About PsychotherapyBy Angela Buxton MA (Hons) MA ADEP MBACP (Accred)
Psychotherapy can help a person to make substantial changes in the way he or she is living that can enable the person to live a more fulfilled life. It is a powerful therapy which does not simply cover up or suppress unwelcome thoughts and feelings as does the taking of drugs (either on prescription or through self-medication with alcohol, tobacco or other substances). Although drugs and medicinal treatments may be helpful in the alleviation of feelings of distress, they cannot even begin to address the fundamental issues of living that have caused the distress in the first place. Psychotherapy helps people to address the underlying issues in their lives by providing a medium through which they can examine their actions, thoughts, emotions, responses and ways of relating; identify limitations and possibilities; and make choices about how to live.
In times of distress, psychotherapy may be comforting through the provision of a trained professional to listen and validate the client’s feelings while maintaining confidentiality but much more than this, a psychotherapist may be able to help individuals to make the changes in their lives that may be necessary to provide a brighter future.
Most people who go to a psychotherapist want to make their lives better. They may be suffering from a range of distressing life situations: addictions, difficulties in relating to others in intimate relationships or at work, bereavement, divorce or separation, chronic sadness, parenthood issues, marital difficulties, lack of impulse control, difficulty in finding meaningful work or fulfilling occupations, phobias, obsessions, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, feelings of failure or loss of meaning in life and so on. Some people feel driven and controlled by their emotions while others feel an almost total loss of feeling. Some feel controlled by other people in their lives and some feel unable to exert sufficient control upon others. People may come to a psychotherapist because of any of these life situations or for other reasons not listed above. Whatever the reason, they will all want to take action to make life better in ways that only the individual can define.
We humans are creatures of habit and from birth each of us begins to decide what feels good and what feels bad. As we grow from infancy we begin to build theories to explain to ourselves what life is like, why certain things happen and how each of us should behave. As we learn more about the world some of these early theories are overturned and some are reinforced by what happens to us in life and our reflection upon these experiences. Some of the theories remain unexamined and yet may have a profound influence on how we act and the habits we form. These habits may be of thought, feeling, response, action or belief and while they remain unexamined may govern us rather than us governing them. It is this examination of our own lives and reflection upon our choices, assumptions and beliefs that can be facilitated by psychotherapy.
Through the many years since psychotherapy was established as a profession at the beginning of the twentieth century by Sigmund Freud, repeated scientific research studies have proved its effectiveness. In addition to the scientific evidence, many people can give first hand reports of the transformative effects of long term psychotherapy. From my own experience as a psychotherapist, I know that psychotherapy is the most effective way for people to make fundamental changes in the way they live and relate to others, changes that enable them to make their lives more fulfilling and worthwhile. Meta-analysis of research results shows that all the different methods of psychotherapy and counselling are similarly efficacious, but within each discipline the effectiveness of different practitioners varies enormously. It is therefore very important for each client to find the right therapist with whom he or she can develop a strong and healing therapeutic alliance. (For a fuller discussion of the scientific evidence see “The Great Psychotherapy Debate” (2001) by Bruce Wampold.)
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Clientele: Individuals, Couples
Therapy Type(s): Psychotherapy