What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a process of discovery - a learning process. In it, you and your therapist work together to discover what situations, events, and relationships in your current or earlier life are leaving you with uncomfortable feelings or behaviors. You work toward acquiring new, more helpful ways of understanding your experiences, the events in your life, the ways you react to them, and the actions you take, so that your future choices will bring you more happiness. Learning and change are the hallmarks of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is an unfolding process. It begins with the creation of a confidential, non-judgmental context in which both the client and the therapist can discuss the client’s experiences. Together, they work toward a clearer and clearer understanding of the client and of how to effect the desired changes. The work that is actually done depends on the client’s needs and goals.
How Does Psychotherapy Work?
The psychotherapy process assumes that there are parts of our lives that we do not fully understand. As we become more aware and appreciative of what is inside us, we can resolve or come to terms with our internal conflicts and our reactions to external events. Old, uncomfortable feelings and unwanted thoughts and habits tend to decrease frequency and intensity. We feel in better possession of ourselves and more able to make life-affirming decisions. Our energy no longer needs to be spent on keeping old troubles under wraps. There is more energy for love, work and play.
As we begin to feel better about ourselves, we are more free to learn new ways of thinking and behaving. We can explore the world with a scientific mind, observing what works for us and what doesn’t. We can be more creative in deciding how we want to live our lives.
What do the Client and Therapist Do?
Both the client and the therapist try to understand the client’s problems and his/her attempts to solve those problems. They work to find new solutions. The client’s job is to be as open as possible in describing the way he/she experiences things. Since the process of revealing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can be uncomfortable or distressing, the client needs to maintain an attitude of courage and hope. Simply talking about difficult things to an interested and understanding person tends to be very helpful, since it reduces feelings of being alone.
The therapist’s first job is to create a therapeutic environment that feels safe to the client. The therapist listens with careful attention and without judgment. He/she will also ask questions and make statements to clarify what he/she thinks is going on. The therapist also works with the client to make better decisions.
You can expect that there will be some times when you feel uncomfortable in therapy. These feelings are normal. Being in therapy is hard work, and distressing feelings are bound to arise. You will do best to talk with your therapist about your feelings. Sometimes clients and their therapists do not see eye to eye. And clients can get disappointed with their therapists and with the therapy. This is also normal. And the best thing to do is to talk with your therapist about it. He/she, probably, will not be surprised by your feelings and will be glad to talk with you about them.
How do I find a Therapist who will be Good for Me?
Discuss your situation with people you trust. Perhaps you have friends who have benefited from psychotherapy. You could ask your doctor or clergyman. Your employer might have an Employee Assistance Program. It is often useful to call more than one potential therapist and make an initial consultation appointment with each. That way, you can get to know the therapist somewhat before you make a decision.
The therapist you choose should have good training. Therapists can be trained as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and nurse-practitioners. Most therapists pursue additional training after their graduate degree. The therapist should have some experience with problems like yours. He/she should take an approach that makes sense to you and would be relatively comfortable for you. The therapist should be empathic and understanding. It is important for you to get a sense of how you feel with a potential therapist. Your emotional response to him/her is a good indicator of whether you will get along together.
But it is also important to give the relationship a chance. It can take some time for the client to determine whether he/she can trust the therapist. It can take some time for two people to learn how to communicate with each other. It is important to allow some time for a strong therapeutic relationship to develop.
Once you have chosen a therapist, it would be appropriate to spend a few sessions getting a sense of whether your decision was OK. But after that, when you have made a commitment to work with someone, it is important to keep on going, even if times get a little rough. Working through the rough times with a therapist is a useful learning experience and can be of great benefit to the client.
All in all, the therapy experience is an exciting time of learning and growth, when you will have the opportunity to understand yourself more thoroughly and to change the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that give you trouble. You can learn to make the most out of your abilities and to live your life more fully.
How Long Will Psychotherapy Take?
People generally want their therapy to be as quick and effective as possible, and today more people are using brief therapy techniques. Research generally shows that therapy must be longer than just a few sessions to be helpful. Studies show that at least eight to ten sessions are necessary for any benefits to be measurable.
Whether brief therapy works for you depends on what you are looking for from the therapy and on the kinds of problems you bring to it. Brief therapy can be helpful if a person is dealing with a temporary crisis or a simple problem. As may be expected, long-standing, difficult, complicated, or more serious problems require more time and patience. Long-standing problems and patterns rarely change overnight, and “quick fixes” do not produce lasting results. Most therapists use brief therapy methods when they are appropriate. What is important is that your goals are being addressed effectively.
Psychotherapists and their clients work together to plan the treatment and assess its progress. Feedback from the client about the therapy is very useful, because it enables the therapist understand the client better.
The therapist and the client also decide, together, when the work is finished. For example, when you are finished, you are likely to understand the sources of your problems and you can deal with them more effectively. You are more able to make good decisions for yourself, you feel more confident, and you no longer experience the symptoms that brought you into therapy.
Various Kinds of Psychotherapy
There are various therapeutic modalities available for use with patients. Your therapist will choose the ones that are appropriate for you and your therapy goals. They include:
How Much Does Psychotherapy Cost and How do I Pay for It?
You and your therapist will set a reasonable fee based on the customary rates, your financial situation, and your use of insurance. Many therapists do not take insurance. Insurance companies can interfere with the treatment plan and can compromise confidentiality. However, most therapists do have a sliding scale.
Psychotherapy is a Long-Term Investment in Yourself!
As you weigh the cost of psychotherapy, it is important to consider the life goals you have not yet reached. Psychotherapy offers you an opportunity to work toward those goals. Because psychotherapy can help you make choices that will affect your entire future, it might be thought of as a investment in yourself - an investment on a par with getting a good education. The positive effects of psychotherapy last a lifetime. Only you can decide if the potential gains are worth your time, effort, and money.