What is psychotherapy and how does it work?

What is psychotherapy and how does it work?

Perhaps you’ve heard of psychotherapy as a way to cope with a devastating life event or as a treatment for a lingering mental health problem, but aren’t sure if it’s right for you. To be honest, its success actually depends on several factors, including the therapist’s level of expertise and the patient’s engagement. But regardless of how you feel about it, it’s important to understand the many ways it can improve your quality of life.

A highly collaborative process

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” improves a patient’s well-being by examining his or her feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It treats a wide range of conditions such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and mental health disorders caused by traumatic life events like the loss of a loved one or witnessing a tragic event.

Unlike medical treatments, whereby a physician examines a patient, provides a diagnosis, and prescribes medications, psychotherapy is highly collaborative in nature and requires the patient’s active engagement and continued emotional investment.

Typically, therapists set up treatment goals, create a timeline for progress and recovery, and provide useful resources and materials about the condition. They must also encourage their patients to ask questions and provide feedback regarding the course of therapy.

As a patient, you should expect plenty of interaction with your therapist. In fact, it’s imperative that you talk as freely as you can so that the therapist can more effectively understand your thoughts and feelings.

Benefits of psychotherapy

During psychotherapy, you may learn things about yourself that would otherwise remain unexamined and continue to affect your life. Therapy sessions offer a safe space where you can openly discuss highly sensitive issues with a licensed mental health professional who listens without bias and who can help interpret and contextualize your thoughts, emotions, and unaddressed issues.

Psychotherapy may work as a stand-alone treatment for certain conditions, while others like severe depression or bipolar disorder may require a combination of therapy and medications. Although some people decide against psychotherapy because they doubt its effectiveness, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology revealed that 1 out of 5 patients drop out of therapy before treatment is complete, which is one of several reasons why it may be ineffective.

On the other hand, there are those who are reluctant to consider it because they prefer to rely on medications, worry about the sessions’ confidentiality, or simply refuse to talk to a professional that they may deem a “stranger.” But it's important to remember that therapists are legally obligated to maintain their patients’ privacy.

Is psychotherapy effective?

Although there are rare instances when psychotherapy isn't enough to solve a mental health problem the benefits of its scientifically-validated methods are widely recognized. What’s more, it doesn’t merely treat a single condition but pushes people to engage in behaviors that improve their overall health such as expressing emotions better and improving relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.

Therapists may be professionals tasked to listen to your mental and emotional challenges, but they are also supportive confidantes whom you can rely on to gain a better understanding of your personality, values, and your relationships with others.

At Meridian Psychiatric Partners, we have mental health professionals who offer specialist psychiatric and mental health services for patients in the Chicago, Evanston, and Lake Forest areas. We can help you or your loved one take the first step in overcoming emotional or mental health challenges — talk to our representatives today.