Psychotherapy is a term that is used to describe the process of treating emotional challenges, psychological disorders, mental distress and some psychiatric disorders, through the use of verbal and psychological techniques. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well- being and healing.

During this process a trained psychotherapist helps the client name, understand, challenge and confront the issue. A wide range of techniques and strategies can be used, depending on the approach used by the therapist. However, the most significant element of psychotherapy is the development of a therapeutic relationship, communication, trust and honesty to overcome problematic thoughts or behaviours.

Psychotherapy is sometimes called a “talking treatment” because it uses talking, rather than medication. The aim of psychotherapy is to enable clients to understand their feelings, (what makes them feel positive, anxious, or depressed) and to find the root/foundation for each emotion. Psychotherapy should focus on finding the client’s own truth, to help the client be more authentic with themselves and to live up to their values. This can prepare them to cope with difficult situations in a more adaptive way.

Psychotherapy can provide help with a range of problems, which includes difficulties in coping with daily life; depression; low self- esteem; the impact of trauma; medical illness; loss (like the death of a loved one); family disputes; sexuality; anxiety and addiction. Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by their problems and unable to cope may be able to benefit from psychotherapy.

It’s important to note that there are several different approaches of psychotherapy and some types may work better with certain problems or issues. Some forms of psychotherapy last only a few sessions, (dealing with immediate issues), while others are long-term, lasting for months or years (dealing with longstanding and complex issues). Session usually last an hour, once a week, and they follow a carefully structured process. The structure of sessions may vary. Therapy may be conducted in individual, couple, family or group settings, and can help both children and adults. Techniques can include other forms of communication, such as drama, narrative story, music, sand and art play. The goals of treatment and arrangements for how often and how long to meet are planned jointly by the client and therapist.

Confidentiality is a basic requirement of psychotherapy. Because clients frequently discuss issues that are highly personal and sensitive in nature, psychotherapists have a legal obligation to protect a client’s right to confidentiality. However, one instance where psychotherapists have a right to breach client’s confidentiality is if clients pose an imminent threat to either themselves or others.

Both client and therapist need to be actively involved in psychotherapy. The trust and relationship between a person and his/her therapist is essential to working together effectively and benefiting from psychotherapy. Although clients share personal feelings and thoughts, intimate physical contact with a therapist is never appropriate, acceptable, or useful.

Psychotherapy is used to help a variety of people. The following feelings are signs that an individual might benefit from therapy:

  • An inability to cope with everyday problems.
  • Difficulty concentrating on work or studies most of the time.
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness or helplessness.
  • A sense that problems never improve, despite receiving help from friends and family.
  • Drinking too much, taking drugs, or being aggressive to an extent that is harming themselves or others.
  • Feeling constantly on edge or worrying unnecessarily.

Types of Psychotherapy

Behavioural Therapy – helps clients to understand how changes in behaviour can lead to changes in how they feel. It emphases on increasing the person’s engagement in positive or socially reinforcing activities. The approach evaluates what the client is doing, and then tries to increase the chance of having positive experiences. The aim is for desirable behaviour responses to replace undesirable ones. Behavioural therapy can help people whose emotional distress stems from behaviours that they engage in. Behavioural therapy often uses classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning to help clients alter problematic behaviours.

Cognitive Therapy- it had a major impact on the practice of psychotherapy, as psychologists and psychotherapists began to increasingly focus on how human thought processes influence behaviour and functioning. Cognitive therapy is centered on the idea that what we think shapes how we feel, and that our thoughts have a powerful influence on our mental well- being. By changing the negative beliefs, it can change the person’s point of view and their emotional state. The goal of cognitive therapy is to identify the cognitive distortions that lead to negative thinking and replace such thoughts with more realistic and positive ones. Cognitive therapy looks at current thinking and communication patterns, rather than the past. The therapist works with the client to confront and challenge inappropriate thoughts by encouraging different ways of viewing a situation.

Humanistic Therapy- humanistic psychology began to have an influence on psychotherapy from 1950s. The humanist psychologist Carl Rogers introduced an approach known as client-centered therapy, which focused on the therapist showing unconditional positive regard, empathy and acceptance to the client. Today, aspects of this approach remain widely used. The humanistic approach to psychotherapy focuses on helping people maximize their potential. Such approaches tend to stress the importance of self-exploration, free will, and self-actualization.

Interpersonal Therapy– focuses on interpersonal relationships. The aim of this form of therapy is to help client understand underlying interpersonal issues that are troublesome, like unresolved grief, changes in social or work roles, conflicts with significant others, and problems relating to others. It helps people learn healthy ways to express emotions and ways to improve communication and how they relate to others. The therapist may help the client to identify relevant emotions, and where these are coming from. Then they can help them to express the emotions in a healthier way. The client learns to modify their approach to interpersonal problems, understand them, and manage them more constructively.

Psychodynamic Therapy- is based on the idea that behaviour and mental well-being are influenced by childhood experiences and inappropriate repetitive thoughts or feelings that are unconscious (outside of the person’s awareness). A person works with the therapist to improve self-awareness and to change old patterns so he/she can more fully take charge of his/her life. The client will consider unresolved matters and symptoms that stem from past dysfunctional relationships. Unresolved issues can underlie behaviours such as drug or alcohol abuse. This can help people to understand the source of their emotional distress, usually by exploring motives, needs, and defenses that they are not aware of. Psychodynamic therapy can help people whose symptoms have not been resolved by other forms of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy has the benefit of giving clients someone to talk to. It can create a new way of looking at difficult problems, and help people move towards a solution.

Is Psychotherapy effective?

One of the common criticisms against psychotherapy is around its effectiveness. The recent research shows that most people who receive psychotherapy experience relief in symptoms and are better able to function in their lives. People who entered psychotherapy, 75% of them show some benefit from it. Psychotherapy can improve emotions and behaviours and can be linked with positive changes in the brain and body. The benefits from psychotherapy also include fewer sick days, less disability, fewer medical problems, and increased overall satisfaction. Numerous studies have recognised brain changes in people with mental illness

(including depression, panic disorder, PTSD and other conditions) as a result of undergoing psychotherapy. In most cases the brain changes resulting from psychotherapy were similar to changes resulting from medication.

Participants can gain better understanding of themselves, and their own goals and values, and can develop skills for improving relationships. However, in order for psychotherapy to work, the person must be actively engaged and work during the session as well as between sessions, by practicing new skills, for example.

When to start psychotherapy?

Even though people might realize that psychotherapy can help them with life’s problems, it can sometimes be difficult to seek help or to recognize when it is time to talk to a professional. It’s worth remembering that the sooner someone will seek assistance, the sooner will start to experience relief. Here are some key symptoms that it might be time to see a psychotherapist:

  • The problem you are facing interrupts a number of important areas of your life e.g. school, work, relationship. The issue is causing significant distress or disruption in your life.
  • You are relaying on unhealthy or dangerous coping mechanisms. If you find yourself dealing with your problem by drinking, smoking, overeating, or taking your frustrations on others.
  • When it has reached a point where other people are worried about your emotional health. When friends and family are conferenced about your well-being.
  • Nothing you have tried so far has helped. You have read self-help books, explored some techniques you read about online, or even tried to ignore the problem. But things seem to be staying the same or getting worse.

Some questions you can consider when choosing a psychotherapist:


Does the therapist appear professional and qualified?

Do you like the therapist’s conversational style?

Are you satisfied with the level of your interaction with the therapist?

Do you feel comfortable sharing your emotions and experiences?

Does he or she seem to understand you?

Psychotherapy can come in many forms, but all are designed to help people overcome psychological problems and live better lives. If you think that you may be suffering the symptoms of a psychological or psychiatric disorder, consider seeking a help from a trained and experienced psychotherapist. You can gain the possible benefits of psychotherapy even if you just feel that there is something “off” in your life that might be improved by consulting with a mental health professional.



  • Smith, M.L. What Research Says About the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy. Psychiatric Services; 2006.
  • Wampold, B. E. The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Models, Methods, and Findings. Routledge; 2001.


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