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Psychotherapy is a general term used to refer to the treatment of mental, psychological, and/or emotional problems. It is also known simply as therapy, or as talk therapy, or as counseling. Psychotherapy may be short term, lasting just a few weeks, or it may span a longer period of time. The duration depends upon what a therapist and client determine will be most effective for their work together and the goals they jointly set.
Psychotherapy can help with transitions, loss, and grieving, as well as with depression; anxiety; divorce and other relationship concerns; anger management problems; substance abuse and other addictions; parenting; and career issues. Often people seek therapy when they feel "stuck" or when their efforts to resolve certain problems on their own seem to be going nowhere.
There are many different types or "orientations" of therapy practiced by clinical social workers and other therapists. The orientation one chooses should be determined by factors such as the nature, duration, and severity of the mental health condition and/or problem, and one's personal preference.
Types of Therapy Offered
Some types of psychotherapy offered by therapists on the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work Therapist Finder System include:
This is the most common type of therapy; its goal is to increase one's awareness of unconscious conflicts and one's understanding of the unintentional self-sabotage that may be interfering with leading a more fulfilling life. As one becomes more aware of the link between feelings and thoughts, it becomes possible to resolve these long-standing conflicts. Ego Psychology and Self Psychology are subsets of this category.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This type of therapy emphasizes the role of thought and is designed to help identify and correct distorted or negative thinking patterns. The focus of CBT is on resolving present conflicts and typically does not delve into the past. Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are subsets of this category.
Psychoanalysis or Psychoanalytic Therapy
Psychoanalytic treatment is focused on the unconscious factors that affect relationships and behavior patterns, finding their origins in the past, and ultimately helping the client to use new awareness in coping with life's realities.
As its name indicates, the goal of this approach is to resolve specific problem issues in a timeframe of two to six sessions. Generally a therapist offering Brief Psychotherapy will make use of Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques.
A therapist with an Eclectic orientation may use techniques from any of the various types of therapies, based on whatever he/she feels would be most helpful to the specific client and the specific issues.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR is an "information processing therapy" that uses a highly structured approach to treatment. Some therapists find EMDR especially effective in treating trauma.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
This approach focuses on current relationships. The goal is to identify issues and problems in relationships and to improve interpersonal skills.
Additional Skill Sets
Many therapists have skills in Child Therapy, Marital Therapy, Family Therapy, and/or Group Therapy in addition to Individual Psychotherapy.
Couples Counseling or Marital Therapy
The therapist works with a couple (married or not) to identify patterns and exchanges that are destructive to the relationship. Problem solving techniques are emphasized. Some therapists will ask to meet with each member of a couple individually at times; others prefer to see the couple only together. "Imago" is a type of marital therapy in which partners explore what each has brought from the family of origin in order to develop new ways of living together with understanding.
Child Therapy or Play Therapy
Therapists trained in Child Therapy or Play Therapy work in individual sessions with children who are not yet fully verbal. Simple board games, card games, dolls, and other play items are used to help them express their thoughts, understand their feelings, and work toward resolving their problems.
There is a broad range of opportunities for therapy groups, and group styles vary dramatically. One group might be centered around a particular issue like substance abuse, while another might bring together participants in a particular age range to help one another think through some of the problems they face. Two therapists may work together as group facilitators, or a group may have only one leader. The therapists may engage actively in the group work, or may intervene only occasionally. Often the client is expected to be in individual therapy in addition to participating in the group.
Family therapy may be focused on problem solving, on improving family communication skills, or on identifying and changing problematic behavior patterns leading to conflict in the family. During the course of Family Therapy, the therapist may want to involve the entire family, or the parents alone, or just certain family members; this will depend upon the nature of the problem presented and on the therapist's preferred way of working.