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. Patients seek psychotherapy for a variety of reasons, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), phobias, depression, anorexia, anxiety and psychosexual 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 sitting on a chair behind. This may help the patient to get in touch with his or her emotions, because the therapist is out of view.
One can divide the human mind into those things that we know about, the ‘Conscious Mind’, and those of which we are not aware, the ‘Unconscious Mind’. The main aim of psychotherapy is to bring unconscious material into consciousness. One of the important ways of doing this is to interpret dreams. Although patients will often say that they cannot remember their dreams, many find that their recollection can be improved upon by keeping a pencil and pad by the bedside to record the dream immediately on waking. When the therapist focuses on dreams and their interpretation many patients find that they begin to remember their dreams more clearly and in greater detail.
The main thrust of psychotherapy, 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. The problems experienced in adult life often bare a direct relationship to problems experienced in childhood. We tend to forget unpleasant experiences in childhood, this is referred to as “repression”. What happens in psychotherapy is that these forgotten experiences are brought into the conscious mind. This may lead to the releasing of powerful emotions. This form of treatment may well be lengthy, and it is not possible to predict the time it will take at the outset.
It is up to the patient to decide the depth to which they wish to explore their problems and also how long they wish to remain in psychotherapy.