What is psychotherapy?
A psychologist can help you work through such problems. Through psychotherapy, psychologists help people of all ages live happier, healthier and more productive lives.
In psychotherapy, psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people develop healthier, more effective habits. There are several approaches to psychotherapy — including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal and other kinds of talk therapy — that help individuals work through their problems.
Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. You and your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best.
By the time you’re done, you will not only have solved the problem that brought you in, but you will have learned new skills so you can better cope with whatever challenges arise in the future.
What are the different kinds of psychotherapy?
There are many different approaches to psychotherapy. Psychologists generally draw on one or more of these. Each theoretical perspective acts as a roadmap to help the psychologist understand their clients and their problems and develop solutions.
The kind of treatment you receive will depend on a variety of factors: current psychological research, your psychologist's theoretical orientation and what works best for your situation.
Your psychologist’s theoretical perspective will affect what goes on in his or her office. Psychologists who use cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, have a practical approach to treatment. Your psychologist might ask you to tackle certain tasks designed to help you develop more effective coping skills. This approach often involves homework assignments. Your psychologist might ask you to gather more information, such as logging your reactions to a particular situation as they occur. Or your psychologist might want you to practice new skills between sessions, such as asking someone with an elevator phobia to practice pushing elevator buttons. You might also have reading assignments so you can learn more about a particular topic.
In contrast, psychoanalytic and humanistic approaches typically focus more on talking than doing. You might spend your sessions discussing your early experiences to help you and your psychologist better understand the root causes of your current problems.
Your psychologist may combine elements from several styles of psychotherapy. In fact, most therapists don’t tie themselves to any one approach. Instead, they blend elements from different approaches and tailor their treatment according to each client’s needs.
The main thing to know is whether your psychologist has expertise in the area you need help with and whether your psychologist feels he or she can help you.
How do I find a psychologist?
If you plan to use your insurance or employee assistance program to pay for psychotherapy, you may need to select a psychologist who is part of your insurance panel or employee assistance program. But if you're free to choose, there are many ways to find a psychologist:
- Ask trusted family members and friends.
- Ask your primary care physician, obstetrician/gynecologist, pediatrician or another health professional. If you’re involved in a divorce or other legal matters, your attorney may also be able to provide referrals.
- Search online for psychologists’ websites.
- Contact your area community mental health center.
- Consult a local university or college department of psychology.
- Call your local or state psychological association, which may have a list of practicing psychologists organized by geographic area or specialty.
- Or use a trusted online directory, such as APA’s Psychologist Locator Service. This service makes it easy for you to find practicing psychologists in your area.
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