What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is often sought after by people who have issues they would like to address with someone they can trust. For this reason, the key objective behind psychotherapy is to help people understand their troubles so that they can gradually start to overcome them.

It’s an excellent way of providing people with the guidance they need to cope with problematic situations. There are various aspects of psychotherapy that come together to create an effective course of treatment, such as a trusting relationship between a psychotherapist and their patient.

A positive relationship is particularly important as this provides a platform for someone to discuss a drawn out or long-standing issue with a person they can trust. Of course, gaining the trust of a stranger can be a daunting experience that takes time, so there are many courses of psychotherapy that last for several months or even years.

There are a number of different types of psychotherapy. Some are chosen specifically to match the symptoms of the patient whilst others are chosen simply because they are the therapists preferred method of treatment.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is very much the modern method of psychotherapy. It is often referred to as the artistic form of therapy due to its subtlety and less intensive nature. It is a form of psychotherapy that is based on the works, teachings and theories of Sigmund Freud.

Freud believed that the mind was capable of repressing negative childhood experiences to the point where they could discreetly influence the thoughts and behaviour of adulthood. The artistic side of psychodynamic (also known as psychoanalytic) psychotherapy is to provide the patient with a route they can follow back to their negative experiences so that they can ultimately bring them to light.

This incorporates a range of psychoanalytic activities, from discussing personal relationships and behaviour to focusing on past achievements and career goals. Psychotherapists often encourage you to relate as much as you can to the past as well as the present so that they can try and identify links between past events and the issues that are affecting you today.

The nature of psychoanalysis therapy means that the relationship between therapist and patient is extremely important. This is because the therapist may encourage you to discuss childhood experiences and family relationships in order to reveal unconscious thoughts. Other aspects of psychoanalytic therapy, such as sound and environment, are also important if the treatment is to be effective.

Many therapists may introduce specialist methods of working as a result of the flexible nature of the treatment. They may incorporate specific artistic, musical or movement therapies to help enhance the results of treatment. For example, young children are often introduced to ‘play therapy’ in order to improve their chances of self expression and communication.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is an alternative method of therapy best suited to patients who are struggling with emotional problems, such as stress, bereavement or perhaps even a phobia. Cognitive therapy focuses on your thoughts and beliefs, with the therapist looking to distinguish between typical stress-related emotions and others that are present as a result of an adopted mindset or problematic thinking. The therapist will try and give you a platform to start thinking more positively about things in an attempt to overcome your negative mindset.

Cognitive therapy is a form of behavioural therapy that is predominantly aimed at helping to restructure someone’s way of thinking. The therapist will look to change the way you approach things by adjusting your current lifestyle in some way, perhaps by adopting a modern healthy routine. At the same time, a therapist will try and make you as comfortable as possible throughout, so if you’re looking to overcome a phobia of some kind, you can learn to face you fears with the help of a designated comfort zone.

A lot of cognitive therapy takes place outside of the therapists office, in a similar way to that of homework. Patients are often encouraged to work on their problematic emotions whilst getting on with their day-to-day routine. The therapist will often assign task for the patient to follow or get involved in, depending on the issue. It is dissimilar to psychoanalysis in that the patient is not required to have a strong relationship with their therapist, as cognitive therapy promotes the idea of tackling your issues outside of the treatment room. You may not need to return to your therapist after the first five sessions are completed in some cases.

Cognitive therapy can also be analytical (CAT), with sessions focused on looking at your entire life story and pinpointing areas where problems may have occurred. A diary is often kept to record progress and provide you with a source for working on your issues during your day-to-day routine. It is a type of therapy that also takes place both in-house and outside of the treatment room, although therapists are often contactable by letter or email whilst you are away. Sessions are very brief and normally consist of anything between 5 and 20 meetings.

James Nelson believes in the ability we each have inside of us to bring about change and improve our well-being. As a mental health researcher and writer he also writes for Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy.

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