Psychotherapy is an effective conversational treatment method for mental disorders and problems. Conversations between the client(s) and the expert counsellor are central. Treatments are short if possible and lengthy if necessary, because in some severe mental health problems, the main effect of treatment can only be achieved after about a year.
What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy. When you receive psychotherapy, you have a number of conversations with a therapist. This is more than ‘just talking’: in psychotherapy, you learn, among other things, what you yourself can do to reduce your symptoms. You can, for instance, practice looking at certain things in a different way or learn different behaviour. Or by discovering what happens in the interaction between you and the people around you. Psychotherapy can encourage you to discover unknown sides of yourself.
At the beginning of treatment, the therapist will draw up a treatment plan with you. This will include the following:
- what your symptoms are and what problems you will work on in therapy.
- what type of therapy you have agreed with your therapist
- which goals you want to achieve with the treatment
Purpose of psychotherapy
Reducing psychological symptoms or making them more manageable is the aim of psychotherapy. Here, the client’s commitment is as important as the psychotherapist’s expertise. The result depends on the nature of the problems and a person’s own abilities. For a client, psychotherapy is often hard work. The process often involves ups and downs. Successful psychotherapy does not guarantee that the client will be happy for the rest of his or her life and cannot change circumstances such as low income or unemployment. But with the help of psychotherapy, it is possible for the client to learn to manage problems better.
When is psychotherapy the right choice?
Psychotherapy is the first-choice treatment for anxiety, mood and personality disorders according to guidelines, it is the preferred treatment for children, adults and the elderly with both single and multiple, complex psychological problems, and often personality problems.
Psychotherapy has great diversity in
- the different treatment situations tailored to it (outpatient, day clinical and inpatient);
- the different types of treatment intensity;
- the choice of different methods and techniques.
How does psychotherapy work?
Psychotherapy can be useful for a wide variety of complaints, whether emotional, psychological or physical.
But how does psychotherapy actually work? And what do you need to know about the course of therapy?
The introductory meeting
When you have chosen a psychotherapist who appeals to you, you can make an appointment for an introductory meeting. You do not have to share your story when making an appointment. During the intake the therapist will make ample time for this.
This meeting serves to see if the therapist can do something for you. The psychotherapist gets a picture of your story and your complaint and you get a picture of the method and the therapist as a person.
During this conversation, you draw up a question for help (what are you struggling with) and a goal (what do you want to achieve and how will you do it).
During this intake you can also feel whether it ‘clicks’ between you and the therapist, which is very important for the therapy to go well. If it feels right, you can start working together from the next session.
The course of therapy
During the following sessions, you go deeper into your theme. This can be done in different ways (e.g. through conversation, through exercises, in a creative way,…) depending on the form of therapy and the request for help. Not all therapy is talk therapy. There are many methods of psychotherapy. The approach may also differ from session to session. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with the method.
The psychotherapist helps you feel emotions in a portable way, look at yourself and gain insights. Together, you look for underlying emotions, recurring patterns and, of course, solutions to feel better.
After a few therapy sessions, you can pause and check whether the functioning and contact feel good. It is appropriate to try therapy for a few sessions because you usually need to get used to the new way of dealing with yourself.
A healthy therapeutic relationship will allow you to take back control of your life fully independently. The idea is not to become dependent on the therapist or therapy to make you feel good.
Regularity and duration
The regularity of appointments depends on how you feel. Sometimes it is good to meet every week, but every 2 weeks or more spread out is also possible.
It is difficult to determine in advance how long a therapeutic process will take and how many sessions are needed to get rid of your complaint. It depends on the complaint, the intensity, the frequency of appointments, your budget, etc. A few sessions are often needed before you start to feel the effects. In general, you could say that a therapy process should bring clarity between 5 weeks and a year. Longer may be useful and necessary, depending on the complaint and your needs.
You choose how long you go into therapy and when to stop therapy. Sometimes the psychotherapist will indicate that the goal has been reached and that you can continue independently. You can also indicate this yourself when it feels right for you.