Psychotherapy is the field of psychology which deals with the treatment of mental disorders. Many people suffer from a psychological disorder and in particular some form of neurosis. The neuroses are psychological problems of low to medium severity that do not have a physical origin; that is, they are not caused by cerebral lesions or other visible organic conditions. For this reason it is not always possible to treat them with traditional medical methods and it is here that psychotherapeutic interventions come into play.
In psychotherapy, the therapist and patient enter into a relationship aimed at imparting to the subject in treatment a greater knowledge of himself or herself. Treatment will have a duration that generally depends on the approach and methods adopted. There are also group therapies, in which persons with similar disorders and problems meet to discuss their experiences with a therapist. In general, people who suffer from a deeply-rooted disorder present maladaptive behaviour (see glossary) and are afflicted by unpleasant thoughts. People suffering from an Anxiety Disorder for example will be constantly overwhelmed by ideas that generate worry and fear and their behaviour will sometimes be irrational and out of their control.
The initial aim of psychotherapy is to establish an alliance and to agree upon a series of objectives. The ‘project’ thus established between the therapist and patient will slowly lead to an identification of all the thought processes and related dysfunctional behaviour which holds the person back from leading a serene and meaningful existence. Once identified, the maladaptive schemes of thought and ideas can be modified. In order to achieve this goal the full collaboration of the patient is required. The patient must find within himself or herself all of the resources to get better. The therapist will not give any orders and will not reveal any great mysteries, but will be there to help the client set out on the challenging road towards recovery, supporting him or her in the attempts made to affect change.
There many different psychotherapeutic approaches, and all are effective. However, they differ in terms of the theory upon which they are based and the different perspective from which they observe and interpret problems. For example, certain approaches focus on the immediately tangible symptoms of a disorder, addressing them with a view to quickly improving the patient’s present life, while others aim at delving more deeply into the patient’s past and thought processes to discover the causes of a disorder and to eliminate it completely. The choice of the most suitable form of psychotherapy depends on what one wants to achieve when seeking outside help.