What is… Psychotherapy /Counselling in Lay-Mans Terms?

Psychotherapy/Counselling/Therapy/

The focus of work in this area is in Mental and (sometimes) Emotional Wellbeing. I am writing this blog from a Natural & Integrative Practitioners point of view (i.e. kind of known as a Complimentary & Alternative Medicine /CAM Practitioner here in Ireland). There are many so variations within the sector of CAM that it literally mind boggling, excusing the pun..  I will try to define the specefic areas of expertise to the best of my ability but please be aware that many sub-catagories have cross-overs. I will begin by defining the main terms as follows the way I understand them to function:

Psychotherapy is non-directive. It is Humanistic and Integrative by nature. The work involves a period of time to explore unexpressed emotion which may lay deeply hidden in the unconscious. This work has long term benefits because the client works at exploring thier own beliefs / core- beliefs which may no longer serve them as adults. A body of work may take anywhere from 6 weeks to some years depending on the nature of the person and issues involved. It had been described as ‘deep sea diving’ and not snorkling.

Counselling may be directive including an advisory service, eg. Career Guidance Counselling. Some counsellors may also be trained in psychotherapy and work on the deeper emotional issues but most work in the area of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy CBT. 

Psychology is the understanding of the thought process, more theory based and less experiential. Psychologists are trained to analyse and assess behaviour patterns, many specialise in different fields eg. Educational Psychology..

Psychiatry is a specialised area of training for medical doctors. Psychiatrists may diagnose mental illness, prescribe medication and refer Patients for specialised types of treatments. This is not a CAM area but I have so often been asked what is the difference between the above mentioned that I have included it here.

Mental and emotional well-being is necessary for good health. It had been well proven and documented over the past number of years how ‘stress’ has such a detrimental effect on our immune system, cardiovascular system, digestive system to name but a few. How we learn to deal with stress is dependant largly on our upbringing. Our core beliefs perhaps have us believe that we are invincible like when we were kids, or, we are unable to digest stress enough to experience it directly. Whatever the reason, stress most often results from from some unresolved trauma(s). Nearly all Therapists will agree that unresolved trauma results in unconscious drama playing out in life. Many people tell me that they just cant work out why they feel so stressed and when it actually started. Why does one person experience similar circumstances so differently to another? We are all unique in how we experience the world and life itself, so, doesn’t it give to say that we need to give time to know our own blue-print  if we would like to make lasting changes to it ! Losing touch with how we are actually feeling is just a symptom of accumulating stress in the body-mind.

Trauma (defin.) a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

Uncomfortable emotions like fear, guilt and shame often disguise themselves in addictive behaviours, being too busy, excessive outbursts of anger etc.. As time goes by we may forget how to feel relaxed, to feel good in our day to day and get caught up in our busy minds, thinking, thinking, thinking… In fact, stress itself is acumulative, often built up over a lifetime. 

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A good Psychotherapist / Counsellor will have the tools to help unwind and re-educate a client, slowly guiding the client into healthy thought patterns. These life-skills should serve the client well beyond the session and be adaptable to daily adult life. Many young persons also seek help with mental and emotional wellbeing, often requiring only a few sessions to establish good thinking habits. Adults often take a while longer to work through stubborn belief systems which may have carried them through a long period of survival. Relationships with Parents, Siblings, Partners and Children are often improved with time, good therapy will teach the client how to adapt these new ways of feeling, thinking and being into everyday life. Letting go of old ways can be challenging but the rewards are priceless with a real sense of self-worth and empowerment which follows into the future.

It is worth noting that every persons’ own sense of mental and emotional well-being is subject to an ebb and flow in Life itself. However when it is persistently challenged it is worth considering support with a suitable Therapist. Looking for a well qualified person in your chosen field of therapy requires a little searching on the internet, a couple of phone-calls and a sense of adventure. Bottom Line: Don’t keep bottling up unhealthy emotions, ask questions, talk to someone (or a few people) until you get the idea and impulse to meet with a Therapist that feels right for you !

5 Types of Talk Therapy

  1. Psychoanalysis and Psycho-Dynamic Therapies 

Explores the unconscious motivation and meaning to thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

2. Behaviour Therapy

Explores triggers and methods of managing behaviour eg. anger management.

3. Cognitive Therapy

Addresses patterns of thinking with intention of active change.

4. Humanistic

Encourages self-awareness and choice including an understanding of human emotions.

5. Integrative / Holistic

Encourages practical awareness and encompasses choice theory. eg. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy MBCT or Transpersonal Therapy

Some Variations and Specialised Areas

  • Inner Child Work
  • Addiction and Recovery
  • Couples Therapy
  • Anger Management
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy CBT
  • Family Therapy
  • Grief and Bereavement
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD
  • Phobias
  • Children and Adolescent Therapy
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Sexual Abuse and Recovery
  • Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Shamanic Counselling
  • Hakomi Therapy
  • Jungian Psychotherapy

Family Systems is a very specialised area which encompasses a transpersonal awarness of the group  participants. The family constellation(s) are enacted through repositioning  of self  and the client is reorganised into a more functional role within the family system. Very deep and profound work with long lasting benefits.

Hypnotherapy is a technique used to relax the conscious mind state so much that one can access the unconscious mind. It is sometimes used to unhook hidden fears, phobias and addictions as well as influencing the mind with helpful though patterns. It is important to note that hypnotherapy is no substitute or quick-fix for long standing issues which I believe requires a period of regular Psychotherapy which allows a Client time for processing the emotional transitions which occur in changing behaviours with thought patterns.

Art Therapy is used for all age groups either as a stand alone therapy or may be incorporated in a deeper body of work with a Psychotherapist or Transpersonal Therapist. Many Jungian Psychotherapists use Art Therapy to access non-verbal expression. Many highly creative people will find Art Therapy of huge benefit along with some talk therapy.

ARTS Therapies: Play Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy, Drama Therapy & Art Therapy

Mainly used for therapy with children and young adults, but also with adults in private settings. These therapeutic areas are widely used in hospitals as well as schools for people with extra sensory and intellectual needs. Arts Therapists work very sensitively by encouraging expression of feelings in a suitable format with people with PTSD and other special needs. Many people may or may not be able to express thoughts and emotions through words alone and adopt an artistic form of expression to help process and balance the non-logical and emotional mind.

Written By: Anna Dixon. ahenaorganicfarm@gmail.com

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