Find out what it involves and if it could help you.
What is psychotherapy?
The term psychotherapy covers a broad range of different types of therapy. The basis of all types of psychotherapy is conversations with a therapist who is trained to help you make sense of, and try to change, things that are troubling you. It is something you take an active working part in, rather than something you are just prescribed or given, such as medication. Therapy usually takes place in regular weekly sessions of around 50 minutes. You may agree a particular timescale for therapy with your therapist, for example eight weeks, or the therapy may be open-ended and continue for several years.
What does the treatment involve?
The therapist aims to build a relationship of trust with you, and create a safe space in which you will feel able to explore possibly painful, emotional issues that have been troubling you, and develop coping strategies to help you move forward. Some forms of therapy may be quite structured while others are more free-flowing. The content of sessions between you and your therapist is confidential. There is nothing stopping you giving it up at anytime, but note that it is a very powerful treatment, and you could experience strong emotions about it and your therapist, which may make it traumatic to end sessions.
How many sessions?
Psychotherapy can be a major commitment both on your time and your money. Psychoanalysis can involve patient and psychoanalyst meeting up to five times a week for sessions of fifty minutes with treatment continuing for years. On the other hand, there are brief focussed therapies like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that may only have eight weekly-sessions.
Where do I go?
Some therapies, such as CBT, are widely available within the NHS, however many, such as Psychoanalysis, are only available privately. Most medical insurance does not cover people for treatment by this method, so generally most people have to pay for it out of their own pockets. Although therapists sometimes offer reduced rates depending on your ability to pay and often trainee therapists will see you at cheaper rates. Trainees are usually experienced health professionals who are under the supervision of a fully qualified therapist. Speak to your doctor (GP) about referrals for NHS services, or contact one of the organisations in the Next steps box to find a private therapist.
Which therapy is right for me?
Psychoanalysis is a process of discovery that aims to eliminate or control mental or emotional distress. It can also be used to help a person overcome a specific problem, or to stimulate overall emotional growth and healing. A person works with a therapist to identify, learn to manage and, ultimately, overcome emotional and mental problems. It is usually only available privately and the therapy sessions can be as often as five times a week, and may be ongoing for years.
Similar to psychoanalysis except that the discussion is more structured and concentrates on specific problems rather than 'free association'. Sessions are usually weekly and therapy may go on for years. Again, it is only usually available from private practitioners.
Cognitive therapy teaches you how certain thinking patterns are causing your symptoms - by giving you a distorted picture of what's going on in your life, and making you feel anxious, depressed or angry for no good reason, or provoking you into ill-chosen actions. It is usually available on the NHS.
Behaviour therapy helps you weaken the connections between troublesome situations and your habitual reactions to them, such as fear, depression or rage, and self-defeating or self-damaging behaviour. It also teaches you how to calm your mind and body, so you can feel better, think more clearly, and make better decisions. It is usually available on the NHS.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
When combined into CBT, behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy can provide you with very powerful tools for stopping your symptoms and getting your life on a more satisfying track. CBT is normally practiced by psychologists, and is most often offered in the form of a series of weekly sessions for a period of eight to 12 weeks. It is widely available on the NHS.
This offers a safe environment in which a group of individuals work to establish a level of trust that allows them to talk personally and honestly and interact with each other. Under the direction of the group therapist, the group is able to give support, offer alternatives, and comfort members in such a way that these difficulties become resolved. During group therapy, people may begin to see that they are not alone and that there is hope and help. It can be comforting to hear that other people have a similar difficulty, or have already worked through a problem that deeply disturbs another group member. It is widely available on the NHS with a referral from your GP.
Read the comment policy
Use our free question and answer service and speak to an expert!