What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, sometimes called talking therapy or talk therapy, is a form of treatment that helps people through a wide variety of mental illnesses and difficulties they may have in their daily life. Some types of psychotherapy include cognitive behavioural therapy, psychoanalysis, interpersonal therapy and supportive therapy.



Psychotherapy aims to enable patients to understand their feelings better and what makes them feel anxious, depressed, sad and positive. When a patient better understands this, it can help them cope with difficult situations in a more adaptive way.


What does psychotherapy consist of?

Some forms of psychotherapy are short term and only last a few sessions, while others can last years. Each session is typically 1 hour long and occur once or twice a week.


The sessions can be one-to-one - with just you and a psychotherapist - or in pairs or groups. Your psychotherapist will establish a structure and the techniques they use will depend on your type of mental problem.


What conditions can psychotherapy treat?

Psychotherapy can provide help for a range of mental conditions and problems such as:

When combined with medication, psychotherapy can also help treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.


How do I know if I would benefit from psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy benefits a wide range of people with many different problems. Some signs may indicate that you could benefit from it. These can include but are not limited to the following:

  • You experience overwhelming feelings of sadness or feeling helpless
  • You are drinking too much or your drug-taking is out of control
  • Your phobia is preventing you from doing everyday tasks or enjoying yourself
  • You are becoming more aggressive and it results in harm to you or others around you
  • You always feel anxious or as if something bad is going to happen
  • You frequently find it difficult to concentrate on important activities such as work or your studies
  • Your relationships are falling apart because of your behaviour
  • You struggle to cope with everyday problems
  • You aren’t resolving your problems, despite support from friends and family members
  • Your disputes with family or friends aren’t resolving


What are the types of psychotherapy?

Different techniques and approaches in psychotherapy can be used depending on your circumstance. These include:


  • Behavioural therapy helps people to understand how the changes in their behaviour can bring about positive changes in how they feel towards everyday activities and personal relationships. It looks at what you are doing and attempts to teach you how to turn the situation into a positive experience.
  • Cognitive therapy looks at how the things we think about can shape how we feel. Changing your beliefs about yourself or life around you can change your perspective and emotions. Looking into your thinking patterns can help break negative ones and replace them with positive thinking patterns.
  • Family therapy uses the context of the family to treat problems. For example, a child may be depressed because of their type of relationship with their parents. It often looks at improving communications between family members and involves discussions and problem-solving sessions.
  • Interpersonal therapy is similar to family therapy but looks at your personal relationships outside of your immediate family. The aim is to help you modify your approach to relationships and better manage them.
  • Group therapy typically involves a group of up to 12 people all with a similar problem talking amongst themselves. The therapist will observe how each person talks about their problems and offers them feedback on how to better manage them. This type of therapy is good for people who may feel like they are alone with their problem; knowing that other people also share similar problems, can greatly help to feel less isolated.
  • Mindfulness-based therapy helps focus you on your thoughts and feelings as they appear moment by moment. It combines meditation and breathing exercises with cognitive therapy.


There are many more forms of psychotherapy used across the world and they can sometimes go by different names. Other forms include:

  • Exposure therapy
  • Humanistic therapy
  • Guided self-help
  • Behavioural activation integrative therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing therapy

As you can see there are many types, but although they have their own particularities and slight differences, they all share a similar goal that is to help patients understand their problems and develop solutions to improve their day to day lives.


How effective is psychotherapy?

Many studies have shown that psychotherapy is a very effective and versatile form of treatment. To be sure that psychotherapy works for you, you should be fully engaged with the sessions and participate in the activities and tasks set by your therapist.


Many people also find that simply being able to talk to a professional about their problems can help lead them towards a solution and overcome specific problems.

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