, there are usually good results. Depending on the need of the client, these aspects are typically discussed during psychotherapy sessions and plans are developed to enhance the quality of life in all these areas.

How do I decide on Individual, Couple, or Family Therapy?

Check out the other sections on the website to see what is the best fit for you.

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.
Mary Englebreit

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