Psychotherapy is a process from which you can gain greater self-awareness, change how you live in the world, and improve how you relate to others.
People seek therapy for many different reasons. You may be in crisis or experiencing painful emotional distress, or you may manage adequately on a day-to-day basis but feel dissatisfied with your life or your relationships. Perhaps you wish to experience a greater sense of well-being or seek more focused problem-solving counseling for a specific challenge.
The terms counseling, psychotherapy, and therapy are often used interchangeably. Generally, the counseling aspect of treatment is more practical and focuses on problem-solving skills whereas psychotherapy fosters insight by exploring how past experiences affect your current emotional make-up. Most of our providers incorporate both in their practices.
There are multiple approaches to counseling and therapy. Here is a brief overview of some of the most common therapy styles. Keep in mind that the categories below are general descriptions, and in practice many therapists will combine aspects of more than one modality. No matter the specific technique, at the heart of any effective treatment is a good fit between therapist and client.
Psychodynamic Therapy includes several branches of what began as psychoanalysis. These therapy traditions include explicit attention to matters not fully conscious to us, such as self-sabotaging behavior patterns or inexplicable feelings. Therapists using this approach help you pay attention to your in-the-moment experience in current relationships (including the relationship between you and your therapist), as well as to your past experiences in family and other important relationships. Dreams, fantasies, behaviors, feelings, sensations are all possible sources for discovering more about yourself.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on helping you solve present problems in direct and practical ways. Cognitive therapy involves identifying ineffective thought patterns, negative self-talk, and maladaptive behaviors to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Changing your beliefs about yourself can lead to greater self-esteem and emotional well-being. Behavioral approaches use action-based techniques and tools to increase your sense of control and manage emotional distress.
Systems Therapy looks at patterns of interaction within and between couples, families, or organizations. The systems approach is often used in family therapy and has been valuable in understanding family dynamics. It can also be used in individual psychotherapy to examine dynamics of your past and present relationships. Systems therapy emphasizes the context in which we live, including gender, culture, sexual orientation, age, mobility, and other aspects of ourselves in our environment.
Body Work and Energy Therapies address emotional distress, tension, and memories stored in your body. Attention to physical sensation and breathing techniques are often used to address somatic symptoms, work through emotions, visualize inner states, and balance your body’s energy. Body-oriented approaches work with habitual physical patterns and seek to impart greater flexibility of response, both physical and emotional. These therapies can be very effective for somatic conditions, trauma, or chronic pain and can also be helpful as an adjunct to more verbal styles of intervention.
Existential and Humanistic Therapies explore self-esteem, identity, spirituality, and meaning-of-life questions. The supportive role of the therapist fosters safety and self-acceptance. These therapies emphasize what is possible and positive, and encourage you to take personal responsibility for your choices.
A Note about Interpersonal Neurobiology
Recent advances in brain research are being integrated into many approaches, as therapists draw on findings linking emotion to our neurobiology. For example, the emphasis on healthy infant-parent relationships (attachment), emphasized in psychodynamic therapies, has been supported by this research. Mindfulness-based therapies offer techniques for calming the nervous system and regulating emotion. Approaches such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) address trauma by changing neural pathways.