The process of psychotherapy remains somewhat mysterious to most people. How does it work? Why does it work? What is needed for it to work? How can psychotherapy help me or you feel better? In some ways it seems presumptuous of me to try to analyze how it works. Great minds have struggled to answer these questions for a long time and have done a far better job at explaining it than I will.
Psychotherapy is not really a mysterious process. It is not hidden or unexplainable. It is a helpful tool for the implementation of insight and change. It can help lessen emotional pain. Human beings are an amalgam of thoughts, experiences, feelings and beliefs. This amalgam formulates the lens through which we see and experience others, ourselves and ourselves in the world in general. Within this lens we carry both our conscious thoughts and feelings and those that lie in the unconscious.
While there are many different types of psychotherapies based on different theoretical orientations, some constants remain across all of the orientations. The process of psychotherapy is a collaborative one that necessitates a healing relationship between the therapist and the client. It is the relationship between the therapist and the client that is so important and it is in that relationship that the healing occurs. If you have never experienced psychotherapy before, the therapist will help you to understand the process and will help guide you through it.
The client is active in the process. If you have decided to come to therapy, most likely you are experiencing some emotional pain. Sometimes it is loss that drives people into therapy. Sometimes it is depression or anxiety. Sometimes it is trauma or abuse. Sometimes it is addiction and the emotional pain of that addiction that drives people into therapy. People come into therapy for all sorts of reasons.
In our everyday lives, we have our outer world of events, schedules, relationships, work, etc. We also have our inner lives of thoughts, emotions, experiences and beliefs. In therapy, we can talk about our inner world. We can develop a deeper awareness of our thoughts and feelings by talking about our experiences. Our experiences and our relationships are meaningful to us. We learn who we are in our relationships with others.
In therapy, the client talks about experiences and feelings. A therapist might offer some insight into meaning, but often the client discovers deeper meaning within the context of the relationship with the therapist. The therapist creates a safe place for the client to delve deeply into their world, really seeing and connecting with the client emotionally in the process. It is extraordinarily healing for another human being to see those parts of ourselves that we hide from others, hide even from ourselves, and to acknowledge and validate us in that experience.
A good therapist is able to really connect with those parts of us that are in pain. By connecting with us, the pain’s impact lessens over time. We learn to see ourselves in a realistic light. We even learn to soothe our own pain over time. We cannot change the past and we cannot change others, but we can learn more about ourselves through therapy.