If you look into mental health services these days, you’ll see that many therapist offices advertise psychotherapy as their main specialist area. At the same time, the number of referrals for psychotherapy rose by 11% between 2018 and 2019, and recovery rates have gradually increased too. At present, there are over 32,300 registered psychotherapists in the UK. 


But what exactly is psychotherapy, and how can you benefit from it? 

What is psychotherapy?

Also known as “talk therapy”, psychotherapy is an umbrella term used to describe various types of therapy where you treat mental health conditions by talking to a mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychotherapist. Psychotherapy can be used in the treatment and management of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, but it has also shown remarkable results in improving the client’s well-being and self-confidence. Quite often, psychotherapy sessions are one-on-one, but group sessions with families can also be organised. More recently, psychotherapy sessions started being held online or over the phone, and studies show that the results can be just as good as the traditional face-to-face format. 


The benefits of psychotherapy 

Psychotherapy is a versatile mental health service that can be used for a wide spectrum of conditions, including, but not limited to, anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD, OCD, panic disorder, and more. 


However, you don’t necessarily have to be diagnosed with one of these conditions to benefit from psychotherapy. The sessions can also help with general wellness and mental health, since psychotherapy helps you better understand yourself, process your emotions, communicate with others, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. In a way, the role of psychotherapy isn’t only to treat, but also to prepare you mentally and make you more emotionally resilient when faced with life’s challenges. 


According to a 2016 study, over 75% of people who take part in psychotherapy sessions report that they have improved their lives in some way. Psychotherapy is scientifically proven to produce positive changes in the body and brain, and that leads to:


  • better quality of life
  • fewer sick days
  • higher work satisfaction 
  • fewer health problems 


Mental health conditions that psychotherapy can treat: 

  • anxiety disorders 
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • panic disorder 
  • trauma 
  • personality disorders 
  • eating disorders 
  • mood disorders
  • phobias
  • psychotic disorders
  • additions


At the same time, psychotherapy can also help you in many life areas, even if you don’t have a history of mental health disorders: 


  • overcome stressful periods, caused by prolonged stress at work or by challenging life events, such as divorce, moving town, or losing your job. 
  • manage unhealthy forms of expression, such as anger or passive-aggressive behaviour 
  • resolve conflicts calmly and respectfully (including with your romantic partner) 
  • feel more self-confident 
  • cope with grief after a loved one’s passing 
  • develop healthy coping mechanisms 
  • understand what drives you and what you want in life
  • learn to relax and feel better without resorting to addictions 

The difference between counselling and psychotherapy 

We hear the terms “counselling” and “psychotherapy” used interchangeably a lot, but although they have some things in common, they don’t really overlap. 


The main difference between the two is that counselling refers to short-term therapy, that aims to solve an issue that occurs at present. For example, you may be dealing with a lot of pressure at work, and you need counselling to relieve stress and learn to relax. Or, a loved one has passed away, and you need help processing grief. In other words, you have an immediate need for therapy. 


On the other hand, psychotherapy refers to long-term therapy and aims to solve deeply rooted issues, attitudes, and behavioural patterns. Psychotherapy can help you become aware of unconscious triggers and what causes them and free yourself from them. For example, psychotherapy sessions can uncover childhood trauma. It is quite common, after psychotherapy sessions, to feel like a new person, to feel more empowered, and develop more self-awareness. 


Types of psychotherapy 

We mentioned in the beginning that psychotherapy is an umbrella term and that it encompasses more approaches. Depending on the issue that needs to be addressed, and on the severity of the symptoms, a qualified psychotherapist can use one or more of these types of psychotherapy: 


  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Art therapy 
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Client-centred therapy
  • Coherence therapy
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Integrative therapy

While it’s ultimately down to the specialist to make an informed decision based on your history and symptoms, you can always share your feedback and, if a type of therapy doesn’t give the expected results after enough time, your psychotherapist can try another one. 

Psychotherapy session formats 

Traditionally, the one-on-one format is the most popular one. Sessions take place in the therapist’s office, and you will be encouraged to share your emotions and get in touch with your inner self. However, that’s not the only option. With the advent of telehealth, online and telephone therapy sessions have become increasingly popular and, according to scientific studies, there is no noticeable difference between face-to-face and remote sessions. In fact, online psychotherapy can be a gateway to mental health services for people with severe social anxiety, live in remote areas, or don’t have access to quality mental health services in their town. 


Generally, psychotherapy sessions are one-on-one, meaning that it’s just you and the therapist in the room (and the session is fully confidential, of course). However, couple’s therapy and group therapy are also possible. 


What should I expect from psychotherapy sessions? 

Feedback from people who have psychotherapy sessions is overwhelmingly positive. You may experience intense emotional discussions, during which you will become aware of certain experiences in your past and at times you may even feel unsettled or emotionally exhausted, but your therapist will help you navigate these feelings and, in the end, you will feel relieved and empowered. The typical session lasts for 45-50 minutes, but they can be adjusted depending on your needs. 


Many people go into therapy expecting to see instant results, but that rarely happens. Unless you went to therapy for a really, really minor concern, you need, on average, several months of therapy to feel better. Sometimes, you might not realise that you’re getting better, and it’s after ten or more sessions that you begin to notice the benefits. So, be patient, keep an open mind, and psychotherapy will improve your life. 

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