The term psychotherapy sounds a bit intimidating, but the fact is that comforting a friend is technically the practice of psychotherapy. When you reassure a spouse or have a confidential conversation about personal matters with a friend, psychotherapy is being practiced. However, confidential talks with friends do not represent, and can’t be substituted for, treatment for emotional or mental disorders by a trained professional and do not provide the same benefits of psychotherapy. The therapist practicing psychotherapy is using a method of formal treatment, relying on counseling theories that involves talking with patients and developing a patient-therapist relationship without resorting to drugs or other intensive treatments.
Historically, psychotherapy has been a developing discipline that can take two approaches: 1) behavioral psychotherapy in which a client’s behavior is observed and behavior is changed through a form of conditioning and possibly medication, and 2) psychodynamic psychotherapy which focuses on helping a client by learning what is going on in the inner world and how other life factors like family, development, work and more has played a role.1
Psychodynamic psychotherapy doesn’t try to relieve symptoms. It is therapy that relies on developing a doctor-patient relationship that helps a client gain a greater understanding of the source of emotional stress or disorder.2 Once understood, the therapist can then help the patient find ways to overcome the factors leading to mental distress or psychic pain.
Other treatment strategies include:
- Interpersonal therapy – focus on relationships with family, spouse or partner, peers, or groups
- Cognitive therapy – focus on how patterns of thoughts and how the patterns lead to certain feelings and eventually behaviors
- Behavior therapy – focus on substituting one behavior for another to develop productive and positive feelings (dynamic versus observatory therapy and no medications involved)
- Family therapy – focus on a client’s relationship with family members
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common approach used by therapists, in that both thought patterns and behaviors are considered during treatment.
Modern life can be difficult to maneuver. People become troubled about work, family, weight, relationships and finances. They also may develop anxieties rooted in a discordance from their past or within themselves. When the past has events that so marked us that we raise defense mechanisms, anxiety can develop. Anxiety can be debilitating because it reflects a suppression of something that we don’t want to allow into our consciousness.
So many different issues can impact a person’s psyche and make it difficult to cope. They include divorce, domestic violence, uncontrollable anger, substance abuse, financial fears, depression, abandonment, grief, low self-esteem, shame, relationship problems, marital problems, abuse as a child, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, eating disorders, fears and much more. Psychotherapists rely on therapy to address real life problems by focusing on biases and distortions in the thinking process (cognitive therapy) and changing negative behaviors (behavioral therapy).
Benefits of psychotherapy in Treating the Whole Person
It doesn’t stop there though. Holistic therapy is a core function of psychotherapy. Just as the name implies, holistic psychotherapy considers the “whole” person. We are not only a body or only a mind. Humans are composed of mind, body, spirit and emotions. They all work together to make us who we are. You have a thought which produces a feeling which leads to behavior. If a therapist only concentrated on the body or only concentrated on the mind or ignored the spirit or the emotions, therapy cannot be complete because a large piece of the puzzle is missing.
The benefits of psychotherapy are many:
- Identifies the source of psychic pain or anxiety and helps clients overcome it
- Client can overcome a specific problem that has become a barrier to happiness or ability to enjoy healthy relationships, i.e. depression, eating disorder, etc.
- Offers a fresh perspective
- Helps clients find resolution to ongoing life issues
- Identifies client ways of thinking to improve coping abilities
- Improve relationships
In other words, psychotherapy gives people an alternative to living with difficult life issues that are preventing them from living a full life.
Added Benefits of Psychotherapy, Where Talking and Technology Blend Perfectly
Since psychotherapy uses “talking” as the treatment method, it’s ideally suited to technology. A myriad of methods are used to connect therapist and clients so they can develop an ongoing professional relationship needed for long term success. Naturally, a client can meet face-to-face with a therapist, but that is not always possible or preferred by clients. The different methods of communication between a therapist and a client include:
- Phone therapy
- Chat (instant messaging)
- Web cam
Numerous studies have been conducted on the benefits of psychotherapy when the client uses technology and doesn’t meet the therapist face-to-face. It has been clearly shown that using phone conversation, chat or even email eliminates therapy delivery barriers, affords a high level of privacy or anonymity, can be offered more frequently and on a more flexible schedule, and can make a client feel more comfortable talking to a therapist because of the leveling effect of a phone or computer communication.3
Telephone therapy has been extensively studied as to its effectiveness in delivering psychotherapy to clients dealing with depression. A 2008 study represents the results of other research efforts in that patients enrolled in telephone-administered psychotherapy experienced a more significant reduction in depressive symptoms than those suffering from depression who were given face-to-face therapy.4
The benefits of psychotherapy are clear cut when faced with life issues that have become overwhelming. You don’t have to suffer anxiety, depression or any form of psychic pain alone. You can rely on therapy to help you find the direction you should follow to overcome barriers to happiness in your life. Psychotherapy is about changing from the inside first so that life on the outside is much nicer.
1Anthony Bateman, D. B. (2000). Introduction to Psychotherapy. London: Routledge.
3Myrna M Weissman, John C. Markowitz, Gerald L. Klerman. (2000). Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books – Perseus Books Group.
4David C. Mohr, Lea Vella, Stacy Hart, Timothy Heckman, Gregory Simon. (Sept. 2008). The Effect of Telephone-Administered Psychotherapy on Symptoms of Depression and Attrition: A Meta-Analysis. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 15 (3), 243-253.