Psychotherapy is a type of therapy used to treat emotional problems and mental health conditions. These are scientifically validated treatments and involve a systematic approach to treat the condition or disorder. It usually involves talking to a trained therapist, either one-to-one or with a spouse/partner or family. Psychotherapies may also take the form of group therapy, which consists of a group of 8-10 people with similar problems or conditions such as alcoholism or child abuse. Although majority of psychotherapy involves talking, it may also take other forms such as art, writing and music.
Psychotherapy is used to treat a range of mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, etc. It is also used to assist people dealing with serious life threatening illnesses such as cancer or difficult life situations such as divorce, loss of a loved one, victims of crime and trauma. Psychotherapy is also used to address addictive behaviours such as alcohol and tobacco. It is also used to address conflicts and stress in a marriage, family or at work.
During psychotherapy, the therapist assists the client/patient to understand his/her condition, moods, thoughts and behaviours. The client/patient also learns healthy coping skills. You will meet your therapist usually once a week for a few months depending on your specific problem/condition. An individual session usually lasts 45-60 minutes.
Psychotherapists are mental health professionals such as Psychologists and Psychiatrists who are specifically trained in delivering psychotherapy. They undergo years of training and often specialise in a particular form of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic therapy, Interpersonal therapy, Family and Couples therapy are some of the forms of psychotherapy. The type of therapy that is suitable for your condition will be decided by your therapist. Therapists often blend elements of different forms of psychotherapy and tailor the therapy to suit the specific needs of the client/patient.
In some cases, Psychotherapy can be as effective as medication such as antidepressants. However, certain mental illnesses require a combination of psychotherapy and medication and is crucial for successful outcomes. In such situations, your therapist will advise you and recommend medication along with psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is usually most effective when the client/patient willingly undertakes therapy and is motivated to change. In general, there are minimal risks involved in undergoing psychotherapy, except exploring painful emotional experiences and feelings which can be uncomfortable at times. Working with a skilled therapist will help minimise such discomfort as they are trained in gradually increasing the intensity of therapy sessions and will also assist you in exploring such difficult memories.