Psychotherapy: What It Is and What It Is For

patient being treated by a psychiatrist

In layman’s terms, psychotherapy is a type of psychological treatment wherein a patient talks about their mental health and emotional issues to a licensed and qualified mental health provider. Conversely, you can also consider becoming a psychotherapist yourself. Many schools around the country offer summer courses for psychotherapists that can help you help others.

Throughout your discussions, your therapist will learn more about your feelings, your thought and behavior patterns, and your moods and emotions. Through this, they can diagnose and come up with an actionable plan for you to follow so that you can be equipped with the right mental and emotional tools to cope and lead a better life.

Psychotherapy is used to address a variety of mental and emotional disorders, but the most common ones treated include:

  • Anxiety Disorders

Disorders that affect a person’s ability to think clearly in times of stress, such as chronic anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorders

  • Mood Disorders

Disorders that affect the way a person regulates their mood and emotions, such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder

  • Addiction

Disorders that make a person dependent on substances or self-destructive habits, such as alcoholism, drug dependence, compulsive gambling, etc.

  • Eating Disorders

eating burger

Disorders that affect a person’s appetite, whether increasing or decreasing it because of underlying psychological trauma

  • Personality Disorders

Disorders that affect a person’s outward personality, such as borderline personality disorders or dependent personality disorders

  • Psychotic Disorders

Disorders that affect a person’s ability to stay grounded in reality, such as schizophrenia, delusions, and the like

However, seeing a psychotherapist does not mean you will be diagnosed with any of the above or a disorder. Often, mentally healthy people see a psychotherapist to address their life’s stressors. They also have conflicts and issues shared by the majority of the population.

Psychotherapy can be used to resolve conflicts and reduce anxiety brought about by significant life changes (i.e., divorce, death, employment, moving houses, etc.). It can be used as a source of comfort for people with chronic health conditions. Psychotherapy is effective in helping people recover from any kind of abuse and has been cited for helping people with sleep disorders as well.

Psychotherapists often use a wide variety of cognitive techniques to help their patients and can refer patients to a psychiatrist if the therapist feels like medication is necessary. However, more often than not, psychotherapists will employ as much talk-therapy as possible before resorting to pharmaceutical solutions.

Are There Risks to Psychotherapy?

As with all psychiatric procedures, psychotherapy involves exploring deep-seated emotional issues, repressed traumatic memories, and negative experiences. That can make any person uncomfortable, but the risks, while present, are minimized by the therapist, who will often match the type and intensity of a person’s therapy based on the severity of their condition.

Again, there are certain risks, but this is mitigated quickly by psychotherapists using therapy. They will often negate the risks by referring a person to a psychiatrist for medication if they feel it is in the best interest of their patient.

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