What is psychotherapy?

Imlibenla Mongro-Domeh
Clinical Psychologist, CIHSR

Psychotherapy simply means a kind of treatment for people with emotional and mental health problems using psychological means. It is also loosely called the “Talking therapy”. The science behind “talking” about your problems to someone is that the brain is able to better process problems, find solutions and ideas when a person verbalizes the thoughts they have. Have you ever thought or planned about something in your head and then realized some mistakes or loopholes in your plans when you actually talked about it or explained it to someone? 

Many people start having mental health problems because they have no one to talk to or refuse to talk about their problems for reasons best known to them. They suppress their emotions and feelings hoping they will go away. They assume it is taken care of. However, it remains and gets accumulated over time and one day a very trivial incident bursts open the “balloon” of emotions. That is when they arrive at the therapist’s room saying, “I don’t know how this happened, I used to be so strong before”. 

Who needs psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy can be availed by anyone who wants to talk to a professional regarding various aspects of life whether or not they have a diagnosed mental health problem. Students come for talking about their time management, concentration problems, stress about career, relationship difficulties, self-esteem etc which are common to many. Working people come to talk about their lifestyle, sleep problems, work related stress, multitasking problems. Families come to talk about their poor communication styles, estranged family dynamics etc. Children and adolescents are also brought for therapy for dealing with bullies, night terrors, bed wetting, sibling rivalry etc. People with lifelong medical conditions, terminal illnesses, disability also come for therapy sessions to cope with the distress and difficulty that comes with their physical problems. 

On the other hand, we use psychotherapy to treat mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, social anxiety and many other mental health disorders that cannot be listed in an article. 
Psychotherapy is for anyone who finds it hard to confide to family members or friends or for those who simply need to “talk it out” to someone who will not judge, criticize or give unwanted opinions. 

How safe is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapists are mandated by law to maintain confidentiality of the patient’s details and history except in cases where it poses a danger to the patient or to the therapist or to others. This is why the therapy room is supposed to be a safe place for anyone who needs the space and a “sounding board” so to speak. 

Many individuals are afraid of the word “psycho” in “psychotherapy” which is why they worry about stigma. We must talk about this “talking therapy” more and normalize it so that people can say, “I need therapy” as comfortably as they say, “I need to go for check-up”.