What is Psychotherapy?

The words “counseling,” “therapy,” and “psychotherapy” generally describe the same thing and are used interchangeably. Psychotherapy is a complex and dynamic process that develops within the boundaries of regular sessions between a client and a therapist. Therapy, at its best, involves the therapist and the client working together to create a common, current context. This interpersonal “context,” or the client-therapist relationship, is the basis for the emotional growth and transformation that occurs in psychotherapy.

The client-therapist relationship differs from other typical relationships in it that requires specific training to conduct as well as requirements and professional ethics around confidentiality, boundaries, and other areas. Through the non-judging, reflective, interactive nature of the therapy relationship, people can develop more understanding  of their emotions and improve their ability to manage what previously felt too difficult. The process can change how we are able to tolerate and accept about feelings and parts of ourselves that are hardest to feel good about, manage, or even acknowledge. The more awareness and understanding we have about ourselves and our feelings, the more at ease we can be in our lives and in our relationships.

I often describe therapy as a process much like organizing a neglected and cluttered closet…stay with me here!  Our goal is to figure out what is actually in there— underneath this, behind that—and to pay attention to what the contents really mean to us. At first we may open up the closet together and slowly begin to look inside, item by item, and, at some point we may find ourselves surrounded by piles of stuff, wanted and unwanted, contents for us to deal with, to examine, talk about, pay attention to, and to figure out what to do with together. Then we are left with the task of reorganizing the space in a new and different way or perhaps saying goodbye to some things altogether.

At times, it may feel like there is simply too much to deal with and getting it all contained again may feel impossible or, perhaps, just opening up the closet to get started may seem overwhelming. Together, in a supportive and safe setting, this taking out, looking at, sorting through, putting away or letting go helps us move through our “stuff” in new, different, and transforming ways.

Who benefits from therapy?

Well, the short answer is just about anyone interested in personal growth, but some very common reasons individuals seek out services are:

  • Depression, Low mood, just not feeling quite right
  • Feelings of dissatisfaction, angst, or being “stuck”
  • Relationship difficulties or conflicts
  • Adjustment to major life changes
  • Trauma and abuse
  • Stress, nervousness, and anxiety
  • Decisions around career or big life choices
  • Not moving forward in work or creative process
  • Current and past family conflicts
  • Grief and loss
  • Stresses of parenting
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Sexuality or sexual orientation

Couples often seek out counseling for:

  • A chance to express feelings or events that they tend to avoid
  • A desire to bring back a sense of togetherness
  • Recurring or specific conflicts
  • Issues around sex and intimacy
  • Communication difficulties
  • Parenting issues or conflicts
  • Breaches of trust
  • Avoiding separation or divorce
  • Managing major life changes or transitions