What is Psychotherapy? And Is It For Me?

Alex Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW
Individual, Couples & Family Therapy
IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor
Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Posted by: Alex Robboy
CAS, MSW, LCSW Individual, Couples & Family Therapy IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.
267-324-9564

Since you’re reading this tip, you’re probably seeking answers to quite a few questions concerning Psychotherapy. First and foremost this tip is designed to answer questions such as “What is Psychotherapy?” and “Is Psychotherapy the same thing as Counseling?” It will help you understand some of the basics of Psychotherapy. You may also be considering starting therapy and may have some questions regarding how it can help you and what type of psychotherapy is for you. This tip will also help you answer the questions “Is Psychotherapy for me?” and start to evaluate different forms of therapy that may be advantageous treatment for your particular needs.

It can be rather difficult to get a clear and concise definition of the words psychotherapy and counseling because there are many forms, and each approach has its own definition of the subject.  A dictionary definition of Psychotherapy states that is it “the treatment of psychological disorders or maladjustments by a professional technique, as psychoanalysis, group therapy, or behavior therapy.” While psychotherapy typically does address such issues, a much more commonplace definition would be: “the talking cure.” Psychotherapy is the process of talking about, expressing, verbalizing, or somehow communicating one’s emotions (pain, sadness, fear, anxiety etc.) to a professional who listens, assesses you situation through established therapeutic and psycho-educational theories and techniques, then and adjustments to help you reach your goals. The dictionary definition of counseling states: “Professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems.” These definitions appear very similar and a claim can be made that there really aren’t many essential differences between psychotherapy and counseling. In fact, in general usage and here at The Center For Growth, the terms are used interchangeably. However it is important to note that psychotherapy is typically less directive in nature, lasts longer, and pushes clients to address deeper psychological issues; while counseling tends to refer to more short term and solution focused treatment.

As already mentioned, there are multiple forms of psychotherapy available and each will address your needs and goals in a different manner. The approach the therapist uses in psychotherapy will determine the specific techniques and strategies used; however, there are also some universal properties to all forms of psychotherapy.  These include: developing a therapeutic relationship between client and therapist, active listening, empathy, communicating and discussing emotions, and working to overcome problematic thoughts or behaviors. Some of the major approaches to psychotherapy include Psychoanalytic, Humanistic (or Client-Centered), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There are many other forms of therapy available, however these are the primary approaches most therapists will draw from in working with their clients.  Psychoanalytic therapy is an approach that involves delving into a client’s thoughts and past experiences to identify and potentially change unconscious desires or fantasies thorough discussion of defense mechanisms, resistance, transference and counter-transference. Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves discussion of clients’ current stressful situations which cause anxiety and depression.  Cognitive and behavioral techniques are used to challenge negative thoughts and core beliefs the person holds about their self and the world and to change maladaptive behaviors. Humanistic or Client-Centered Psychotherapy focuses on helping clients deal with their emotional distress through a strong therapeutic relationship with a therapist providing unconditional positive regard and empathy while pushing the client to achieve self-actualization.

In choosing a therapist, it will be important to get a sense of what theory or theories he or she uses in treatment to ensure that the process will match and address your needs as best as possible.  Here at the Center For Growth, our therapists are trained in these basic models of therapy, as well various other forms of established therapeutic theories and techniques.  We offer therapy and counseling services to help clients reach their goals which may include addressing one discrete issue or multiple issues over the course of a number of sessions. We also offer various forms of therapy and counseling such as: individual therapy, group therapy, couples and marriage counseling, sex therapy, family therapy, and play therapy. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of what psychotherapy is and its major forms its time to address some common questions people have when considering psychotherapy for themselves. To assess if psychotherapy is right for you try answering the following questions:

  • Am I sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, irritable, or fearful most of the time?
  • Have I lost pleasure in activities I once enjoyed?
  • Am I confused and not sure what direction to go in my life?
  • Do I feel misunderstood by peers, friends or family members?
  • Am I engaging in addictive behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse?
  • Do I have difficulty maintaining interpersonal relationships?
  • Am I currently in an abusive relationship or have I experienced past trauma?
  • Is it difficult for me to relate to others?
  • Do I want to look into my past experiences and gain new insight?
  • Have others noticed my maladaptive behaviors and suggested therapy?
  • Do I have thoughts about suicide or dying?
  • Am I going through a big life transition such a moving, a divorce, starting college, or caretaking for a family member with mental or physical illness?
  • Does my child have behavioral issues that are disrupting the family?
  • Have I or my partner had an affair?
  • Is there any sexual dysfunction present in the relationship?
  • Does my family fight and yell more that talk and communicate?
  • Do I, my partner, or my children feel stuck?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, individual psychotherapy, couples counseling, or family therapy might be for you. You can benefit from having a non-judgmental, empathetic supportive person to listen to your thoughts and feelings and offer advice or ideas to change your situation.  It’s natural to still have fears and questions concerning psychotherapy, after all it’s a scary thought to decide to open up and tell a complete stranger all your “secrets.” Therapy is a journey and you can start as slowly as you want.  A competent therapist will address all of your questions and concerns with you prior to and throughout your therapeutic process. In order to look for a competent therapist take some time to read about his or her practice on their website or brochure. Look at what kinds of trainings (video supervision, conferences, licenses) and specialties they have received. There are many forms of psychotherapy and counseling and each field will be trained differently. Don’t worry so much about the letters after someone’s name, but rather look for a therapist who can convey his or her philosophy in a way that feels like it will fit with your therapeutic goals. Naturally, if you are choosing to work on a specific goal, it will be helpful to find a therapist who is versed in that particular field of counseling. But keep in mind that the most important factor for success with psychotherapy is you as the client feeling comfortable, understood, and supported throughout the process. When choosing a therapist check out a few people and go with whoever has the right fit for your goals, needs, and personality. Look for a therapist who will push you to make the necessary behavioral changes or perspective shifts to reach your goals, but who is also understanding and empathetic to your needs.  You want to feel a sense that your therapist “gets you.” With a trained, competent, and caring professional, your fears can be eased and psychotherapy can be a highly rewarding experience of personal growth.