What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is the treatment of emotional and behavioural problems using psychological processes designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being relief of symptoms, changes in behaviour leading to improved social and vocational functioning, and personality growth. A psychotherapist helps people understand their problems from a new perspective by offering an objective point of view and new ways of thinking about and responding to problems. Going through the therapy process changes people’s feelings about themselves and their situations, and they become happier, more self-confident, and more effective in dealing with life’s stresses.
Psychotherapy is not just focused on problems, modern psychotherapy is also just as useful as a way to help you to enhance and fine tune your existing positive skills and empowering ways of thinking, so that you can become happier and more successful.
Psychotherapy occurs within a structured setting between a trained psychotherapist and client(s). Psychotherapy may take place in individual, group, or family sessions.
Because sensitive topics are often discussed during psychotherapy, therapists are expected, and legally bound, to respect client confidentiality.
Most forms of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation (sometimes referred to as talk therapy), though some can also use various forms of communication and other approaches such as the written word, artwork, drama, narrative story, body work, the natural environment, music, biofeedback, hypnosis and physical movement. Many psychotherapists are integrative and will combine a variety of these approaches into the therapy.
Ethical therapists will maintain confidentiality, give clients clear information about policies, fees, and what they can realistically expect from therapy. They are up-front about their rationale and motivations and respond openly to any concerns their clients have. An ethical therapist will not exagerate their abilities or the outcomes of the therapy process, so be very wary of any therapist who makes grand claims about themselves or their therapy, or offers guarantees of cure.
Finding a Psychotherapist in the UK
It is important that any psychotherapist you choose is safe, reputable and has undergone extensive and thorough training and personal development as a therapist, they adhere to a code of ethics, are insured, and that they have regular on-going supervision of their work. In the UK this primarily means choosing someone who is a member of the UKCP (the UK Council for Psychotherapy).
Unfortunately as the titles ‘psychotherapist’ and ‘counsellor’ are not currently legally protected in the UK, anyone at all can refer to themselves as a ‘psychotherapist’ or ‘counsellor’, even if they have only had minimal training, or even no training at all. A quick search of the internet shows a number of psychologically based therapists in the UK using the title ‘psychotherapist’, who quite clearly have minimal or no psychotherapy training at all. They are using the term ‘psychotherapist’ in its broadest sense, as meaning ‘helping someone psychologically’. Obviously the vast majority of these therapists are genuine, and have had training in their own fields, but have not had in-depth training in psychotherapy. The big problem is this can be incredibly confusing to the general public, as it is difficult to tell who has had in-depth and thorough psychotherapy training and is a qualified psychotherapist, and who isn’t.
Psychotherapy training should be at masters degree level or equivalent, take between 4 to 7 years to complete, and include continuous profession development (CPD), supervised practice, research projects, and personal development. Therapists who are members of reputable professional bodies such as the UKCP or BACP have had to meet very strict training and entry requirements, as well as maintaining on-going professional development, supervision, and ethical standards.
Choosing a psychotherapist who is a fully registered member of the UKCP, will ensure that you are working with someone who is thoroughly trained, has met required levels of competency and experience, is reputable, insured, and holds genuine qualifications in psychotherapy.
How Do I Know if I Would Benefit From Seeing a Psychotherapist?
We all experience painful feelings at one time or another in our lifes. Many feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and stress naturally arise as part of living life. For instance, it is quite normal to feel stress or anxiety before an interview, presentation or exam. Where it becomes a problem is when these feelings overwhelm you so much that it becomes hard for you to function normally in your day to day life.
If you are tearful, have trouble sleeping or eating, feeling overly fearful or anxious, feeling down, unmotivated, lacking confidence, are drinking or using drugs excessively, fighting a lot with your spouse or children, having trouble controlling your temper or getting along with other people, then you should seriously consider seeing a therapist.
Some problems are a reaction to stressful events in our life, such as losing a job, financial difficulties, public speaking or getting divorced. Other problems however, can be more chronic and exist even when we are not in a period of extreme stress. These may be patterns of bad relationships, persistant low mood, low self esteem or confidence, negative outlook, limiting self belief, trouble holding onto jobs, and habitual difficulty getting along with others. Psychotherapy can be very helpful with both short and long term problems.
5 reasons why psychotherapy might be the right choice
Original article posted on the American Psychological Association website
by Dr. Katherine Nordal
on September 24th, 2012
1. You learn to work through your own problems.
We’ve all heard the expression, “Give a man fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” That’s the idea behind psychotherapy. There’s a lot that goes into the process of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy takes time and work, but as you progress along, you learn more effective ways to tackle problems and solve difficult situations. And in the end, that means you have developed skills and tools such as different ways of thinking, more effective coping mechanisms, and improved problem-solving.
2. No one is taking a side, except to help you.
During psychotherapy, a psychotherapist listens to what you say without judgment, no matter how embarrassing, shameful or frightening your thoughts or feelings are to you. People often reveal things during psychotherapy that are scary and very personal, and the fear of how others will respond or react is normal. The role of the psychotherapist is to remain neutral, to help you cope better with the troubling situation, and to work with you to find a good solution for your concerns.
3. Your secrets are safe.
Whatever you tell a psychotherapist during psychotherapy is confidential and private. Ethics codes and licensing laws require that psychotherapists remain silent about what is discussed or shared during psychotherapy, unless you or someone else’s life is in danger. You need to give written permission even if your psychotherapist wants to discuss your case with your physician. Confidentiality is sacred!
4. Long-term value can’t be beat.
Compared to the use of medication alone, which may seem like a more cost-effective option in the short term, research has shown that the benefits of psychotherapy extend to your physical health as well, often resulting in better physical health and lowering of your overall health costs over time.
5. Psychotherapy works!
Multiple studies show that for many conditions and concerns, psychotherapy works, and it works well. People with mild-to-moderate depression begin to feel better after just a few sessions. Some countries are even requiring psychotherapy as the first line of treatment for anxiety and depression. The research is still growing, and more good news about how psychotherapy helps is expected.
Too many people avoid treatment for common conditions like depression and anxiety. They may be burdened by chronic stress that is getting in the way of good sleep, healthy eating and quality relationships. Physical well-being may also suffer. So getting help, even if only from medication, is a step. But it may not be the best first step. And it shouldn’t be the only step.
If you, or someone you know, is ready to start on the road to better health, consider psychotherapy – it’s more than a quick fix! It has staying power.
Whats the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?
“Psychotherapy” and “counselling” are terms that are often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, “counsellor” means “advisor”. It is a term that is used in conjunction with many types of advice giving. Just about anyone at all may claim to be a counsellor if they are in the role of giving advice. The term counselling may also properly be used to refer to what occurs in a therapeutic relationship with a psychotherapist.
In the context of mental health, counselling is generally used to denote a treatment that offers a sympathetic listening ear, ventilation of feelings and suggestions and advice for dealing with a particular symptom or problematic situation. Psychotherapy on the other hand also focuses more on gaining a deeper insight into chronic emotional and physical problems. It’s focus is on helping the client change deeper thought processes and ways of being in the world. Cawley (1977) classifies counselling as Level 1 – Outer level, Relief and Support, and psychotherapy as Level 3 to 4 – Deeper level, Exploration and Change.
There is a general understanding that a psychotherapist can work with a wider range of clients or patients and can offer more in-depth work where appropriate. In actual practice however there may be quite a bit of overlap between counselling and psychotherapy. Generally speaking, psychotherapy requires much longer training (4 to 7 years) and skill than simple counselling. It is conducted by professionals trained to practice psychotherapy. While a psychotherapist is qualified to provide counselling, a counsellor may or may not possess the necessary training and skills to provide psychotherapy.
My own psychotherapy accreditation is with UKCP, who believe the difference lies in the length and depth of training involved and in the quality of the relationship between the client and therapist. UKCP-registered psychotherapists are trained to Masters degree level or beyond. UKCP’s training standards seek to ensure that UKCP registrants are competent to practice to the highest standards.
Cawley, R.H. (1977) ‘The teaching of psychotherapy’, Association of University Teachers of Psychiatry Newsletter January: 19-36.
The word “con-tempo-rary” means literally “with time” or “moving in time”.
Contemporary Psychotherapy is an integrative outcome orientated approach to psychotherapy that combines ideas from some of the most successful aspects of different models of psychotherapy to produce an approach which continually evolves by including the latest advances in its own and other fields of knowledge. It is both highly effective and often much more rapid than more traditional forms of psychotherapy and counselling. Its flexibility makes it suitable for both time-limited short-term and longer term therapy.
A number of the defining features of Contemporary Psychotherapy:
- it is aware of and responds to current advances in its own and other fields of knowledge;
- it is sensitive to current sociological, cultural and political issues;
- it works with the full life trajectory – past, present and future – of the client;
- it responds flexibly to different stages and cycles in the client’s progress;
- it utilises the naturally occuring cycles and altered states of the human system;
- it recognises the differing time requirements and time constraints affecting the treatment of each client.
What is psychotherapy?
‘What is psychotherapy’ was written by Nigel Magowan, a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist in Manchester, UK.