Psychotherapy involves undergoing regular meetings or sessions with a
psychotherapist who is trained to listen to you in a non-judgemental empathetic way
and who can help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings in order to reach an
understanding of what the problems are and how they can be dealt with in a more
constructive and positive way. It has not to be confused with psychiatry even though
some psychotherapists may have psychiatric training. Psychotherapists are usually
trained in another discipline which may be psychiatry, nursing, psychology, or social
work amongst others, and will have undergone some form of advanced training in
psychological and counselling techniques.
There is a current debate about the difference between counselling and psychotherapy
with no clear-cut definition between the two. On a simple level, someone may need
counselling to help them deal with a particular crisis or situation in their lives such as
divorce, redundancy, or other traumatic event. Counselling can help an individual feel
better and more positive, it can improve confidence and help a person regain control
of their lives. Psychotherapy on the other hand can help people to deal with
psychological problems which may have developed over a period of time or that
require some kind of specialist help. As you can see, there is a great deal of overlap
So what sort of problems can psychotherapy help with?
Basically, anything that is causing emotional or psychological distress. For example:
* Anxiety and Stress
* Panic Attacks
* Relationship problems
* Difficulties at work
* Eating disorders
* Alcohol and drug abuse
* Social exclusion
* Problems relating to sexuality
* Post traumatic stress disorder
* Personality disorders
* Victimisation and abuse
* Obsessive compulsive disorders
* Post natal depression
How do I get referred for psychotherapy?
You could start by speaking to your doctor as he or she will be able to advise you on
the best course of action for you and your particular circumstances or you may prefer
to seek out a suitable therapist yourself on a private basis.
Current NICE guidelines recommend that when someone is suffering from a mental
health problem they should be offered some form of therapy before resorting to drugs.
In the past this has not always been possible due to a general lack of therapists in
some areas so doctors were often left with little option other than to prescribe
medication. However, the NHS in the UK plans to increase the number of therapists
in order to make talking therapies more available on the NHS. Indeed, in the light of
recent reports that Prozac and other SSRIs are ineffective for some types of
depression, in the future psychotherapy is likely to become one of the first options in
any treatment plan for mild to moderate depression as well as other types of mental
What are the different types of psychotherapy available?
There are many different types of psychotherapy available, so finding the right one for
you can be daunting if you don't know what the various options are. Broadly speaking,
some of the most common approaches include cognitive behaviour therapy,
psychoanalytic psychotherapy and group therapy.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT as it is sometimes referred to aims to change
the negative behaviour patterns or ways of thinking that may be quite destructive into
more positive ways of thinking in order to bring about a change in the way that an
individual perceives themselves, those around them and the world in general. By
talking to a cognitive behaviour therapist about how you feel about yourself, your
environment and the people around you and exploring how the way you think
influences your behaviour, new ways of coping and dealing with situations can be
This type of therapy is aimed at reaching the underlying reasons for the psychological
problems or distress experienced by an individual, which are often subconscious in
nature. By understanding the causes then it is possible to reach a new level of
awareness so that the individual can alter their thinking patterns and behaviour and
regain a sense of wellbeing.
Sometimes people who are suffering from similar problems and issues may benefit
from group therapy sessions. The main advantage here is that someone undergoing
group therapy doesn't feel alone, they have the support of others in the group who are
able to understand what each person is going through, which can be a positive step
forward to becoming well again.