What is psychotherapy like?
Individual or personal therapy is just that, personal. Everything that happens is confidential between you and your therapist and you may find yourself sharing things that you have not shared with anyone else.
The downside of this is that sometimes we don’t hear what it is like from friends, family or work colleagues who have found it helpful.
So, on these pages you'll find throughout, quotes from real people sharing their experiences (all names have been changed).
Why does talking help?
There are many ways of thinking about it but I might describe psychotherapy as giving space to parts of you which you may or may not be aware of, but which might be either causing you difficulties in your current life or be a very important part of your experience and who you are but which have been lost, hidden away, not shared with others. Discovering these lost parts may help you to live in a way which feels more alive, more at ease and true to yourself and less limited by ways of behaving, thinking or feeling that are causing you problems or sadness.
The experience of feeling heard and understood, often for the first time, may bring deep relief from distress and anxiety. Insights into emotions which seem confusing can bring greater self-awareness and set you on a new path with others.
If you think of the many experiences you have had to bring you to this point in your life it could be thought about as your unique story, but does that story make any sense to you?
Being given the opportunity to talk about what seems important or feels troubling in either past or current experiences, to reflect on this with a skilled professional may help you to process it perhaps in a new way, so that you can move forward differently – find new solutions to old problems. This takes time and is more experiential than intellectual, it is entirely collaborative.
The relationship with your therapist is an essential part of this process. You may have feelings about this relationship and how we interact with each other that if thought about can illuminate your experience of other important relationships in your life. In psychotherapy we believe that often the root of our difficulties lies in our early relationships.
How long does it take?
Everyone is different, but as each of us develops habitual ways of being over each of the years we have lived unravelling this and making changes will take time.
Open-ended. The usual model for counselling and psychotherapy is ‘open-ended’, meaning you decide as we go how long you’d like to continue for and when it is time to end. I tend to work mostly with people over the longer term.
Twelve weeks. If for any reason you wish to try something more focused around a single issue I am trained in a 12 week model of brief psychotherapy, which uses the same principles, but we would choose a single focus and seek to find some insights around a particular aspect of your present difficulty. This is not CBT. Those who have tried CBT and didn't find that it worked for them, went far enough or was lasting often find that psychotherapy can provide something more.
Is there a difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
Counselling is primarily a particular way of listening; as such it will always be a part of each session. It also means that I would not make judgements or offer advice nor would I talk about myself.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy builds on this but draws from the theories of psychoanalytic thinking – the work of writers and clinicians including Freud, Jung, Klein, Winnicott and their followers - as well as the findings of the latest evidence-based research.
What is the evidence?
If you would like to find out more about the evidence base for psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy see here
A major recent finding has been that whilst the benefits of other therapies decay over time, patients who undergo psychodynamic psychotherapy appear to be making considerable psychological gains long after treatment has ended.
If you have found this helpful or interesting there will be more to read on my blog where I will post occasional articles, book reviews and thoughts from the field of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and everyday mental health.