What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is an invitation offered by a trained psychotherapists to aid clients in reaching their full potential. Psychotherapy includes techniques to increase awareness, within your choices of thought, feeling or action. Psychotherapy can increase the sense of well-being and can better manage discomfort or distress. Psychotherapy can help you to deal with behavioral or emotional problems and psychological reactions to life events.
Types of Psychotherapy
This is the traditional talk therapy, where by gaining insight (understanding) from your past and childhood, you can modify how you feel. Types include Freudian, and Jungian therapy. It is extremely useful in treating depression, anxiety, trauma and self-exploration.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people change how they think, feel, or act in order to improve their mood, reduce stress, or achieve other important health and life goals. Some goals may be specific, such as reducing worrying or procrastination, whereas others can be more general, such as figuring out why one’s life seems to lack meaning, passion or direction, and figuring out what to do about it.
There are three parts to CBT:
- How you think (cognitive) can and does change your behavior
- The way you think may be monitored and altered
- The desired behavior change may be affected through changes in the way you think.
“Cognitive Behavior Therapy is focused on the present rather than the past,” said Deanna Barch, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and supervisor of the social anxieties group therapy project.
“It’s focused on the kinds of thoughts, beliefs, ideas that people have currently and how that influences their emotions and behaviors. It also focuses on what behaviors you are actually engaging in and not engaging in at the moment, in the here-and-now.”
The Cognitive Model
This therapy focuses around a cognitive model, which states that individual’s perceptions are where problems lie. The notion of the cognitive model is that these perceptions influence the way people think and behave. According to this model, a patient’s symptoms stem from distorted perceptions about themselves and the world around them. When an individual’s perceptions and basic understanding of the world around them are distorted, it creates distress and anxiety. The cognitive model aims to realign the individuals’ perceptions with reality by helping individuals learn how to recognize distorted thoughts and beliefs and then modify them to better represent reality. When the individuals begin to have more realistic thoughts, their symptoms tend to be become less severe, and, in many cases, go away.
Cognitive Therapy Goals
The goal of cognitive therapy is to identify what exactly is causing the patient distress. Then, working from there, the therapist can create a treatment plan to help alleviate, and ideally ultimately extinguish the symptoms. In treatment, the therapist tends to begin by identifying the patient’s assumptions about themselves and the world around them, and seeing how these thoughts are causing negative emotions and behaviors. The therapist then looks for information that can counteract these negative assumptions, slowly showing the patient how to modify their negative assumptions.
Cognitive Therapy in Practice
An example of a patient and therapist in cognitive therapy: A student receives a D grade on a test, and takes that information and begins to think, “I’m a terrible student”. The student then focuses on that negative idea, which leads to negative emotions, perhaps frustration, hopelessness, and despair. The individual begins to truly believe that they are a terrible student because of this one test grade. Because of these thoughts and feelings, the student may begin to exhibit behaviors that reinforce her perception of being a bad student, such as choosing not to participate in class discussions, answer questions, try for extra credit, etc. The individual will then, inadvertently, start to exhibit behaviors of a “bad student” because of this. However, the irony is that what is making the individual a bad student is her own thoughts and emotions of believing that she is a bad student. A therapist working with this individual will help her realize that it is her own perceptions of herself that is causing her to feel like she is a bad student, rather than her actually being a bad student. The reality of the situation is that this individual received one bad grade, and although she has created a world for herself in which this makes her a bad student, in reality, she is not.
Below is the Chinese character meaning “to listen”. The character embodies the essential aspects necessary to listen completely. You can capture the full spirit of listening when you give your ears, eyes, undivided attention, and heart. Listening is the most important part of therapy.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
— Ralph Nichols