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Everyone has periods in their life when they are distressed and experience problems in simply living. This is could stem from their own deep-seated beliefs or perceptions, or they could be affected by outside environmental factors, such as relationship problems, bereavement or desire for personal change. Psychotherapy is one of the most effective and long-lasting treatments in use today for emotional and psychological difficulties. Just what is psychotherapy though, how can it help and who might benefit from it?
Unlike drug therapy, psychotherapy is, in the main, talk therapy which is used to help people to overcome emotional, behavioural, personality and psychiatric disorders. Psychology literally means study of the mind, and by helping people to identify feelings, thought patterns and coping strategies which may have developed as early as childhood, it provides individuals with greater insight into their problems and motivations, allowing them to adopt more constructive approaches which lead to fuller, happier and more productive lives.
As we go through life, each of us learns to respond to people and situations in ways which, at some level at least, appear to meet our needs. Sometimes, however, the strategies that we learn are based on beliefs or assumptions which are fundamentally flawed. While they might initially lead to us obtaining the desired results, ultimately they can prove to be counter-productive or even hazardous to our well-being. Typically, these responses are learned and adopted at a subconscious level, however, so that in later life when they no longer serve our purpose, we have no idea what has gone wrong and are simply left feeling stuck or lost.
If this occurs, the individual can feel distressed, confused, unhappy or in turmoil. Working alongside a fully-trained and experienced psychotherapist in an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality, patients have the opportunity to explore past and current experiences and come to a better understanding of their own thoughts, beliefs and feelings and how these help to determine successful and unsuccessful outcomes in their lives. In some cases, they may work with the therapist in a series of one-to-one sessions, whilst in others it may be more beneficial for them to take part in couples or group therapy during which the way that the individuals underlying issues reflect in their interactions with others more readily comes to light. The aim is to provide opportunities for individuals to help find their own way to living in a happier, more resourceful way.
Although many would argue that psychotherapy and counselling are one and the same, there is, in fact, one very important difference. Whereas counselling tends to focus on more immediate difficulties and how these might be resolved, the problems which are typically addressed by psychotherapy are ones which have their roots in the past. In many cases they stem from childhood or adolescence, and in some they may be so distressing that they have been buried deep in the subconscious. Generally, of course, this means that psychotherapy treatment tends to last longer.
Psychotherapy can be used to treat a range of conditions which frequently develop as the result of deep-rooted emotional and psychological problems, including: