What’s Psychotherapy?

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When we talk about therapy, some people conjure up images of Sigmund Freud and his couch. Freud was innovative in so many ways, but therapy has evolved a long way since his time.

Psychotherapy (otherwise known as “therapy” or “talk therapy”) is an effective and evidence-based form of treatment for many disorders. Over 75% of people who engage in therapy report a significant benefit. In fact, a study that examined brain scans in a group of (unmedicated) patients and then again in the same group of patients after they received psychotherapy showed significant functional brain changes and improvement. I quote these study to my patients who are seeking a “biological” or “medical” intervention to make them feel better; therapy is as much of a valid medical intervention as medications are in many cases!

There are several different forms of therapy. Many practitioners may opt to utilize one or another depending on your unique needs, as some conditions may respond better to a certain psychotherapy approach. Some examples of psychotherapy include psychodynamic psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some treatment approaches are based on a long-term form of therapy, while others are structured to be short-term. Some treatment plans are based on frequent therapy, while at other times, people only go to therapy as needed. Each person and situation is different, and an initial consultation with your therapist will help determine which form of and frequency of therapy is right for you.

The psychotherapeutic relationship is a very special one. A strong relationship between the client and therapist is the cornerstone to successful psychotherapy. Therapists vary greatly, so it’s important for you to find a therapist who is the right fit for you.

There has to be trust between you and your therapist in order for you to feel comfortable expressing your feelings and experiences, many of which may be hard to talk about. Confidentiality is the rule of thumb, to ensure your privacy is protected, and there are very few exceptions to maintaining your session information as a private one.

Lastly, most psychiatrists are highly trained in various forms of psychotherapy and can often provide therapy with or without concurrent medication prescription. Even if you only see your psychiatrist for medication evaluations, she can usually use her psychotherapy training to gain a deeper understanding of you and your needs, while also communicating with your therapist to ensure the best possible treatment.