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WHAT IS PSYCHOTHERAPY?

Psychotherapy is a therapeutic process based on distinct psychological theories and that helps us to resolve our problems and difficulties through an increase in understanding of our internal world (thoughts, emotions, feelings and even dreams and fantasies).

Painful and difficult experiences of the past can affect the way that we behave and relate in the present. Psychotherapy provides a secure and confidential place to talk about our emotional difficulties and their causes. While there are various types of short-term therapies, the goal is generally not to offer quick solutions, but rather a gradual change in the in the way that we relate to others and interpret life. This engenders an increase in general well-being and a larger capacity to face the inevitable difficulties that we all go through.

capasevilla-image-psicologa4Psychotherapy comes from the idea that in order to resolve our psychological problems and reduce our suffering, we should understand their roots, their causes, which are only partly known by us. The therapist will help us discover these other causes, the less known and unconscious ones. We can use the following metaphor as an example: Imagine that you have a flower planted in a pot and its leaves are yellowing, but you are not quite sure of the reason why. Did I over water it? Could it be that it needs more water? Could I have burned it with the fertilizer that I used? Could it be too exposed to the sun? Could it have been attacked by some plague that I don’t know about? Or, could it be a combination of all of these things? We should then resort to a specialist who will discover the reasons for this symptom of yellowing leaves so that it can start to heal. This analogy serves to help us understand the process that should take place in psychotherapy: the therapist and patient work together to discover the causes that prevent us from enjoying our full potential and well-being.

For example, in psychotherapy, we try to figure out and solve problems like:

  • “Why do I have to do these rituals before getting in bed? Every time it gets worse.”
  • “Ever since 5 years ago when my father passed away, I don’t lift my head”
  • “They’ve told me in high school that my son is very smart, but there’s no way he studies.”
  • “I get the feeling that everyone talk bad about me and I mistrust people a lot.”
  • “My shyness is causing me to lose a lot of opportunities.”

If you pay attention, in many cases we don’t know the reasons that we go on with these problems, and although we’ve already gotten plenty of advice, we don’t resolve the issue. Furthermore, keep in mind that these problems are common to all of us at least sometimes in our lives. To go to the psychologist does not to be “crazy.” In the same way that we try to maintain healthy dental hygiene by going to the dentist regularly, also going to a psychiatrist helps us to maintain a healthy mind.

How long does it last?

There are therapies of limited time, where the patient and the therapist fix a set number of sessions. These are usually short-term therapies in which the objective is the resolution of temporal problems that the patient has, and which have generated some transient psychological difficulty in life. We do not normally determine the number of sessions required to resolve the problem a priori in psychotherapy. Rather, according to mutual agreement, the end of treatment is when the proposed therapeutic objectives have been accomplished.

Although there are varying classifications of therapies in psychotherapy in terms of the number of sessions that they imply, we consider a short-term therapy one that consists of up to 24 sessions, or is less than six months in duration; while a long-term therapy is that which consists of more than 24 sessions, or is more than six months in duration [Cf. Gabbard (2004) Long Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. A Basic Text. Washington: American Psychiatrist Publishing.]

The classic mode of therapy occurs without pre-planning the sessions to keep on that way. Though it is relatively easy for the therapist to identify the origin on the patient’s problems, the human mind takes considerable time to modify behavioral patterns and styles of cognitive and relational functioning that have been established over years.

What kind of psychotherapy do we do?

The kind of psychotherapy that we do is that which has proven effective for the kinds of problems we treat. We generally utilize psychodynamic psychotherapy, incorporating the valuable input of cognitive psychology and of neurosciences.

In the case of difficulties in which we are not specialized, we will refer you to another professional.

In general terms, the effectiveness of psychotherapy is determined by the following factors:

  • The motivation of the patient to resolve his or her problems.
  • The engagement of the therapist.
  • A good therapeutic alliance between the patient and the therapist.

As you can see, the key factors do not correspond so much to the type of therapy carried out as personal factors of the patient and the therapist alike. In this sense, we come to terms that “there are no good or bad psychologies, but rather good or bad psychologists.” In whatever case, it is necessary for the psychologist to know what the scope of the application of his knowledge is, and the most recommended technique for each situation.

Modern dynamic therapies have great results when the patient commits to work on his or her problems continuously over a number of months.

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