What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapist.  Psycho the rapist.  Unfortunate that.

To me a good psychotherapist is a modern day shaman, a spiritual leader, a parent, an explorer, and a scientist.  Much more than just a scientist.  Clever thinking gets you so far but rationality, and the white coat of science can be a shield to hide behind.  To me a good psychotherapist has much more in common with Indiana Jones than Dr Jones.

The following definition is taken from the UKCP website:

Psychotherapy is the provision, by a qualified practitioner, of a formal and professional relationship within which patients/clients can profitably explore difficult, and often painful, emotions and experiences.  These may include feelings of anxiety, depression, trauma, or perhaps the loss of meaning of one’s life.  It is a process that seeks to help the person gain an increased capacity for choice, through which the individual becomes more autonomous and self determined.  Psychotherapy may be provided for individuals or children, couples, families and in groups.

A psychotherapist thus works with people who have emotional, behavioural, psychological or mental difficulties.  The actual work is mainly to encourage the client to talk and explore their feelings, beliefs and thoughts, and, sometimes, relevant aspects of and events in their childhood and personal history.  Some psychotherapists work to help the patient/client understand more about their problems and then make appropriate changes in their thinking and behaviour.  As a result, the work can last over quite a long term. Brief psychotherapy is also possible, especially to help someone resolve a more immediate crisis.  There are a number of different psychotherapeutic approaches: Cognitive Behavioural, Psychodynamic, Psychoanalytic, Systemic (Family & Relationship), Humanistic, Integrative, Transpersonal, Experiential, Hypno-Psychotherapy, etc.

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