Psychotherapy and other talking therapies are increasingly being turned to as people recognise they need help in understanding themselves and in achieving a greater degree of fulfilment.
What can Psychotherapy treat?
Psychotherapy provides an effective treatment for a range of psychological disorders, both as a treatment in its own right and as an adjunct to other forms of treatment. It can contribute significantly to a patient’s mental and physical health, to their sense of well-being and to their ability to manage their lives more effectively. Patients use Psychotherapy to help deal with:
- major life changes such as bereavement or divorce
- depression or anxiety
- psychosomatic conditions
- eating disorders
- obsessional behaviour
- relationship problems
- personal development
- emotional instability
- emotional effects of serious ill health
- children with emotional and behavioural difficulties including personality problems, depression, learning difficulties and eating or sleeping disorders.
Psychotherapy can be traced back to the work of Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). He introduced the concept of the unconscious mind and buried motives for the disturbed thoughts, feelings and actions of his patients. His work was developed by a number of psychoanalysts and psychologists including Carl Jung and Alfred Adler.
Today, modern psychotherapy now covers an often bewilderingly wide range of techniques and approaches. There are, broadly speaking, three main strands: Behavioural and Cognitive therapies, in which the patient may learn to consciously change negative actions and thoughts; Humanistic Psychotherapy which encourages people to explore their feelings and includes Gestalt therapy and transactional analysis; and analytic psychotherapy which includes psychoanalytic psychotherapy as well as psychodynamic approaches to Freud, Klein and Jung.
In psychotherapy, the patient’s relationship with his or her therapist remains crucial. Therapists offer confidential settings in which patients are allowed to explore their inner worlds without fear of censure or embarrassment. Through open, sometimes guided discussion, patients gradually identify patterns of behaviour and, in becoming conscious of them, develop the capacity to understand and change them.
Consultation and treatment
The initial consultation allows you to decide whether you feel comfortable with the type of therapy and the practitioner. The practitioner will discuss with you why you think you need help and whether he or she can help you. If you do not feel comfortable, do not hesitate to find someone else. A trusting relationship between you and your therapist is considered fundamental. Once an agreement is made to begin treatment, past experiences are discussed and feelings explored.
Psychotherapy is not a quick fix therapy. Frequency of sessions is jointly decided by the therapist and client. One client may see a counsellor once a week for six weeks; another client may visit a counsellor three times a week for several years.
Sessions usually last 50 minutes. Therapy can also be conducted in couples or in groups and may also use elements of creative expression such as music, art and drama.
Private psychotherapeutic treatment can involve a substantial financial undertaking. Fees vary between practitioners – expect to find fees for private treatment to be within the range of £30 to £45 per session – and are discussed with prospective patients before treatment begins. Concessionary rates are sometimes available. In some areas, psychotherapy is available on the NHS.
There are lots of self-help publications available on the market but seeing a psychotherapist offers structure, support and commitment to a process of self-knowledge.
How to find a practitioner
There are two main bodies which publish directories of psychotherapists. These are the British Confederation of Psychotherapists (BCP), a national body linking mostly long-standing training and professional organisations, and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. The BCP Register lists practitioners alphabetically and by geographical area; all have undergone BCP-recognised training. Each member institution of the BCP has a Code of Ethics which aims to protect the public by setting out the appropriate standards for professional conduct.
At present, there is no statutory regulation of psychotherapists in the UK. Accordingly, those without suitable training and qualifications are legally entitled to call themselves psychotherapists. It is a matter of public concern that some people seek to take advantage of this situation. The BCP is working to encourage responsible self-regulation within the profession and is considering how a coherent regulatory policy for statutory registration can be developed.
Inform your psychotherapist if you suffer from a psychotic condition.