For those suffering from unhealthy compulsions, problematic behaviours, or dysfunctional social skills psychotherapy has long been offered as treatment. It is billed as a powerful mental health tool to promote positive change in behaviour.
But, what is psychotherapy? And, how does it treat mental illness?
Psychotherapy is the use of psychological techniques and methods based on personal interaction to change behaviour. On the surface, it appears to be very similar to basic counselling and in fact the two treatments share many characteristics. However, psychotherapy differs in its deep roots in philosophy, ethics, and behaviourism.
Human Interaction and Behaviour Change
The core belief of psychotherapists is that behaviour can be changed through consistent human interaction using persuasion and cognitive therapy. They believe that behaviour is a product of the conscious and subconscious mind. Often, unwanted behaviour is the result of misunderstood impulses brought on by flawed beliefs originating in the subconscious.
Freud, Adler, and Jung: The Pioneers of Psychotherapy
Famous psychotherapists include Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung. All three played a large role in the emergence of psychotherapy as a legitimate treatment for common mental issues of their time, mainly phobias and addictions.
These pioneers adopted a Socratic style of therapy in which continually deeper questions are asked in order to plumb the depths of a patient’s belief system. Many of these techniques were originated by stoic philosophers centuries earlier.
Modern psychotherapy can take many forms. Although most therapists believe that individual sessions are optimal, group sessions can also be effective. Remote sessions are becoming increasingly popular. With advances in technology, it has become unnecessary for therapist and patient to even be in the same room.
Many countries have instituted governing bodies and regulatory agencies to oversee the licensing of psychotherapists, but not all. In deregulated areas, it is important to ensure that your therapist has received training in the field. The average licensed psychotherapist has spent at least five years intensively studying their craft.