WHAT IS PSYCHOTHERAPY

Psychologists apply scientifically validated theories and procedures to help people develop healthier and more effective habits and coping mechanisms. Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatments based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. It is grounded in dialogue and it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and non-judgemental.

Psychotherapy helps people to identify and change the thought and behaviour patterns that keep them from feeling or being their best. It does not only help to solve a current problem, but is also helps you to learn new skills to help with challenges that may arise in the future.

It is a good time to seek psychotherapy when you feel that your quality of life isn’t what you want it to be. Some people seek psychotherapy because they have felt depressed, anxious or angry for a long time. Others may want help for a chronic illness that is interfering with their emotional or physical well-being. Still others may have short-term problems they need help navigating. They may be going through a divorce, facing an empty nest, feeling overwhelmed by a new job or grieving a family member’s death, for example.

Signs that you could benefit from therapy may include:

    • You feel an overwhelming, prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness.
    • Your problems don’t seem to get better despite your efforts and help from family and friends.
    • You find it difficult to concentrate on work assignments or to carry out other everyday activities.
    • You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
    • Your actions, such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs or being aggressive, are harming you or others.

If you come to psychotherapy for the first time, it is very normal to be slightly nervous. Many people do not know where to start telling their story. People are often concerned that they will be judged or misunderstood. The relationship with the psychologist is often seen as the most important element in psychotherapy. It is crucial that you feel you have a good connection with your psychologist. Not every psychologist may be a good fit for you, in spite of their experience or knowledge.

 

Below are some useful tips on the most common misconceptions surrounding psychotherapy:

Popular myths about psychotherapy

Myth:
Only crazy people go to psychotherapy.
Reality:
Untrue. People seek psychotherapy for a range of reasons in everyday life. Some pursue psychotherapy for treatment of depression, anxiety, stress or substance abuse. Others want help coping with major life transitions or changing problem behaviours: the loss of a job, a divorce or the death of a loved one. Yet others need help managing and balancing the demands of parenting, work and family responsibilities, coping with medical illness, improving relationship skills or managing other stressors that can affect just about all of us. Anyone can benefit from psychotherapy to become a better problem solver.

Stigma connected to getting help for psychological or behavioural concerns used to be a strong deterrent for people. But getting help is now seen as a sign of resourcefulness. Researchers continue to find new links emphasizing the value of taking care of mental health to ensure good physical health, often called the mind-body health connection. Emotional problems can show up as physical symptoms. And when we are physically ill, we may develop emotional issues.


Myth:
Talking to family members or friends is just as effective as going to a psychologist.
Reality:
Support from family and friends you can trust is very important when you’re having a hard time. But a psychologist can offer much more than talking to family and friends. Psychologists have years of specialized education, training and experience that make them experts in understanding and treating complex problems. And research shows that psychotherapy is effective and helpful. The techniques a psychologist uses during psychotherapy are developed over decades of research and more than “just talking and listening.”

Psychologists can recognise behaviour or thought patterns objectively, more so than those closest to you who may have stopped noticing — or maybe never noticed. A psychologist might offer remarks or observations similar to those in your existing relationships, but their help may be more effective due to their timing, focus or your trust in their neutral stance.

Plus, you can be completely honest with your psychologist without concern that anyone else will know what you revealed. The therapeutic relationship is grounded in confidentiality. (There are a few exceptions where a psychologist has a duty to inform others, such as if you threaten to harm yourself or someone else. But that’s something your psychologist will clarify with you.) In fact, people often tell their psychologists things they have never before revealed to anyone else. If your difficulties have been ongoing without any significant improvement, it may be time to seek help from a trained psychologist.


Myth:
You can get better on your own if you just try hard enough and keep a positive attitude.
Reality:
Many people have tried to solve their problems on their own for weeks, months or even years before starting psychotherapy but have found that that it’s not enough. Deciding to start psychotherapy doesn’t mean you’ve failed, just like it doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you can’t repair your own car. There may be a biological component to some disorders, such as depression or panic attacks, which make it incredibly difficult to heal yourself. In reality, having the courage to reach out and admit you need help is a sign of strength rather than weakness — and the first step toward feeling better.


Myth:
Psychologists just listen to you vent, so why pay someone to listen to you complain?
Reality:
A psychologist will often begin the process of psychotherapy by asking you to describe the problem that has brought you into his or her office. But that’s just psychotherapy’s starting point. They will also gather relevant information on your background, as well as the history of your problems and other major areas of your life, and the ways you have tried to address the concerns. Psychotherapy is typically an interactive, collaborative process based on dialogue and the patient’s active engagement in joint problem-solving.

Your psychologist may give you homework assignments so that you can practice new skills between sessions or reading assignments so that you can learn more about a particular topic. Together you and your psychologist will identify problems, set goals and monitor your progress.


Myth:
A psychologist will just blame all your problems on your parents or your childhood experiences.
Reality:
One component of psychotherapy might entail exploring childhood experiences and significant events impacting your life. Relating information from your family background can help you and your psychologist understand your perceptions and feelings, current coping strategies, or see patterns that developed. The point of wanting you to look backward is to better understand your present and make positive changes for the future.

However, in some instances your psychologist will choose to focus mainly on the current problem or crisis that brought you into treatment and not delve into your past at all. You’ll learn how to incorporate techniques and use tools that will help change your current thoughts or behaviours contributing to your problem. Psychologists who use an eclectic style of psychotherapy will know how to guide the session to include discoveries about your past with reflections on current problematic thoughts or behaviours.


Myth:
You’ll need to stay in psychotherapy for many years or even the rest of your life.
Reality:
Psychotherapy is an individualised process and each person moves at a different pace. A research study showed that half of patients in psychotherapy improved after just eight sessions while 75 percent had improved by the six-month point. It’s something you and your psychologist can talk about in the initial meetings when developing a treatment plan. Your psychologist’s goal is not to keep you on as a client forever but to empower you to function better on your own.

“The worst kind of sad is not being able to explain why.”