In general, psychotherapy is a relationship in which one person enlists the professional assistance of another for the purpose of bringing about changes in their own feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and/or behavior. The psychotherapist's task is to help the individuals make the changes they wish to make.
How the psychotherapist goes about helping a client to change will depend upon their training and theoretical orientation. This orientation will affect the therapist's style, focus, and the methods and techniques used in psychotherapy.
The therapeutic process varies depending on several factors, however there are some common aspects of therapy that you are likely to experience when you enter a therapeutic relationship.
Typically, the first session is a consultation session - a time to gather important information about you and whether psychotherapy will be useful to you. This is also a very good time to ask questions you may have for the therapist. You should feel you can trust and respect your therapist and that your therapist is understanding of your situation.
Once you've decided to work with a particular therapist, the next 2-4 sessions are an assessment phase in order to clarify the concerns or problems causing you distress. After this is completed, many therapists help develop a goal plan with their clients to specify what they wish to achieve in their therapy. Some therapists may require more activity during therapy than just talking with you about particular issues. Some therapists may be more direct in session, while others let the client direct the course of therapy.
Some therapies are relatively short, while others require a longer time commitment.
Each session of therapy usually last 50 minutes and you generally meet with your therapist once a week or once every other week.
Cognitive therapy views emotional problems as influenced by negative or extreme thought patterns. These patterns have frequently become so habitual that they are experienced as automatic and go unnoticed by the individual.
While in treatment, clients are taught how to uncover these negative patterns and replace them with more productive or adaptive ways to view life events. Through this process, clients learn self-help techniques that can produce rapid symptom shifts, solve current life problems, and improve self-esteem. This may include activity scheduling, self-monitoring, role-play, gradual exposure to difficult situations, relaxation techniques, and social skills training. This is the "behavioral" part of the therapy.
Cognitive therapy also addresses self-defeating behavior patterns such as problems with assertive communication or intimacy.
The effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies for the treatment of depression, most types of anxiety disorders, and an extensive list of other disorders, is now well supported by a large body of research.
Hypnosis is a procedure during which a psychologist suggests that a client experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior. Hypnosis is typically entered by an induction process which may include suggestions for relaxation, clamness, and well-being. People respond to hypnosis in different ways. Some describe hypnosis as a normal state of focused attention in which they feel very calm and relaxed. Regardless of how and to what degree they respond, most people describe the experience as very pleasant. Some people are very responsive to hypnosis and others are less responsive. Contrary to some depictions of hypnosis in books, movies or television, people who have been hypnotized do not lose control over their behavior. Hypnosis is not a type of therapy. It is a procedure that can be used to facilitate therapy. Hypnosis can be used in the treatment of pain, depression, anxiety, stress, habit disorders, and a variety of other psychological and medical problems. However, it may not be useful for all psychological problems or for all clients.
Mindful meditation is open to all and may be understood as friendly, nonjudging, present-moment awareness. It is a deceptively simple approach which promotes healing and relaxation. Mindfulness allows clients to develop a new and more wholesome relationship with their experience - including fears, worry, anxiety or panic. Mindfulness helps one learn to establish a calm attention and relaxed feeling in the body helping one to tolerate periods of distress and discomfort.
Currently, no one knows exactly how EMDR works. EMDR is a technique that seems to have direct effect on the way the brain functions. EMDR can be thought of as physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. EMDR incorporates several steps including "bilateral stimulation" using eye movements, altering sounds or taps to help one reprocess disturbing materials. EMDR has been shown to help treat post traumatic stress, anxiety, stress, complicated grief, disturbing memories and a number of other conditions.
Self-regulation techniques are essentially self-control strategies such as various forms of relaxation training, guided imagery and diaphragmatic breathing which are helpful in managing various types of anxiety and stress.
Mind-Body medicine is an approach to health care that includes a wide range of behavioral and lifestyle interventions on an equal basis with traditional medical interventions. The patient is understood as a totality of mind, body and spirit. This approach creates a partnership between medical and psychological specialties including physicians, psychologists, chiropractors, nutritionists, massage therapists and yoga teachers. Mind-Body medicine emphasizes patient education and patient self-management. Treatment typically involves an integrated approach which focuses on the biological, social and psychological aspects of a patient's problem(s).