Different opinions still arise among people, when talking about psychotherapy. In Western countries, visiting a psychotherapist is a reflection of high concern for holistic personal health. However, many people still have a lot of prejudice regarding psychotherapy. The most common is that psychotherapy is attended only by "crazy" people, which of course is not true. With mental health problems on the rise, especially anxiety and depression, psychotherapy can offer consolation to many different people.
It can most simply be defined as a process in which an individual observes their life, their emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Through conversation and relationship they form with a psychotherapist, they get to more deeply underestand their own mentality, the causes of our emotions, thoughts and actions. It is important to emphasize that psychotherapy is not counselling, a psychotherapist will not provide them with advice on what to do and how to do it. He or she will help with specific questions to discover the essence, the origin of the problem.
The relationship between a psychotherapist and a client is not the same as the number of relationships we have with friends or to whom we trust some of our problems. The therapeutic environment provides a safe space without condemnation, in which we can relax and discover our inner sources of strength and quality. Research proves that one of the most healing aspects in psychotherapy is the alliance that develops between a psychotherapist and a client.
Whether it is done in person or online, psychotherapy is a process that takes place in the relationship between the psychotherapist and the client, and in it the client must most importantly feel safe. This is taken care of by the psychotherapist with his attitude, which must be non-judgmental, compassionate and respectful. On the other hand, he has to provide the right amount of frustration, set healthy boundaries and challenge client’s perceptions of himself and others. Through their relationship, the client learns and consolidates new functional patterns of emotion, thought, and behavior.
The change does not happen overnight. It takes some time, perseverance and hard work. Imagine that you have lived with certain patterns for 45 years and now you would like to solve and eliminate them in five hours. Some problems, such as prolonged episodes of depression or anxiety, are more difficult and complex than others, some are easier and process faster, yet others deal with our greater resistances and denials. Rushing in the therapeutic process is neither desirable nor helpful.
Psychotherapy is suitable for everyone. Every individual sometimes finds themselves at a crossroad, when they no longer know how to move forward, when there are many challenges ahead of them, when it seems that their lives are lined up in a vicious circle of repetitive patterns. Psychotherapy is not limited by age, nor by one’s educational achievements.
The most common problems clients, who come to a psychotherapist, face are:
There are a number of effective types of psychotherapy. Some work better than others in treating certain disorders and conditions. In many cases, therapists use a combination of techniques.
Roughly speaking, psychotherapeutic approaches can be divided into four groups:
In analytical and psychodynamic psychotherapy setting, the psychotherapist and the client focus on raising awareness of the life situation through exploration of the unconscious. During the process, they discover a deeper insight into past and present relationships with others. The goal is deep and long-term changes on a personal and emotional level. Psychoanalysis is usually a very time consuming process that usually proceeds for years.
The cognitive - behavioral approach helps a client identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. It is based on a paradigm, that there is always a connection and interaction between thoughts, emotions and behavior. If we change our thinking, we can achieve changes in our emotional response and thus in our behavior, which is a key goal of this approach. An individual involved in this form of therapy is regularly given homework to work on, that supports them in solving their problems inbetween sessions. The cognitive - behavioral approach is a very structured approach, relatively short and time-limited. There is not so much an emphasis on the therapeutic alliance between the therapist and the client, but is more focused on techniques, objectivity, measurability and descriptiveness.
In a systemic approach psychotherapy setting, the system is at the forefront, the network of relationships that are established between members of this group. Therapy is usually focused on the family. Every event, or mental health problem (depression, anxiety, burnout,...), has an impact on every member involved. What happens to one member of this system also affects everyone else. Our past experiences from the primary family are also expected to have an impact on our future lives and relationships with others. Systemic therapy seeks to address the individual in that family environment and network of relationships that are most important to him or her emotionally and psychologically. Namely, humans are beings of relationships and this approach tends to change the fundamental emotional, mental and behavioral patterns that are repeated in our relationships with others.
Humanistic approach emphasize an individual’s experience. This field of psychotherapy includes several different areas, such as gestalt therapy, transactional analysis, reality therapy and logotherapy.
Gestalt therapy is a client-centered approach that helps clients focus on the present and understand what is really happening in their lives right now, rather than what they may perceive to be happening based on past experience.
Transactional analysis focuses on characteristic interactions between individuals and the “games” they play in social situations. It discusses the roots of these actions and how they are learned.
Reality therapy is based on choice theory, that views behaviors as choices. It states that psychological symptoms occur not because of mental illness, but due to people irresponsibly choosing behaviors to fulfill their needs.
In logotherapy, our free will is at the forefront. It is based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find meaning in life.
Research on psychotherapeutic process suggests that, a long-lasting and safe, trusting relationship between the psychotherapist and the client influences and heals more than a type of psychotherapeutic approach, This is key in psychotherapy success. Of course, the motivation of the client, persistence and activity in making changes in all spheres of his life, both in the emotional field, in thinking and behaving, also greatly contribute to success.
The success of psychotherapy depends largely on the individual entering the psychotherapeutic process. An individual with great initiative, a genuine desire for change, with strength, courage and perseverance, will be richly rewarded.
We can visit the psychotherapist in person, usually once a week (more frequently in psychoanalytic setting), on the same day of the week and at a regular time. In case of relationship trouble, it makes sense, of course, to visit a psychotherapist together with your partner and attend relationship therapy. It is also possible to attend group psychotherapy where you are part of a group. The group dynamics that are established in the group help individuals in their further development, in recognizing and changing thought, emotional and behavioral patterns. Modern technologies, however, allow us to meet with a psychotherapist in online therapy through a video call. This is especially suitable for those individuals who are too far from the therapist's location, are abroad, at high-risk pregnant women, the disabled, or who are less suited for personal psychotherapy due to the nature of the work or other circumstances. Partner therapy can also be done online. But nowadays most importantly, online version of therapy is very useful at a time when it is desirable that there be as little contact between people as possible during isolation.
At the beginning of psychotherapeutic process, together with the therapist, we determine the goals that we will pursue during the process. The reason why we start attending psychotherapy is usually only part of the problems or the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The symptoms may be something that seems like anxiety, depression or an eating disorder, but deeper trauma can be discovered in the process. The goals vary from case to case, but they all have in common the elimination or managing of symptoms. Psychotherapy supports the personal growth of an individual in making better use of his potential in all areas of life.