What is Psychotherapy and How Does it Work to Transform You?

Even with the rapidly growing awareness of mental health, many people still believe that psychotherapy is reserved for people with serious mental health issues. While people struggling with such issues may have a greater need for therapy even those without psychological disorders can benefit from it. If you are feeling resistant to therapy it is understandable considering the negative stigma that still exists around mental health. In this article, we will explore what psychotherapy is and how it can help you.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the process of discovering deeper levels of well-being and wholeness in our lives. There are various forms of psychotherapy but within most of them, the therapist initiates a dialogue that helps the client gain self-awareness and resolve inner conflicts. Therapy can be conducted in an individual, couples, family, or group setting and can help children, teens, and adults. Sessions are typically 45-60 minutes and are done weekly or bi-weekly. Although therapy can be used in the short term to address immediate issues, it is through a long-term commitment that most people will find the greatest benefit.

How does psychotherapy work?

Psychotherapy works by providing a safe space in which a client can become increasingly open and accepting of their inner experience. This can only happen in the presence of acceptance and trust, both of which are requirements in the client-therapist relationship. As such a relationship develops, the client can drop their defensiveness allowing themselves to feel whatever arises. They may experience feelings and attitudes which they were previously unaware of. With this growing awareness, repressed and neglected parts can be accepted and integrated into a greater wholeness of being. Through this process, the client can expand their identity and become more of who they are.

Another way to understand psychotherapy is as a process of improving communication. We normally understand communication as something we do with others, but all communication begins within ourselves. As our inner communication breaks down, neuroses emerge and hurt our ability to communicate and relate with others. Through therapy, we improve communication within our psyches. Once this is accomplished, we find that we can communicate more effectively with others. As our communication improves, our relationships become increasingly therapeutic.

What are the different types of psychotherapy?

There are various psychotherapies that exist such as:

Psychodynamic therapy explores the connection between your unconscious mind and your behavior.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) looks to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on present moment reality and is a short-term treatment option.
Existential therapyexplores the conflicts that are givens in each human’s experience which include freedom, death, isolation, and meaninglessness. This type of therapy focuses on a client’s future instead of their past.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) works by having a client recall a traumatic memory while performing specific eye movements which help resolve the trauma.
Somatic Experiencingteaches clients how to embrace a wider range of sensations in their bodies to process unresolved trauma.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) examines the different subpersonalities of the mind and how they can be integrated.
Integrative Therapy combines various therapeutic tools to meet the client’s individual needs.

These are just some of the many therapeutic modalities that we can work with to find more wholeness in our lives.

How to find the right psychotherapist for you

Before beginning therapy, it’s useful to understand our purpose for engaging in it. Do we have a specific issue we want to work with – such as anxiety or depression – or do we have a more general interest in gaining self-awareness? Remember a serious psychological disorder isn’t a requirement to partake in therapy. We all can discover more healing, growth, and wholeness through the therapeutic process. If you do have a specific mental health issue, however, it can be helpful to find a therapist who specializes or works with that particular issue.

We may feel called to work with a therapist who is competent in a specific area but what’s most important is finding a therapist whose personality accommodates yours. This process is more an art than a science and requires us to trust how we intuitively feel in the presence of this person. Do you feel safe and accepted? Do you feel like you can trust them? Do you like this person? Do you feel like they like you? These are some questions to consider when looking for a therapist. The last two may seem trivial but mutual acceptance and liking are necessary for the client-therapist relationship to work. Can you imagine pouring your heart out week in and week out to someone who you aren’t fond of? Yea, me either.

We don’t need to do many sessions with a therapist to get a gauge on how we vibe with them. In fact, we can usually determine if the therapist is a right fit during a 15-30 min consultation which most therapists provide for free. Booking consultations with several therapists will usually provide enough interactions to help us determine who is right for us. If we still feel undecided after the consultations, we can try a session or two to get a deeper feel for the relationship. Participating in consultations with different therapists takes time and energy, but it increases the likelihood that you will find a therapist who brings you the greatest benefit.

What are conditions that therapy can help treat?

Some of the psychological disorders that psychotherapy can help treat include:

• Generalized anxiety disorder
• Major depressive disorder
• Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Bipolar disorder
• Post-partum depression
• Borderline-personality disorder
• Eating disorders
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Chronic pain
• Addiction

Therapy can also help people going through:

• Martial conflict & divorce
• Grief due to death of a loved one
• Low self-esteem
• Existential or identity crisis
• General life stress

We may not be struggling with any of these conditions or circumstances, but we all have inner material to work with. All humans have disowned shadows and unresolved traumas. Many of us experience occasional anxiety and depression. Psychotherapy can provide relief whether our issues are major impediments or mild irritants.

Conclusion

Psychotherapy is a process in which a therapist initiates an interaction that helps a client gain a deeper understanding of themselves and thus enables them to resolve inner conflicts. While those struggling with serious mental health issues may have a greater need for therapy, even those without psychological disorders can benefit from it. Psychotherapy works by providing a space in which a client feels safe enough to share their innermost experience. Another way to understand psychotherapy is as a process of improving communication. As different parts of our psyche come into alignment, we find that our communication with others also improves.

There are many different types of psychotherapies such as Psychodynamic therapy, Cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT), Interpersonal therapy (IPT), Existential Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing, Internal Family Systems (IFS), and Integrative Therapy. Each therapeutic modality has a different approach and specialty.

Before we can start therapy we must find a psychotherapist that is right for us. When choosing a psychotherapist, we want to consider both the modality they use and if they specialize in the condition or issue we are trying to resolve. Yet what is most important in our selection process is finding a therapist with which we have mutual respect and rapport. We can gauge this by booking consultations with several therapists and seeing with whom we have the greatest connection.

Psychotherapy can help resolve many psychological disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, post-partum depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic pain, and addiction. It can also helo people going through marital conflicts & divorce, grief due to the death of a loved one, low self-esteem, existential or identity crisis, and general life stress. Even if we aren’t struggling with these specific conditions or circumstances, psychotherapy can prove beneficial. All humans have disowned shadows, unresolved traumas, and experience occasional anxiety and depression. Therefore, psychotherapy can help us all discover deeper levels of growth, healing, and wholeness.