Psychotherapy – what is it?

The question of what psychotherapy is, is posed often these days. Many say that psychotherapy is something that rich Americans enter into in order to solve their luxury problems. This may well be. Psychotherapy, however, is also many other things depending on how it is practiced and with what intentions. A definition of psychotherapy could for example be: An in depth developmental process, which happens in the cooperation between a well-educated psychotherapist with clinical competence and one or more clients. The developmental process should rather cover the following aspects: the psychological, physical, spiritual, emotional and the intellectual. Work should be supported by a psychotherapeutic theory and follow its methods and principles.

What is psychotherapy for?

In the Nordic region, there has in particular previously, been a common assumption that people should be able to take care of themselves, not complain, and be satisfied with little. There may well be some merit in this way of thinking, but it is not quite contemporary. Today, not complaining and being satisfied by little means something entirely different from a hundred years ago. Due to the cultural and commercial development undergone by society, values and our perception thereof change. Currently, humans’ most important tool is not just her body, but also to an ever increasing extent her psyche and her readiness to meet life with all of its aspects. This is why the need to take care of oneself and the ways to do that is differs from a time where survival mostly depended on how much physical labor a family had the strength to perform together. This is where the question of psychotherapy’s usability emerges.

Psychotherapy gaining more acceptance

Psychotherapy has become more common and more accepted gradually as more and more people have discovered that it could do them some good. There are two common reasons as to why people today are able to overcome the old barrier of former prejudices towards doing something good for themselves. One is the experience of more or less acute needs for help with regards to handling difficult life situations and/or suddenly arising traumatizing events. The other is the wish to get to know one self better, to discover more about one’s own resources to deal with new or difficult challenges, to free more of the energy needed to increase one’s quality of life, or to reach goals that formerly seemed unattainable.

Theory, methods and principles

There are currently a number of different types of psychotherapies available on the market. If you want to enter into psychotherapy as a client, it is of importance to know what you are choosing between. All good psychotherapy is anchored in a theoretical base with accompanying methods and principles. When an individual seeks to enter into psychotherapy, the therapist should inform the client of what type of therapy he or she offers the client, what the main principles, theory and methods are and what that can mean for the client and the work ahead. A psychotherapeutic course of events should be dynamic, flexible, alive, and there has to be a readiness on the part of both the therapist and the client to, according to need, change the focus, tempo and to some degree the methods of the therapy.

Various schools within psychotherapy

Sound psychotherapeutic basic theories does not equal good psychotherapy, even though a therapy resting on a solid foundation of development and understanding is considerably better equipped than if it does not. Some therapies overlap in method or theory. Sometimes you will also find that various psychotherapeutic schools lay claim on having developed a certain theory or a certain method and that the various proponents in certain cases can be at each other’s throats in an attempt to prove which school came up with the theory or method.

This does not hinder the various psychotherapeutic approaches to be good in their own ways, and it is of utmost importance that there are different schools to be at hand. Various methods and principles are differently suited to different people. And as far as the psychotherapist is concerned, it is both evident and necessary that he or she has chosen the form of therapy best suited to his or her way of working, both during his or her own therapy, education and supervision, as well as in his or her work as a psychotherapist and supervisor to others.

Text and illustration: Tine Sylvest
Photographs: Bo Mellberg

The author is a certified Psychotherapist, Art Therapist and Workplace Counselor/Coach

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