What is Psychotherapy?
Individual psychotherapy is a form of treatment which helps people understand why they function in the way that they do. It assists people who experience difficulty with particular aspects of their life to cope better, and enables people to improve the way they function as a whole, helping them reach their potential. In keeping with this, as the treatment progresses, many patients find that there is an improvement in the way they relate to other people.
People seek psychotherapy for a variety of reasons, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), phobias, depression, anorexia, anxiety and psycho-sexual disorders. Psychotherapy differs from a normal conversation in that the whole of the focus is on the patient. During the sessions the patients talk about themselves and the therapist responds to this, rather than it being a two-way dialogue. It is customary for the patient and therapist to face one another in the first instance; but later, in long term therapy, the patient may prefer to lie on the couch with the therapist out of view. This may help the patient to get in touch with his or her emotions, which may have proved complicated when the therapist was in view. One can divide the human mind into those things that we know about and those of which we are not aware. We refer to the things we know about as belonging to the 'Conscious Mind'; whereas, the things we are not aware of, belong to the 'Unconscious Mind'. The main aim of psychotherapy is to bring unconscious material into the conscious mind. One of the important ways of doing this is to interpret dreams. Although most people will say that they cannot remember their dreams, many people find that their recollection can be improved upon by keeping a pencil and pad by the bedside to record the dream immediately on waking. It is interesting that when the therapist focuses on dreams and their interpretation, many people find that they begin to remember their dreams more clearly and in greater detail. The main thrust of psychotherapy, however, is to help people to get in touch with their emotions. This enables them to begin to understand why they function in a particular way. We tend to forget unpleasant experiences in childhood. This is referred to as "repression". It has been shown that there is a direct relationship between the severity of difficulties experienced in childhood and in adult life, and the quantity of unpleasant memories that have been repressed. It is the repression of emotions which is responsible for the production of a wide variety of emotional symptoms.
What happens in psychotherapy is that these forgotten experiences are brought into the conscious mind. This may lead to the releasing of powerful emotions; and it is the function of the therapy to manage and contain these feelings. This form of treatment may well be a lengthy process and it is not possible to predict the time it will take at the outset. The key to the whole process is that the emotions from past experiences are transferred onto the therapist. This process is referred to as transference. For example, if a patient has had an unpleasant relationship with a parent during childhood, these feelings may be transferred onto the therapist so that the patient feels that they are reliving these emotions in the present tense. The patient is then encouraged to analyse these feelings. This means that he or she must put into words the emotions which are felt towards the therapist who represents the original target. It is the careful and sensitive handling of these feelings which allows the patient to make progress in therapy.
CONDITIONS WHICH RESPOND TO PSYCHOTHERAPY
This is not an exhaustive list, but the following conditions are some of the many problems, which are likely to respond to psychotherapy.
Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia
- Difficulty with making human relationships.
- Excessive anxiety, with or without panic attacks.
- Failure to succeed in life.
- Feelings of inferiority.
- Feelings of neglect and not being cared for.
- Feelings of unhappiness and depression.
- Feelings of ugliness.
- Grief reaction
- Inability to cope with life.
- Inability to love another human being.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) including obsessional fear of vomiting.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Problems with authority figures.
- Problems in coping with criticism.
- Recurring nightmares.
- Sexual dysfunction
- Swallowing difficulties where there is no physical cause.
- Transvestism.(Cross dressing)