What is Psychotherapy?  

By Jordan Mayfield, LSCSW, LAC

 

The field of psychotherapy has changed a lot since the days of Sigmund Freud, and yet many misconceptions remain about what therapy is. While the discipline of therapy still holds Freud’s approach with a great deal of respect, the days of laying on a therapist’s couch and blaming your mother for all your problems are practically non-existent. Therapy in the modern age is a helpful catalyst to reduce stress, break old patterns of behavior, and find more functional coping strategies to manage our ever-changing world.

One of the most common myths about psychotherapy is that it is a therapist’s job to “give advice” or “tell you what you should do.” That is actually the opposite of what a therapist’s role is. Instead, a well-trained therapist will help you explore and expand your own strengths, resources, and problem-solving strategies to work towards your stated goals. In this way, therapists serve as a non-judgmental sounding board who helps you identify things you would like to change.

Another misconception is that therapy always requires drudging up the past and telling your whole life story. Today, most therapy approaches focus on solutions to current issues, and spend time focusing on the past when it is relevant to the current problems and goals. Research supports this approach, indicating that too much time spent re-living the past actually may be re-traumatizing or keep a person stuck.

Another myth is the idea that effective therapy only involves talking. Hence the common term, “talk therapy.” To clarify, while some venting is useful, chronic venting or complaining about one’s life or situation in sessions is not. People may do that at home for free. Rather, a skilled therapist will help move clients from problem-oriented thinking to solution-oriented thinking. This requires not just talking, but doing.  For therapy to be effective, it requires behavior change and attempts at new skills outside of the session.

Many people feel that they are not “sick enough” to need or benefit from the therapy process. This is also not true. Therapy is especially beneficial to those experiencing a situational stress or crisis that has resulted in some noticeable symptoms, like anxiety or depression.  It can also be helpful for people who have a desire for increased self-awareness to better understand how they want to live life.

And finally – therapy does not have to last forever. Just like physical or rehab therapy, psychotherapy today is designed to be time-limited and goal directed. At Valeo BHC, specifically, it is our goal to help you acquire the internal and external resources to achieve your goals so that you may increase your quality of life outside of therapy. Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job so you can get on with your life.

We understand that the world we live in may feel scary and hard at times, and we all face a unique set of hurdles in navigating our lives.  When it all feels overwhelming, therapy truly can help. The research on the effectiveness of therapy has been repeatedly confirmed.  So, keep in mind – If you are struggling, you are not alone. Things can get better. We and other therapists throughout the community, are here to help you figure out how.

For more information on this and similar topics, visit Valeo Behavioral Health Care’s website at: http://www.valeotopeka.org.

 

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