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Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a general term used to describe the process of treating psychological disorders and mental distress with open dialogue and psychological techniques. During talk therapy, a trained psychotherapist helps tackle specific or general problems, whether it’s a specific mental illness or a source of life stress. A wide range of psychotherapy techniques and strategies can treat patients, but nearly all of them involve creating a therapeutic relationship, communication and developing a dialogue and working to overcome negative thoughts or behaviors.

Various mental health professionals engage in psychotherapy, including clinic psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, mental health counselors and psychiatric nurses.

Psychotherapy involves a variety of techniques and practices, as methods are based on different factors, such as the education and training of the therapist, the client’s preferences and the exact nature of the client’s problem.

Types of Psychotherapy

The common approaches to psychotherapy include:

  • Psychoanalytic: Involves delving into a patient’s thoughts and past experiences to find unconscious thoughts, feelings and memories that influence behavior
  • Cognitive/behavioral: Involves cognitive and behavioral techniques to change negative thoughts and adverse adaptive behaviors.
  • Humanistic: Therapy that focuses on helping others to maximize their own potential.

Psychotherapy’s History

Psychotherapy dates back to the Ancient Greeks, but it was formally adopted in the 1890s, when Sigmund Freud began using talk therapy to treat his patients. Freud’s most famous techniques included the analysis of transference, dream interpretation and free association. Behaviorism became a prominent school of thought in the early twentieth-century, welcoming different conditioning techniques as important roles in psychotherapy. Many of behaviorism’s methods are still used to help clients change problematic behaviors, such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning.

In the 1950s and 60s, the cognitive revolution took place and changed psychotherapy forever. Psychologists began to focus heavily on how human thought processes influence behavior and functioning. Cognitive-behavioral therapy emerged to help patients understand their thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. CBT is used to treat phobias, addiction, depression and anxiety.

How Psychotherapy Can Help

If you or someone you love struggles from depression or anxiety, psychotherapy can help in the following ways:

  • Understanding behaviors, emotions and ideas that contribute to depression or anxiety
  • Understanding the life problems or events that contribute to mental issues
  • Restructuring thought processes so the patient can alter their attitude about themselves or a situation they consider negative
  • Regaining a sense of control and joy in life
  • Learning coping techniques and problem solving skills