Through psychotherapy, psychologists help people of all ages live happier, healthier and more productive lives. Some people seek psychotherapy because they feel depressed, anxious or angry. Others may want help for an illness that is interfering with their emotional or physical well-being. Still others may have short-term problems or transitions that they need help navigating. For example, divorce, an empty nest, a job change, or grieving a loss.
Signs that you could benefit from therapy 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 everyday activities.
- You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
- Your behaviors and habits, such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs or being aggressive, are harming you or others.
Psychotherapy is a collaborative process between a client and a psychologist. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. You and your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best.
A Blended Approach
There are several approaches to psychotherapy – including cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic and interpersonal- that help individuals work on their problems. Psychologists who use cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, have a practical approach to treatment. This approach often involves homework assignments. You might be asked to gather more information, such as logging your reactions to a particular situation as they occur. You could be given an assignment to practice new skills between sessions, such as asking someone with an elevator phobia to practice pushing elevator buttons. You might also be recommended readings so you can learn more about a particular topic. In contrast, psychodynamic approaches typically focus more on talking. You might spend your sessions discussing your early experiences to help you and your psychologist better understand the root causes of your current problems.
Most therapists don’t tie themselves to any one approach. Instead, they blend elements from different approaches and tailor treatment to each client’s needs. The kind of treatment you receive will depend on a variety of factors: current psychological research, your psychologist’s theoretical orientation and what works best for your situation. Important is that you work with a psychologist who has expertise with the problems that you are seeking treatment.