People engage in psychotherapy for many reasons. Psychotherapy is a unique relationship between an individual or couple and a licensed psychologist who is trained to help people understand their total psychological experience and assist them in acquiring new strategies to cope with life challenges.
Some of the reasons people consider psychotherapy include:
- They feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, helplessness and hopelessness.
- They find it difficult to cope with day to day responsibilities due to feelings of guilt, anxiety, despair or other emotional difficulties.
- They experience unusual levels of emotional and physical stress.
- They have difficulties in significant relationships with family members or others they care about deeply.
- They find their actions harmful to themselves and/or others.
- They want to gain a better understanding of themselves in order to find meaning and fulfillment in their life.
- They want to better access their creative and imaginative expression.
Yes. Research has shown that psychotherapy is effective to treat depression and anxiety and related symptoms. Research demonstrated that patients who participated in individual psychodynamic psychotherapy for a minimum of one year “showed significant, large and stable treatment effects which even significantly increased between the end of treatment and follow-up assessment” (Dr. Leichensring, NYT, 10/1/2008). Research evidence shows that psychotherapeutic intervention promotes physical health and improves coping with physical illness, as well as supports healthy lifestyle changes.
Psychotherapy increases survival times for people who have heart surgery and cancer patients and has a positive effect on the immune system. There is scientific evidence that psychotherapy positively effects neurophysiology – our body chemistry is directly affected by our emotions and thoughts. Research has demonstrated that physical health and psychological health are intimately linked and as a result psychotherapy can improve overall health.
For more on the efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy, read this article by Danielle Trudeau, MA.
Finding a psychotherapist you can trust to share your most intimate thoughts and feelings with is not an easy task. Finding a psychotherapist with whom there is a good fit is important whether your concerns are small or large. It is important to take the time to find the best psychotherapist for you. If you are going to spend the resources, time, effort and money to learn more about yourself in order to live a life with more ease and confidence. Here are some ways to find that therapist.
A good place to start is to talk to trusted friends and family members who have been in therapy. Ask them about their experience. Did they experience their therapist as a good and careful listener? Did they feel safe in the office and safe to talk to the therapist about what was most important to them? Did the therapist answer their questions? Was the therapist careful about scheduling and time? Was the therapist open and self-reflective?
Your primary care physician or health care professional is another source for referrals. Your insurance provider may have a website with a referral list of psychotherapists who participate in your health care plan, thus decreasing out of pocket costs to you. An internet search may allow you to find listings of psychotherapists and access to their web sites with information about their practice.
These sources of information are only a starting place. Until you have talked to and met with a psychotherapist you won’t really know if this is the right therapist for you. Having a brief conversation with the psychotherapist on the telephone to answer questions about their practice can give you information about what to expect. Meeting with the psychotherapist for an initial consultation will help you answer more of your questions about the relationship fit.
Observations to consider in that initial session are:
- Was I greeted in a warm and respectful manner?
- Is the office comfortable and is it set up to respect and protect my privacy and confidentiality?
- Does the therapist listen to me attentively?
- Are my thoughts and feelings treated with respect? Do I feel understood?
- When the therapist offers comments do they add something important such as a clarification, interpretation, question or reflection?
Individual psychotherapy usually requires 1 hour per session with 1-3 sessions scheduled per week during the psychotherapy period. Couple psychotherapy requires 1 hour per session with weekly sessions during the psychotherapy period. The intensity and the length of psychotherapy are based upon the nature of the problem. These decisions are made after discussion between the person(s) seeking psychotherapy and the psychotherapist based upon the outcome of the psychodiagnostic evaluation.
- American Psychological Association
- Psychoanalysis (Division 39): Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology
- American Psychological Association ( www.apadivisions.org/division-39/ )
- National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology
- Oregon Psychoanalytic Center