... the principal aim of psychotherapy is not to transport the patient to an impossible state of happiness, but to help him acquire steadfastness and philosophic patience in face of suffering. Life demands for its completion and fulfillment a balance between joy and sorrow.
Carl Gustav Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 16, p.81
Psychotherapy is a general term that is used to describe the process of treating psychological disorders and mental distress. During this process, a trained psychotherapist helps the client tackle a specific or general problem such as a particular mental illness or a source of life stress. Depending on the approach used by the therapist, a wide range of techniques and strategies can be used. However, almost all types of psychotherapy involve developing a therapeutic relationship, communicating and creating a dialogue and working to overcome problematic thoughts or behaviours.
There are many different approaches to psychotherapy. Psychologists generally draw on one or more of these. Each theoretical perspective acts as a roadmap to help the psychologist understand their clients and their problems and develop solutions.
The kind of treatment you receive will depend on a variety of factors: current psychological research, your psychologist's theoretical orientation and what works best for your situation.
Your psychologist’s theoretical perspective will affect what goes on in his or her office. Psychologists who use cognitive-behavioural therapy, for example, have a practical approach to treatment. Your psychologist might ask you to tackle certain tasks designed to help you develop more effective coping skills. This approach often involves homework. Your psychologist might ask you to gather more information, such as logging your reactions to a particular situation as they occur. Or your psychologist might want you to practice new skills between sessions. You might also have reading assignments so you can learn more about a particular topic.
In contrast, psycho-dynamic, psychoanalytic and humanistic approaches typically focus more on talking than doing. You might spend your sessions discussing your early experiences to help you and your psychologist better understand the root causes of your current problems.
Your psychologist may combine elements from several styles of psychotherapy. In fact, most therapists don’t tie themselves to any one approach. Instead, they blend elements from different approaches and tailor their treatment according to each client’s needs.
The main thing to know is whether your psychologist has expertise in the area you need help with and whether your psychologist feels he or she can help you.