Psychotherapy Information Guide

What is Psychotherapy?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychotherapy is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It teaches people strategies and gives them tools to help manage their symptoms better and function at their best in everyday life.

People turn to psychotherapy for different reasons, these include: dealing with severe or long-term stress from a job or family situation, the loss of a loved one, or relationship or other family issues. Changes in sleep or appetite, low energy, a lack of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities, persistent irritability, or a sense of discouragement or hopelessness that won’t go away.

Most psychotherapy takes place with a licensed and trained mental health care professional and a patient meeting one on one or with other patients in a group setting. Sometimes psychotherapy alone may be the best treatment for a person, depending on the illness and its severity. Other times, it is combined with medications. Therapists work with an individual or families to devise an appropriate treatment plan.

Writing for the BBC James Tighe notes that "Psychotherapy-is-often seen as synonymous with psychiatry. However, the 'talking cure' includes several therapeutic approaches used to treat emotional distress, psychiatric disorders and everyday stress."

Visit following link for a collection of articles, tips sheets and links to research to better understand psychotherapy and how it works.

Types of Psychotherapy

Many kinds of psychotherapy exist and there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach. Some people may have a treatment plan that includes only one type of psychotherapy. Others receive treatment that includes elements of several different types. Among the most common psychotherapies available are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a blend of two therapies: cognitive therapy (CT) and behavioral therapy. CT was developed by psychotherapist Aaron Beck, M.D., in the 1960's. CT focuses on a person's thoughts and beliefs, and how they influence a person's mood and actions, and aims to change a person's thinking to be more adaptive and healthy. Behavioral therapy focuses on a person's actions and aims to change unhealthy behavior patterns.

CBT helps a person focus on his or her current problems and how to solve them. Both patient and therapist need to be actively involved in this process. The therapist helps the patient learn how to identify distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns, recognize and change inaccurate beliefs, relate to others in more positive ways, and change behaviors accordingly.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is most often used on a one-on-one basis to treat depression or dysthymia (a more persistent but less severe form of depression). The current manual-based form of IPT used today was developed in the 1980's by Gerald Klerman, M.D., and Myrna Weissman, M.D.

IPT is based on the idea that improving communication patterns and the ways people relate to others will effectively treat depression. IPT helps identify how a person interacts with other people. When a behavior is causing problems, IPT guides the person to change the behavior. IPT explores major issues that may add to a person's depression, such as grief, or times of upheaval or transition. Sometimes IPT is used along with antidepressant medications.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Historically, psychodynamic therapy was tied to the principles of psychoanalytic theory, which asserts that a person's behavior is affected by his or her unconscious mind and past experiences. Now therapists who use psychodynamic therapy rarely include psychoanalytic methods. Rather, psychodynamic therapy helps people gain greater self-awareness and understanding about their own actions.

It helps patients identify and explore how their nonconscious emotions and motivations can influence their behavior. Sometimes ideas from psychodynamic therapy are interwoven with other types of therapy, like CBT or IPT, to treat various types of mental disorders.

(Information courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health).

Essential Reading

Featuring contributions from some of the most influential and enigmatic thinkers of the 20th century, Psychotherapy Classics: Landmark Articles in the History of Psychotherapy and Counseling is essential reading for anybody with an interest in this area.

Significant Aspects of Client-Centered Therapy By Carl Rogers

In this landmark publication Carl Rogers outlines the origins of client-centered therapy, the process of client-centered therapy, the discovery and capacity of the client and the client-centered nature of the therapeutic relationship.

The Problem of Psychotherapy by Laurance Shaffer

How can we understand what takes place in the therapeutic interview? Why does it readjust the distressed person? Under what conditions is psychotherapy applicable? What techniques, applied in appropriately selected circumstances will produce predictable and effective results?

Psychotherapy And The Placebo Effect by David Rosenthal & Jerome D. Frank

Describes the placebo effect, discusses some of its implications for the evaluation of psychotherapy, and makes recommendations concerning research design in psychotherapy based on these considerations.

Rational Psychotherapy and Individual Psychology by Albert Ellis

One of the first published accounts of rational psychotherapy; a theory of personality and a system of therapeutic technique that would eventually develop into what is now known as rational emotive behavior therapy.

Recollections of A Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: The Case of "Prisoner K" by Thomas-Szasz

Fascinating account of "psychoanalytic psychotherapy" conducted by Thomas Szasz; who was soon to elevated into a position of international renown and controversy following the publication of his classic text "The Myth of Mental Illness."

Psychotherapy As A Learning Process by Albert Bandura

In this classic paper eminent psychologist Albert Bandura explores systematic attempts to apply principles of learning to the area of psychotherapy. Bandura begins this exploration by asking whether human behavior can be modified through psychological means and if so, what are the learning mechanisms that mediate behavior change? He then sets about discussing some of these learning mechanisms in turn i.e., counterconditioning, extinction, discrimination learning, methods of reward, punishment and social imitation.

See following link for full details.

Psychotherapy Classics: Landmark Articles in the History of Psychotherapy and Counseling

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