This article attempts to introduce the basic ideas and tenants of psychotherapy. It starts by introducing the idea of the psychotherapist, their training and the profession. It then goes on to introduce the psychotherapeutic relationship and some of its ideas. It ends by introducing some of the most common psychotherapy theories.
A psychotherapist is someone who provides psychotherapy to clients on a professional basis. This may be to individuals, couples, families or in a group setting. A psychotherapist may have other trainings or backgrounds. For example they may also be a doctor, social worker, mental health worker, nurse or counsellor. However when seeing a client for psychotherapy they will only have that role with the client and not be providing them with any other service.
Psychotherapists will usually have had an intensive training which is generally between 4-8 years in length. This training will have involved a period of supervised practice as well as their own personal therapy. Many psychotherapists will then be members of a professional organisation such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
The Psychotherapeutic Relationship:
The psychotherapist is responsible for creating a relationship where psychotherapeutic change can occur. This involves ensuring that the psychotherapy occurs in a private, comfortable and safe environment. They will offer to the client a certain level of confidentiality which ensures that the client feels confident that they can open up to the psychotherapist without their family friends, colleagues, or other professionals being informed about what they are discussing. The psychotherapist will also listen very carefully to the client and help them to identify their goals and wishes for the work. It is this active listening and engagement by the psychotherapist that helps create the psychotherapeutic relationship.
The way that the psychotherapist works with a client will depend upon their training and the theory that they use to help the client. In general psychotherapy is attempting to help the person live a more satisfying life by helping to: build the persons sense of their own esteem; resolve issues from their past that are affecting them in the present; them to have healthier relationships; and to gain perspective and skills to tackle their problems themselves.
The main approaches to psychotherapy are:
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – This has its roots in psychoanalysis and attempts to work with the clients unconscious processes to help relieve distress and tension.
Person Centred Psychotherapy – This is based on the work of Carl Rogers. Here the psychotherapist offers the core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard to help the client find their own solutions to their problems.
Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy – Here the client’s thoughts and behaviours are focused on and maladaptive thoughts and behaviours are changed to help the person move on fro their situation.
Integrative Psychotherapy – Here the psychotherapist mat be trained in various approaches and adjusts the way they are working to suit the needs of the client.