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Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or need help coping with an illness or hardship, such as losing weight or the loss of a job, visiting a psychologist may be a good move for you.


What is psychotherapy?

A psychologist can help you work through problems like the ones mentioned above. Psychologists help people of all ages live happier, healthier and more productive lives. In a therapy session, they will apply certain validated procedures to help people develop more effective habits, and establish peace with their problems. There are several approaches to psychotherapy - including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal and other kinds of talk therapy - that help individuals work through their problems. Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual, the patient, and a psychologist. A therapy session is grounded in dialogue and provides a supportive environment that allows patients to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. You and your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best. More often than not, those who seek therapy will sign up for regular visits in order to stay on track and build a trusting relationship with the psychologist. By the time you’re done, you will not only have solved the problem that brought you in, but you will have learned new skills so you can better cope with whatever challenges arise in the future.

When should you consider psychotherapy?

Given the misconceptions surrounding psychotherapy, you may be reluctant to give it a try. Even without these fallacies, you may feel nervous about trying it yourself. Overcoming that anxiety is worth it - anytime your quality of life isn’t what you want it to be, psychotherapy can help. Some people seek psychotherapy because due to prolonged feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger, while others may need help battling a chronic illness that is interfering with their emotional or physical well-being. Some may just have short-term problems they need help navigating, or perhaps just need an outside opinion - these include going through a divorce, feeling overwhelmed by a new job or grieving a family member's death.

Here are some signs to tell if you could benefit from therapy:

  • You feel an overwhelming, prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness.
  • Your problems aren’t getting better despite your efforts and help from friends and family.
  • You find it difficult to concentrate on work assignments or carry out other everyday activities.
  • You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
  • Your actions, such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs or being aggressive, are harming you or others.
What are the different kinds of psychotherapy?

There are many different approaches to psychotherapy and the kind of treatment you receive will depend on a number of factors: current psychological research, your psychologist's theoretical orientation and what works best for your situation. Your psychologist’s theoretical perspective will affect what goes on in his or her office during a visit. Psychologists who use cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, have a practical approach to treatment. Your psychologist might ask you to tackle certain tasks designed to help you develop more effective coping skills. This approach often involves homework - you may be asked to gather more information, such as logging reactions to particular situations. Or you may be asked to practice new skills between sessions (e.g., asking someone with an elevator phobia to practice pushing elevator buttons). You might also have reading assignments to bolster your knowledge on a certain topic. In contrast, psychoanalytic and humanistic approaches focus more on talking than on doing. Sessions are spent discussing your early life experiences to help you and your psychologist better understand the root causes of current problems you’re facing.

Your psychologist may combine elements from several styles of psychotherapy. Most therapists don’t actually tie themselves to anyone approach or style, but instead, blend elements from different approaches and tailor treatment according to the specific needs of each client. The main thing to know is whether your psychologist is an expert in your area of need and whether your psychologist feels he or she can help you.

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