PsychologyUnited Kingdom

How Psychotherapy Treatment Works

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking an emotional toll on people all over the world. Here is how psychotherapy could help.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its accompanying stress relating to fear, illness, and death of loved ones, lockdowns and restriction of movement, job losses, and financial worries, it feels like the world has been turned upside down.

Those with high resilience will find it easier to accept the multitude of changes as the new normal and try to adapt, but many will struggle to adjust. Such changes can be particularly devastating for people struggling with emotional or mental issues even before the catastrophic pandemic.

Psychotherapy offers help with dealing with stress and change, as well as long-standing or unresolved trauma.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the use of psychological rather than medical methods to treat patients with emotional difficulties or mental illnesses. It is aimed at changing behaviour to assist the patient in overcoming their problems.

“There are different approaches to psychotherapy; it’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapy. It’s essential to have a good understanding of that before you embark on working with a therapist,” according to Siobhan Murray, acclaimed psychotherapist, life coach focusing on stress, burnout and resilience, and author of The Burnout Solution.

Psychotherapy as a whole is the practice of talking therapy.

Siobhan Murray

Psychotherapy approaches are varied, with some having been in use for several decades, and others being more experimental.  According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a psychotherapy theory acts as a roadmap and guides the psychologist through the process of understanding their client’s problems and developing solutions.

The APA lists five broad categories of types of psychotherapy:

  • Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies (focusing on unconscious motivations)
  • Behaviour therapy (changes in behaviour)
  • Cognitive therapy (emphasizes thoughts)
  • Humanistic therapy (based on self-determination)
  • Integrative or holistic therapy (blended elements of the whole person)

According to Murray, psychotherapy can be used short-term with limited sessions to deal with immediate issues, or long-term, leaving it open-ended, when there are deeper and more complex issues. 

In talking to Medical Travel Market, Murray also says that finding “the right psychotherapist is one of the most important parts of the process as creating a bond and trust allows for an honest, deeper connection between therapist and client.” 

One of the leading life coaches in London, Nick Hatter, explains the differences and similarities between psychotherapy and life coaching as follows:

“Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental health illnesses – usually through talking therapy. Patients who are in crisis, or who are highly dysfunctional, often benefit more from this. Life coaching, however, typically works better with clients who are more functional and resourceful. There is an overlap between the two for sure, and it’s a grey and nuanced area.”

Hatter says that hypnotherapy can be used to heal mental illness. “For example, the ‘Rewind’ hypnotherapeutic technique, derived from NLP, can be used to treat trauma and phobias” and more recent techniques such as Clinical EFT have also been shown to be effective for treating trauma. “The bottom line,” says Hatter,  “is that psychotherapy, usually based on approaches which deeply explore your childhood and the unconscious psyche, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are certainly not the only tools available.”

Who can benefit from psychotherapy, and how?

“Psychotherapy can treat a multitude of issues such as difficulties dealing with daily life, burnout (both personal and professional), trauma, loss, divorce, anxiety, addiction, and depression,” according to Murray. 

Many patients with emotional issues or dealing with extreme stress find it difficult to verbalize their feelings and struggles with friends or family and often fear being ridiculed or being told to ‘buck up’. Some think that psychotherapy is only beneficial for mental illness and therefore lose out on the support and help a psychotherapist can offer.

As Murray explains, “Working with a psychotherapist will allow you to examine, without fear of judgment, the issues you may be experiencing.  A psychotherapist will provide a safe place, whether in person or via phone or video call, where there is unconditional positive regard for the client. The client has the opportunity to work through their issues and work through understanding emotions and behaviours and, if needed, learn new skills to change behaviours to create better wellbeing.”

Sometimes patients must try more than one type of psychotherapy to find what they are comfortable with and are advised to talk to their psychotherapist about what to expect. Discomfort is required for real change to occur and can lead to a happier, healthier version of yourself, leaving you to live up to your full potential.

Hatter reminds patients to get help when needed. “Of course, it is wise to speak to your doctor about potential treatment options if you are in distress or a serious crisis.”

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