What is psychotherapy?

Written by: Dr Gabriela van den Hoven
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

The origin of the term psychotherapy is derived from the Ancient Greek psyche (meaning “breath; spirit; soul”) and Therapeia (“healing; medical treatment"). Psychotherapy is a psychological treatment but moreover, it’s an experience. It requires a meeting of at least two people, but it can also be delivered in a group.


Dr Gabriela van den Hoven, a clinical psychologist in London offers psychotherapy to her patients, and is here to tell us more about what psychotherapy involves.

Man having a session with a psychotherapist

A lot of research goes into different treatment models to determine what works best for different people. Nonetheless, it has also been demonstrated that regardless of the treatment model, a key element for a successful outcome has to do with the development of a “good enough” therapeutic relationship. The emergence of a good working therapeutic relationship does not get established by following a standardised protocol. It is an art, grounded in the training of the therapist, which involves years of personal analysis, self-reflection and training.


What are the main goals of psychotherapy?

The main long-term goal of psychotherapy is to enable patients to fully engage with what matters most to them, to feel free to pursue their personal goals, without feeling held back by inhibitions or anxieties.


How long does treatment take?

The length of treatment varies from one individual to another and it can be difficult to predict how long treatment will take before the treatment actually begins. Treatment can last from four to 10 sessions or it can last years, depending on the person’s goals and their past experiences. The length of the treatment is only really known when it finishes.


Do you have any advice for those considering psychotherapy?

People come to therapy because something doesn’t work and they are suffering and going through a hard time. Timing is important for therapy, it’s important to start therapy of your own accord, because you want to and not because other people want you to do it. It’s also good to do your research beforehand, so that you pick a therapist with whom you feel at ease to share your inner world and innermost thoughts with.


If you have questions about psychotherapy and would like to book a consultation with Dr Gabriela van den Hoven, please do so via her Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Gabriela van den Hoven

Dr Gabriela van den Hoven is a leading clinical psychologist based in London who specialises in psychotherapy, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, relationship problems and trauma.

Dr Gabriela van den Hoven is highly experienced in her field, offering psychotherapy assessments, consultations and treatments for adults. During her therapies, which are offered in both English and Spanish, she uses a wide range of psychological interventions to those wanting to move forward and explore issues that are generating problems in their lives. Dr van den Hoven is very passionate about her clinical work and how psychotherapy can bring out our unconscious thoughts and feelings that underline some of our unhelpful behaviour patterns, thus creating new opportunities and ways to relate to ourselves and others.

She has years of experience working in the NHS at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and is currently working at the IPPT (Integrated Psychology and Psychotherapy Team) and her private practice, VD Hoven Therapy, based in London. She is also a fellow associate of the British Psychological Society and registered with the Health Professional Council and the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, and has worked as part of the HIV service at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

HCPC: PYL23061

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