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  • John Christopher

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a therapeutic approach that involves conversations between a trained therapist and an individual seeking help. Through these conversations, the therapist helps the person explore and understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. The aim of psychotherapy is to promote personal growth, alleviate distress, and improve overall mental well-being. It provides a supportive and confidential space for individuals to discuss their concerns, learn coping strategies, gain insights into their experiences, and develop healthier ways of thinking and relating to others. Each therapy session is unique and is tailored to the individual's specific needs and goals.

Artistic image of Psychology someone holding a picture of a human head with rays of sunshine and flowers representing the brain

Psychotherapy encompasses various modalities or approaches, each with its own theoretical foundations and techniques. Here are a some of the more commonly encountered modalities:

1. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and modifying negative thoughts and behaviours that contribute to distress. It helps individuals develop healthier cognitive patterns and learn effective coping strategies.

2. Psychodynamic Therapy explores unconscious processes, childhood experiences, and past relationships to gain insight into present difficulties. It aims to enhance self-awareness and understand how early experiences can influence current thoughts and behaviours.

3. Humanistic Therapy is client-centred approach which emphasises empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness. It focuses on personal growth, self-actualisation, and helping individuals tap into their own inner resources to find solutions.

4. Couples therapy, couples counselling or marriage therapy, is a form of therapy focused on helping couples improve their relationship dynamics and resolve conflicts. It provides a supportive and neutral space where couples can discuss their concerns, enhance communication, and strengthen their bonds. The ultimate goal is to improve the overall quality of the relationship and facilitate a healthier and more fulfilling connection between partners.

5. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps individuals accept difficult emotions and thoughts while committing to values-based actions. It emphasises mindfulness, acceptance, and living a meaningful life.

6. Internal Family Systems (IFS) proposes that our minds are composed of different parts, each with its own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. These parts can sometimes conflict with each other, leading to inner turmoil and emotional distress. In IFS therapy, the therapist helps the individual identify and understand their different parts.

7. Creative therapies encompass a range of therapeutic approaches that incorporate creative and expressive activities into the therapeutic process. These therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, dance/movement therapy, and drama therapy, utilise artistic and creative mediums as a means of communication and exploration. Through engaging in these activities, individuals can express themselves, process emotions, gain insights, and promote healing. Creative therapies can be particularly beneficial for individuals who may struggle with verbal expression or find it difficult to access and articulate their emotions and experiences in traditional talk therapy alone.

8. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) combines cognitive-behavioural therapy with acceptance and mindfulness. It teaches skills to manage emotions, improve relationships, regulate emotions, and tolerate distress. Therapists provide structured skills training on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT promotes acceptance and change for personal growth and improved well-being.

9. An integrative therapist is a practitioner who combines and integrates various therapeutic approaches and techniques from different modalities to create a tailored treatment plan for each client. Rather than adhering strictly to a single theoretical framework, an integrative therapist draws upon multiple perspectives and tools. They may integrate techniques from cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, mindfulness-based approaches, or other modalities, depending on what is most beneficial for the individual.

Choosing a modality of psychotherapy depends on various factors, including the individual's specific needs, preferences, and the nature of their challenges. The different modalities offer unique approaches and techniques, some of which you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating towards; and so this is a great place to start when choosing the modality that is best for you.

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