What is Psychotherapy?
At its most basic level, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the practice of helping people deal with mental, social, and emotional conditions by speaking with them and suggesting methods by which they may increase their chances of overcoming challenges and living a normal life. Psychotherapists observe and record words and behaviors to help assess their clients; determine how they respond to stimuli, people, and the world around them; and recommend courses of action, which are usually behavioral but may include pharmaceutical help.
Psychotherapy is similar to counseling, and the two can overlap. However, the former tends to look more deeply, addressing the underlying causes of a person’s problems as well as how to solve them. Learn the differences between psychotherapy and counselling here.
Approaches to Psychotherapy
The variety of treatment modalities and interventions includes:
Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy where art-making is used to allow people to express their worries and feelings in a different way, at their own pace. Individuals do not have to be good at art. There is no right or wrong way to make art in therapy. Art therapy allows the person to make new discoveries and enables the person to make positive changes.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy where people learn to challenge their negative thinking and self-defeating behaviour. People feel more optimistic as they think in more positive and balanced ways and are better able to work and enjoy life.
Eye Movement Desensitization Re-processing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy suited for people who have experienced trauma. Eye movements are used to reactivate people’s natural healing processes.
Family and Systemic Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy where families, couples, or individuals with systemic issues are engaged. This is in order to help them discover different ways of relating to each other that they find more amicable.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy deals with unconscious emotional conflicts that contribute to maladaptive patterns.
Schema Therapy is a form of psychotherapy where people’s schemas, or maladaptive themes or patterns in people’s lives, are addressed and healed. The goals of Schema Therapy are to help patients to stop using maladaptive coping styles and to get in touch with their core feelings; to heal their early schemas; to learn how to flip out of self-defeating schema modes; and to have their emotional needs met in everyday life.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a brief form of psychotherapy that emphasizes looking for solutions rather than focusing on problems.
Supportive Therapy is a form of therapy where people are supported and encouraged to cope with and solve their problems.
Who can benefit?
Psychotherapy can help people in a range of situations. For example, it may benefit someone who:
- has overwhelming feelings of sadness or helplessness
- feels anxious most of the time
- has difficulty facing everyday challenges or focusing on work or studies
- is using drugs or alcohol in a way that is not healthful
- is at risk of harming themselves or others
- feels that their situation will never improve, despite receiving help from friends and family
- has experienced an abusive situation
- has a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia, that affects their daily life
Some people attend psychotherapy after a doctor recommends it, but many seek help independently.
Since psychotherapists can help a wide variety of people, there are several specializations within the profession.
This includes (but not limited to):
- Behavioral therapists
- Cognitive-behavioral therapists
- Interpersonal therapists
- Mindfulness-based therapists
- Recreational therapists
- Child therapists
- Marriage and family therapists, etc
Many of these therapist positions have similar educational and career paths, but some have specific requirements as well.
Essentially, a psychotherapist is trained to treat people for emotional problems. Depending on your degree, you may work with different groups or people. For instance, social workers often work with families, children, and the needy, while psychoanalysts typically work with individual children, adolescents, or adults.
All types of psychotherapists may work with their clients for months or even years, and long-term relationships between psychotherapist and patient are often the most effective. In any psychotherapy role, your job is to help people heal themselves and cultivate positive thought patterns and behaviors, especially as it comes to dealing with stressors and challenges.
Important skills include:
- A thorough understanding of modern psychotherapeutic thought and approaches
- Working with people in a calm and nonjudgmental manner
- Identifying the underlying causes of negative thoughts and behaviors
- Communicating clearly and effectively with both patients and peers
- Providing thorough reports and maintaining excellent records
- Perform experiments, collect data or examine multiple studies to form meta-conclusions, if you are in a research role
Of course, those aren’t the only skills you’ll need, but they form the basic foundation for a long and successful career.
To become a psychotherapist, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. Upon completion, you can start earning your master’s degree in psychotherapy. While pursuing your master’s degree, you can start accruing relevant practicum and experience necessary for licensing.
Ready to take your first step?
If you have a basic bachelor’s in psychology or social sciences, consider a 2-year part-time Master of Arts in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy, a dual specialisation master’s to propel your career.
Don’t have a degree or a related degree? Consider Master of Science in Psychology awarded by London Metropolitan University or Aventis School of Management’s 6-months part-time Graduate Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling. You can work towards being a counsellor or psychotherapist in just 2.5-3 years!