How can psychotherapy nourish your soul?
Psychotherapy refers to a group of therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, dialectal behaviour therapy or family therapy. These treatments are provided by counsellors, psychiatrists or psychologists, and are aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health concerns.
Also known as “talk therapy”, psychotherapy borrows core principles from the ancient Greeks, who were the first to recognise the value of using encouraging and consoling words to treat mental illness.
Unlike counselling, which generally refers to a shorter-term treatment, psychotherapy typically works over a longer period. As such, counselling deals with current, surface level issues. In contrast, psychotherapy involves extensive examination into a person’s psychological history to help understand his/her deep-seated patterns of behaviour.
The purpose of psychotherapy is to use talking with a trained professional as a way of exploring thoughts, feelings and behaviours that may be the root of emotional distress and suffering. By gaining insight and awareness into patterns of discomfort, dissatisfaction or suffering, psychotherapy supports a process of change, helping a person take control of how they respond to challenging situations using effective and healthy coping skills.
The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS) are peak national bodies for accredited psychotherapists. Psychotherapy is also regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Benefits of psychotherapy
Psychotherapy offers benefits for a host of mental and emotional concerns.
Psychotherapies have been shown to be efficacious for a wide-range of psychiatric disorders, such as attention hyperactive deficit disorder, bipolar, depression and anxiety, trauma and stress-related disorders, personality disorders and eating disorders. This highlights the importance of these therapies in treating a myriad of conditions.
In a recently published study it was reported that psychotherapy is as effective as antidepressant medication in treating major depressive disorder.
Importantly, not everyone who receives psychotherapy therapy is diagnosed with a mental illness. This treatment modality can be helpful in a number of ways, for example:
- Resolving conflict
- Relieving stress and anxiety
- Coping with major life events
- Managing a physical health problem
- Recovering from trauma or abuse
- Improving poor sleep
Psychotherapy may also assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Alcohol and drug addiction
- Anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders
- Behavioural issues
- Body dysmorphia
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic attacks
- PTSD and trauma
- Stress and tension
What to expect from a psychotherapy session
Your first psychotherapy session will typically involve a discussion with your therapist about you and your needs. The therapist will gather relevant information to try and understand your situation and personal psychological history. This will assist them in determining the best course of action for your treatment.
As psychotherapy is a two-way process, the interpersonal relationship between you and your therapist is key. It is, therefore, very important that you feel comfortable during your sessions, so asking questions is encouraged. A good fit with your therapist is crucial for effective treatment.
Should you decide to try psychotherapy, it is important to approach therapy with the right mindset so you can reap the most benefits. It is recommended that you stay honest and open with your therapist, and actively participate in discussions and decision-making. If at times you lack motivation or feel your progress is slow, remember that healing takes time and psychotherapy can be a long-term process.
You do not need a referral to see a psychologist or counsellor. In Australia, however, referral by a doctor specifically to a psychologist may entitle you to Medicare rebates for up to 10 one-on-one sessions. Counsellors are not included in the Medicare rebate scheme. To find a local psychotherapist, the following websites may be helpful: The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia and Good Therapy Australia.