What is psychotherapy and how does it work?

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Psychotherapy is a process by which a mental health professional helps a client deal with psychological, behavioral or emotional difficulties. It is also known as talk therapy and uses a variety of verbal and psychological techniques to help the client solve their problems.

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The main goals of psychotherapy are to enable clients to overcome challenges, use coping strategies, and improve their mental health. Therapists help clients explore their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. Through the therapeutic process, clients can regain control of their lives and overcome the obstacles and stressors they encounter.


How does psychotherapy work?

Mental health issues can be debilitating in nature and negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Psychotherapy can be helpful for people with:

  • Personality disorders like borderline personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders like alcoholism
  • Eating disorders like binge eating
  • Mood disorders like bipolar disorder

Therapy is used for more than just coping with mental disorders. Other benefits include promoting behaviors and habits that will lead the client to a better quality of life, resolving stress and anxiety in daily life, and dealing with major life changes such as divorce. , which can have a negative impact on its well-being, among other things.

With the help of psychotherapy, clients learn to deal with unhealthy reactions and come to terms with the issues they face. They learn to redirect their consciousness, challenge negative thought patterns, and focus on the positive aspects of their lives. The therapy also strengthens communication skills, helping clients develop the ability to maintain healthy relationships and boundaries.

There are different types of psychotherapy options available to clients depending on their needs and desires. The most common types of therapy offered to clients include:

  • Individual therapy which involves an individual session with a professional
  • Couples therapy where a couple works with a therapist to improve their relationship
  • Family therapy where a family seeks to improve their family dynamics
  • Group therapy where a client has a therapeutic session with others who share the same goal or problem

Different psychotherapy techniques and approaches

There are many different therapeutic approaches and techniques. The therapist decides which technique will be used to help the client deal with their issues or problems.

The technique chosen to help the client is based on a number of factors. The therapist’s training, client preferences, and goals all play a role in determining which techniques will be employed.

1) Cognitive-behavioral therapy

This form of therapy aims to improve the mood and daily functioning of the client by changing their thoughts and behaviors. The client learns to recognize the attitudes and actions that contribute to mental health problems. The client is then able to change their negative ways of thinking and behaving in a structured way through this therapy.

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used to help clients who are experiencing emotional difficulties. According to research, it is also effective in treating mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


2) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

This therapeutic approach aims to teach clients specific skills that will help them deal with emotional distress. Clients can also develop problem-solving skills while exploring alternatives to their current behaviors.

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This form of psychotherapy was initially used to help clients who were dealing with suicidal thoughts. According to one study, DBT has been shown to be very effective for clients with borderline personality disorder who engage in self-harming behavior.


3) Humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapy has many different versions, including gestalt, person-centered, transactional, logotherapy, and existential therapies. The conceptual basis of humanistic therapy is that clients are able to reach their potential through personal growth.

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The therapist will guide the client in the right direction necessary to achieve the goals he has set. According to various studies, humanistic therapy models have been used to help clients cope with anxiety and depression.


4) Brief solution-focused therapy

This therapeutic approach is goal-oriented and takes place over a short period of time. Solution-focused brief therapy helps clients identify and use their own solutions to problems. Therapists help clients help themselves by setting clear and realistic short-term goals.

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This approach to psychotherapy is best suited to situations where step-by-step solutions can be worked out. According to research, it is primarily used to help clients struggling with emotional and relationship issues.


5) Interpersonal Therapy

This therapeutic approach involves the client experiencing relief from issues such as anxiety or depression by resolving interpersonal conflicts. Interpersonal therapy centers on the premise that relationship issues affect the client’s ability to manage stress.

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It is a structured approach that takes place over a short period of time. According to studies, this approach has proven to be very effective in the fight against depression. Plus, it’s beneficial for teens struggling with depression.


6) Psychodynamic therapy

This approach to psychotherapy allows clients to better understand their issues and identify how their negative behaviors have developed over time. Negative behavioral patterns like defense mechanisms are identified using this approach, allowing the client to work towards productive behaviors.

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Psychodynamic therapy involves focusing on unconscious processes as they manifest in the client’s current behavior and understanding the impact of the past on recent actions. This approach has proven useful in the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.


Steve George Verghese is a Psychologist by training with a Masters in Counseling Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research.


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