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What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a place where you can work through your problems with a trained psychotherapist.

Psychotherapy is grounded in dialogue and it occurs within the therapeutic relationship that you create with your therapist. The therapeutic relationship is designed to provide you with the safety and security you need to be able to talk openly and explore your experiences.

Psychotherapists also apply scientifically validated skills and techniques to help people develop healthier and more productive lives.

Psychotherapy this way road sign

Are there different types of psychotherapy?

The content, format and techniques used in psychotherapy is informed by the theoretical orientation of your psychotherapist.

There are four primary schools of thought (psychodynamic, behavioural, cognitive and humanistic) each of which provides a unique framework to understanding our human experience. Given this experience is exquisitely complex; each approach has merit and provides a useful “road map” for understanding and changing behaviour and personality. 

These schools of thought are further subdivided into the more than 1000 types of psychotherapy that have collectively come to be known as "alphabet soup" (e.g., CT, BT, CBT, REBT, EFT, ACT, DBT, MBSR, MBCT, IPT, CFT, ISTDP, etc.).

Is psychotherapy for me?

Some people enter psychotherapy because of a specific problem, such as feeling depressed, anxious, or angry.

Some people are looking for assistance with solving short-term problems or navigating stressful life events, such as facing an empty nest, burning out on the job or navigating a divorce.

Still others enter into psychotherapy to unlock new potential, learn about and explore who they are and work toward maximizing quality of life and well-being.

What is expected from me in psychotherapy?

Unlike medical or dental treatments which don’t require much of you, psychotherapy is an active process that requires you to “drive” the session by sharing your thoughts and feelings.

Consolidating what you learn in therapy requires practice. The more you practice and apply your awareness, knowledge and skills, the more you will benefit from therapy.

Psychotherapists cannot “fix” you. We are not healers. We are helpers. We help you to work through your problems and build a life of purpose. Ultimately, however, it is up to you to “be the change..."

You might benefit from psychotherapy if:

  • You are feeling overwhelmed
  • You are experiencing prolonged helplessness, hopelessness or sadness
  • Your problems don’t improve despite your efforts
  • You continue to make the same mistake over and over again
  • You worry about everything, fear the worst and you are always “on edge”
  • Fear is interfering with your life
  • You are having a hard time adjusting to a traumatic or stressful life event
  • You are engaging in behaviour that you find troublesome (e.g., aggression, drinking, drug use, gambling)
  • You have low self-esteem
  • You are lacking meaning and purpose in your life
  • You have difficulties expressing or asserting yourself
  • You want to maximize potential
  • You want to improve psychological wellbeing
  • You want to build a deeper understanding of who you are

Is psychotherapy effective?

Yes! Research shows approximately 75%- 80% of people who enter into psychotherapy show some meaningful benefit, when compared to those who don’t receive any form of treatment.

Factors influencing the effectiveness of therapy

The effectiveness of therapy is influenced by many things, including:

  • Strength and quality of the therapeutic relationship
  • Techniques and treatments used
  • Clinical expertise and experience of the therapist
  • Readiness and commitment to implement change

Benefits and risk

Commonly reported benefits include improvements in mood, anxiety, decision-making abilities, self-awareness, emotion regulation, insight, purpose in life, self-esteem, relationships and overall well-being etc.

Nevertheless, therapy is challenging and can be painful at times. For example, you may recall troubling memories, feel unpleasant emotions, face fears, think uncomfortable thoughts, or make lifestyle changes that create discomfort in those around you.

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