Psychotherapy: What to expect and how it works

Psychotherapy refers to a range of treatments that can help with mental health problems, emotional challenges, and some psychiatric disorders.

It aims to enable patients, or clients, to understand their feelings, and what makes them feel positive, anxious, or depressed. This can equip them to cope with difficult situations in a more adaptive way.

Often, the course of therapy lasts under 1 year; individuals who are eager to change and willing to put in the effort often report positive results.

Psychotherapy can provide help with a range of problems, from depression and low self-esteem to addiction and family disputes. Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by their problems and unable to cope may be able to benefit from psychotherapy.

Combined with medication, it can play a role in treating bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

What to expect

psychotherapist working with patient
Psychotherapy is sometimes called “the talking cure.”

Psychotherapy is sometimes called a “talking treatment” because it uses talking, rather than medication.

Some forms of psychotherapy last only a few sessions, while others are long-term, lasting for months or years. Sessions are usually for 1 hour, once a week, and they follow a carefully structured process.

Sessions may be one-to-one, in pairs, or in groups. Techniques can include other forms of communication, such as drama, narrative story, or music.

A psychotherapist may be a psychologist, a marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker or mental health counselor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychoanalyst, or psychiatrist.

teacher and children
Psychotherapy can involve movement, drama and music, can help people of any age, and can be done in groups, pairs, or one-on-one.

This approach focuses on interpersonal relationships.

Depression, for instance, may stem from a person’s relationship with others. Learning skills for improving communication patterns may help the client to manage the depression.

First, the therapist may help the client to identify relevant emotions, and where these are coming from. Then they can help them to express the emotions in a healthier way.

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