What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a conversation that helps you to reflect on your life and yourself, in order to become more conscious of the feelings, assumptions and patterns that control your life. By living a more conscious life you become able to change things for yourself.
A psychotherapist is trained to listen attentively to what you say, while at the same time pick up on things you communicate unconsciously. For instance, someone who has a poor self-image may not be aware that she communicates this to others in the tone of her speech, unconsciously inviting others to confirm her poor opinion of herself – leading to a self-fulfilling belief. A psychotherapist will help you become more aware of things you do and say unconsciously.
Psychotherapy is not something that the therapist does to you. It is a collaboration where both you and the therapist work together. In a typical session the client does most of the talking. The format of the session can vary depending on the priorities and communication style of the client. Confidentiality is a cornerstone of psychotherapy and the client may say anything that comes to mind. Topics may include the events of daily life, relationships, sex, money, office politics, and could also include dreams, fantasies, and memories of childhood.
The therapist will listen to what you bring to a session. Not only listening to the content but also listening to the way in which you say it, and paying attention to what you leave unsaid. In general the therapist will allow you to shape the conversation, stepping in to ask questions or steer the conversation only when things are unclear, or you request it.
Psychotherapy takes place in weekly sessions of 50 minutes. It is not an instant treatment. It brings change to your life by helping you discover and establish new ways of seeing and being in the world. Treatment ends when these new patterns are firmly established as a habit. This process takes place slowly over months and, more often, years. While some clients may meet with their therapist more than once a week, frequency is normally not less than once weekly.
Who needs therapy?
Psychotherapy is beneficial to anyone who wants to understand themselves better, to live more consciously and achieve their full potential. It is a rigorous and challenging way to improve yourself – it could be seen as yoga for the psyche. All psychotherapists themselves undergo a lengthy period of therapy during their training and many continue to work on themselves in therapy long after they have qualified.
When something needs to change and you can’t find the way forward. If you notice negative patterns repeating in your relationships, your work or your personal life, therapy can help you understand where the patterns come from, why they repeat themselves and how to change them. To live means to be able to change – a therapist can help you gain the perspective, and the strength of will needed, to keep developing into a fuller, more integrated version of yourself.
Up to 25% of the population experience some kind of mental illness during the year. The duration and severity of the emotional and psychological distress is greatly reduced by treatment. If you are suffering from mental illness you should see your GP. While for some illnesses medication can be helpful, psychotherapy has been shown to be as effective as medication in the short term and, unlike medication, remains effective after the treatment has ended. Your GP may be able to offer you a short course of some form of therapy, however there are frequently long waiting lists.
You and the therapist
The therapeutic relationship is strictly professional, and exists only to help the client. While the client may fully express his/her feelings, needs and thoughts (even those about therapist), and expect them to be heard and responded to – the therapist will expect nothing from the relationship except payment.
Therapists will generally not answer questions, or reveal anything about themselves, for the most concealing their emotional responses during the session. This can sometimes feel strange, but that’s the point, the therapeutic relationship is different. The client pays for the therapist’s emotional and psychological availability, a space where the client’s internal world is privileged.
In addition to offering emotional availability therapists try to be meticulously reliable and consistent in all aspect of the therapeutic relationship. The therapist undertakes to be available for the client’s weekly session each and every week, and give significant notice of any vacations. Your weekly session is your time in the therapists diary.
The firm framework fosters trust and allows the client to be able to express anything and everything with no inhibition or fear of reprisal. It also encourages a high degree of emotional honesty, because when someone is totally focused on listening to you, you might surprise yourself by what you say.
During the course of therapy a client may experience quite strong feelings towards their therapist – sometimes positive and sometimes negative. These feelings come up when the work done in therapy is touching upon a complex, a deep habitual pattern, and drawing it closer to the surface. By talking about these feelings, while they are actually happening, the client and therapist have an opportunity to become aware of an unconscious pattern, creating the opportunity to change it.
Paying for psychotherapy
Fees for therapy vary widely. Generally the more in-demand, experienced and highly trained the therapist is the more you can expect to pay. Be prepared to budget for your therapy long term, at least several months, if this presents difficulty discuss this with your therapist. Many therapists will offer a discounted fee to people on a low income. There are also a number of agencies where you can be offered therapy with a trainee therapist at low rates.
To maintain impartiality psychotherapists are professionally required to be firm about fees. the therapist will raise late payments or disagreements over the bill for discussion in the session, to explore their meaning. Where late payment is the result of financial difficulty the fee may be adjusted.
Therapists will expect you to pay for any sessions you miss, including sick-days and holidays. This is ethical best practice, as it maintains the availability of the therapist within the context of a professional relationship.
Finding a therapist
It is important to choose a therapist you can work with and trust. The better the relationship between you and your therapist, the more you are likely to benefit from psychotherapy.
Deciding to seek help and then choosing a counsellor can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are already in emotional distress. I hope this website will be informative however, don’t hesitate to contact me directly to talk through your questions.