Psychotherapy is a real relationship set aside for the specific
purpose of restoring health and wholeness.
What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy comes from combining the following two Greek words: Psyche, which means soul or mind; and Therapeuein, which means, to nurse, or to heal. As you can see by the word origin, psychotherapy is treatment or care of the mind and soul. A psychotherapist is a professional who uses psychotherapeutic techniques, such as talk therapy, to help bring about healing in the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the person, couple, or family experiencing distress or desiring growth.
What is the difference between psychotherapy and counseling?
The terms psychotherapy, therapy, and counseling are often used interchangeably, and for many people the terms refer to the same process to improve mental health. There are subtle differences usually distinguished by the nature of the words: Counselor means Advisor, or one who gives advice. Psychotherapist, as noted above, refers to one who practices psychotherapy, which is treatment of the mind and soul. The distinction involves the use of psychotherapeutic techniques. While psychotherapists may utilize counseling techniques, not all counselors (for example financial or spiritual counselors) are licensed to conduct psychotherapy. A psychotherapist, such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is a practitioner of the healing arts.
How do I know if I need psychotherapy?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that psychotherapy is only needed or useful for the mentally ill. Certainly, it is appropriate to seek therapy during a time of stress or crisis, or when experiencing symptoms such as depression or anxiety. However, it is also beneficial to go to therapy when desiring a deeper understanding of yourself in order to achieve a richer and more satisfying life. Psychotherapy can be the vehicle you use to transform yourself, your relationships, and your life into the life you have always imagined.
There are many different reasons people seek the help of a competent therapist. Some of the reasons are listed below:
- When you desire transformation, personal growth, and development
- To thrive during life transitions such as launching children, or changing careers
- To overcome feeling stuck emotionally, relationally, spiritually, or professionally
- To change repetitive, unproductive behavior patterns
- To transform your relationships to patterns of love and mutual respect
- To heal after separation, divorce, or loss of a loved one
- To become a better parent when experiencing difficulties and challenges
- To overcome addictive and unproductive behaviors
- To fulfill your purpose and create a life of meaning
- To deal more effectively with stress and tension
- To work through your fears and anxiety
- When you need help overcoming symptoms of depression
- To cope more effectively with chronic illness or pain
- To combat loneliness with a sense of connection, meaning, and purpose
- When you desire to actualize professional or personal dreams and goals
Unless we specify a specific number of sessions, the length of therapy differs based on several factors including the nature of your symptoms, how long you have been struggling with the particular problem that brought you into therapy, and your interest and commitment to your goals. Some people feel better after only a few sessions and that is all they desire; others make a longer commitment to the process in order to make deeper, long-lasting life changes. You and your therapist will discuss your particular situation and need, and decide together how long your therapy will last. Often it is difficult to determine until we are involved in the process and see the progress as it unfolds.
How often will I need to come to therapy?
Typically, you will meet with your therapist once a week for a 50-minute session, however the frequency might increase or decrease depending on the urgency, your desire to work toward your goals, and your financial resources. Generally therapy is more productive and efficient when you make a committment to yourself and the therapeutic process. Often more frequent therapy and/or longer scheduled sessions produces more rapid change and growth.
Who are the different mental health professionals who practice psychotherapy?
Each of the following mental health professionals listed below is required to have a license within the state they practice. Depending on the specialty, each license requires a number of years of postgraduate education and training beyond the four-year Bachelor’s Degree. In addition, all of the license holders have obtained supervised practice and have passed state board licensing exams.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT)
Marriage and Family Therapists are licensed mental health professionals specifically trained to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals, couples, families, and groups within the context of their relationships. Since we were all born into and continue to have relationships that help shape us, a LMFT is uniquely qualified to understand each person in the context of their relational past and present. As such, a Marriage and Family Therapist is a healing arts practitioner. LMFT’s have obtained a Master of Arts degree or higher, have had 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, and have passed the state board exams for their profession.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
Licensed Clinical Social Workers generally have earned a Master of Arts degree, or higher in Social Work, obtained supervised clinical practice and have passed state board exams.
Clinical Psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)
Clinical Psychologists have obtained a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) degree and have obtained a state license to practice clinical psychology. In addition to conducting psychotherapy, clinical psychologists often conduct psychological testing.
As licensed physicians, psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals able to prescribe medication. Psychiatrists have completed general medical training as well as an internship and several years of psychiatric residency. Some psychiatrists conduct psychotherapy, while others prefer to do medication management.
What are psychotropic medications?
Psychotropic medications are used to treat symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, ADHD, and other mental health disorders (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/). Medication is sometimes prescribed by your primary care physician or a psychiatrist to augment your psychotherapy. The use of medication is a personal choice that you make along with your doctor. Many people who have not been able to function effectively benefit greatly from medications as they work on issues in therapy. However, many people also derive tremendous change through a good relationship with a competent psychotherapist without the use of any medication.
The benefits of psychotherapy
Therapy can be a transformative experience. Especially with a skilled psychotherapist, the therapeutic process has the potential to dramatically change your life. Many different therapists utilize different theoretical frameworks, however most research points to the quality of the therapeutic relationship - the attachment - that is responsible for lasting change. Through therapy your therapist can help you to understand your past and present relationships and experiences, resulting in a more meaningful and fulfilling life for you, for your loved ones, and the world you touch.