What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is an applied science for the treatment of psychological and emotional issues.
The origin of psychotherapy is the field of psychoanalysis, which emerged in the early part of the twentieth century, and profoundly influenced mental health care with a few key discoveries.
Perhaps the most important of these was the ‘unconscious’ or ‘sub-conscious’, which includes everything we do not know about ourselves. All the memories, motivations, fears, hopes, desires and drives that move us every day to pursue our interests and determine our reactions to the unexpected.
In the words of the poet John O’Donohue, “so much of what delights and troubles you, happens on a surface you take for ground.” Whether it’s choosing one path instead of another; one partner, career, dream, vice or value; so much depends on the influence of things in our psychology about which we are mostly unaware.
The significance of this observation is impossible to understate. We do not - and cannot - completely know ourselves.
Which means that when we are troubled by our choices, or when aspects of our experience are confusing or overwhelming, it helps to consider the underlying factors which provide context and perspective to what is happening on the surface of our lives. This leads to more capacity for choice, understanding and self-acceptance. It also helps to undo the influence of past trauma.
With all this in mind we can expand our definition of psychotherapy to say that psychotherapy treats issues by making conscious their underlying psychological landscape.
How to do that is an evolving discipline, which began with Freudian psychoanalysis, and now includes several branches of theory and practice.
For example, psychodynamic and existential psychotherapy focuses on the relationship between therapist and patient, exploring unconscious processes as they emerge in the here-and-now of the session; somatic psychotherapy treats the body as the site of exploration; and expressive arts therapies use artistic expression to explore the same unconscious elements.
Most psychotherapists use an integrative approach that draws knowledge from across these branches of theory to develop their own style and emphasis.
You can read more about my approach here︎︎︎
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