Psychotherapy is one of the most valuable tools we can use to ease personal suffering, address long-standing problems and pursue psychological and emotional healing. Few of us go through life without encountering difficulties that are bigger than our ability to overcome them without assistance. Historically, people have turned to religious leaders, family members, tribal elders, shamans and other healers to help them through overwhelming personal circumstances.
Beginning in the 1890s, the study of psychology branched out and deepened when Sigmund Freud developed and popularized a form of therapy called psychoanalysis. Freud was a neurologist who was attempting to find an effective treatment for patients who had hysterical or neurotic symptoms. Psychoanalysis was an exploratory, evolving and carefully designed practice for helping patients recover from various neuroses and hysteria symptoms. Other doctors studied with Freud and later branched out to develop what they believed to be more effective methods for helping people overcome psychological and emotional distress.
In the early to middle 1900s, therapy was viewed as a treatment reserved for individuals with severe mental disorders. People who participated in therapy were viewed as weak of character, mentally depraved and emotionally immature. Obviously, this stigma prevented many people from seeking the help they needed. In the past 50 years, the science of psychology and methods of psychotherapy have evolved tremendously. At the same time, forces in the culture have reduced people’s reliance on religious leaders and family to help them solve overwhelming difficulties. Psychotherapy has become less and less stigmatized and more and more people are willing to seek psychotherapeutic assistance for a broad range of problems.
Psychotherapy and counseling provide individuals with a private, objective, emotionally safe environment in which to discover and express their needs, get guidance in approaching personal and family problems and work through obstacles to personal healing. When appropriate, combining psychotherapy with appropriate medical or psychiatric treatment can yield positive, life-changing outcomes. Let’s discuss our views on psychotherapy and counseling.
- What is your opinion about psychotherapy? Do you see it as valuable? Why or why not?
- If you have been involved in counseling and feel comfortable sharing some of your experiences and insights, what would you wish others to know about being in therapy?
- Under what circumstances and in what kinds of situations would you recommend seeking counseling or psychotherapy?
- Have you had negative experiences in counseling or psychotherapy? What have these been?
- What questions do you have about the experience of psychotherapy?