Psychotherapy which is sometimes referred to as talk therapy is a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Most psychotherapy takes place with a licensed and trained mental health care professional and a patient meeting one on one or with other patients in a group setting. Psychotherapy can help patients live happier, healthier, and more productive lives using evidence based psychiatric procedures that draw upon many different disciplines in the realm of psychology. Cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and many other forms of talk therapy are utilized to help patients work through a litany of problems. Psychotherapy is primarily a dialogue between a qualified psychologist and a patient. A supportive environment is established which allows the patient to talk openly with an objective, neutral, and non-judgmental audience. Through this relationship, the patient is empowered to identify opportunities to improve their quality of life. Once the patient has the tools to overcome the original obstacle but they can apply what they have learned to other issues that arise throughout their lifespan. Patients often turn to psychotherapy because they feel depressed, angry, or anxious and these feelings are affecting their quality of life. Psychotherapy is also a viable option for those facing some of life’s more stressful occurrences such as losing a job, losing a loved one, transitioning to a new stage in life, divorce, professional anxiety, or starting a new job. Psychotherapy is recommended for individuals that feel overwhelmed, a prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness, problems don’t feel better despite efforts, difficulty concentrating, excessive worry, and always expecting the worst. Often problem behaviors are a motivator to seek treatment such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, being aggressive, or generally harming others.
The ancient Greeks are considered to be the first civilization to treat mental illness as a medical condition and to understand the value of positive dialogue. There were few advancements and many setbacks throughout the millennia until Paracelsus advocated psychotherapy as a viable treatment for those with mental issues in the early 16th century. By the mid 1800’s advocates for the value of talking began to appear such as Walter Cooper Dendy who first coined the term psycho-therapeia. However, there is one person who is considered the father of the science, Sigmund Freud. He developed psychoanalysis at the beginning of the 20th century and made many observations on the subconscious, infantile sexuality, dream analysis, and his model of the human mind. For the first half of the 1900’s Freud’s theories were the main forms of psychotherapy that were applied for treating patients. By the late 1950’s a greater understanding of psychology led to new techniques and therapies being applied for treatments.
Cognitive and behavioral therapy approaches were increasingly combined and grouped under the umbrella term cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the 1970s. Many approaches within CBT are oriented towards active/directive yet collaborative empiricism (a form of reality-testing), assessing and modifying core beliefs and dysfunctional schemas. These approaches gained widespread acceptance as a primary treatment for numerous disorders. A “third wave” of cognitive and behavioral therapies developed, including acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, which expanded the concepts to other disorders and/or added novel components and mindfulness exercises. Counseling methods developed, including solution-focused therapy and systemic coaching.
Postmodern psychotherapies such as narrative therapy and coherence therapy did not impose definitions of mental health and illness, but rather saw the goal of therapy as something constructed by the client and therapist in a social context. Systemic therapy also developed, which focuses on family and group dynamics—and transpersonal psychology, which focuses on the spiritual facet of human experience. Other orientations developed in the last three decades include feminist therapy, brief therapy, somatic psychology, expressive therapy, applied positive psychology and the human givens approach. A survey of over 2,500 US therapists in 2006 revealed the most utilized models of therapy and the ten most influential therapists of the previous quarter-century.