Psychotherapy the Basics


Psychotherapy is a set of techniques intended to improve mental health, emotional or behavioral issues in individuals, who are often called "clients". These issues often make it hard for people to manage their lives and achieve their goals. Psychotherapy is aimed at these problems, and solves them via a number of different approaches and techniques; commonly psychotherapy involves a therapist and client(s), who discuss their issues in an effort to discover what they are and how they can manage them. Because sensitive topics are often discussed during psychotherapy, therapists are expected, and usually legally bound, to respect patient privacy and client confidentiality.
General description

Given that psychotherapy is a kind of treatment restricted mostly to verbal exchanges, practitioners do not have to be medically qualified. In most countries, however, psychotherapists must be trained, certified and licensed with a range of different licensing schemes and qualification requirements in place around the world. Psychotherapists may be psychologists, social workers, trained nurses, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, or professionals of other mental health disciplines. Psychiatrists' training focuses on the prescription of medicines, with some training in psychotherapy. Psychologists have special training in mental health assessment and research in addition to psychotherapy. Social workers have special training in mental health assessment and treatment as well as linking patients to community and institutional resources.

Recent trends in drug development to treat chemical imbalances have led to a more wide spread use of pharmaceuticals in conjunction with psychotherapy by medically qualified mental health nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, and in some states prescribing psychologists . While having benefits for patients with ailments such as bipolar disorder, impulse problems, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder, drugs of late have begun to be used as a 'quick fix' and are gaining less favor in the therapeutic community.

There are at least five main systems of psychotherapy:
Brief counseling


For a comprehensive view of the different kinds of psychotherapies, see the List of psychotherapies. For a view of the development of psychotherapy see the Timeline of Psychotherapy history Most psychotherapies are either direct descendants of psychoanalysis, or their founders started out in areas of psychoanalysis before developing their own theories. Therefore, when describing the history of psychotherapy, most traditionally start with Freud.

Although there are some bodies of thought in psychology without Sigmund Freud in their legacy, most can be traced back to his work starting in the 1880s in Vienna. Trained as a neurologist, Freud began noticing neurological problems in patients that had no biological basis. Seeing blindness, paralysis and anorexia with no apparent physical cause, he looked towards the mind for answers. Finding some evidence that those who were mentally ill could exhibit physical symptoms, he discovered colleagues and teachers who were equally perplexed and interested in such matters like Josef Breuer and Jean-Martin Charcot.

Freud opened up a private practice in 1886 until 1896 that mostly treated women who showed symptoms of hysteria (which, at that time, was very loosely defined). Using such techniques as dream interpretation, free association, transference and analysis of the id, ego and superego, his colleagues developed a system of psychotherapy termed 'psychoanalysis'. Students and colleagues of his such as Alfred Adler, Otto Rank and Carl Jung became psychoanalysts themselves, and formed their own differentiating systems of psychotherapy. These were all later termed under a more broad label of 'psychodynamic', meaning anything that involved the psyche's conscious/unconscious influence on external relationships and the self. Psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are considered to be particularly effective at treating certain mental disorders, such as personality disorders and mood disorders.
Current psychodynamic approaches continue to develop and change. Contemporary Freudian approaches usually retain Freud's emphasis on sexuality, aggression, and mental conflict, and often prefer insight-oriented, uncovering psychotherapy to more supportive techniques. Contemporary Freudians, for the most part, continue to believe that psychotherapy is most effective when it leads to increased self-knowledge on the part of the patient. Other current psychodynamic approaches -such as object-relational and self-psychological approaches- prefer techniques designed to change the patient's habitual patterns of living by building an especially authentic or supportive relationship with the analyst that is believed to help the patient learn new ways of relating to others and to life in general.



Acute Stress Disorder

By definition, acute stress disorder is a result of a traumatic event in which the person experienced or witnessed an event that involved threatened or actual serious injury or death and responded with intense fear and helplessness.


Symptoms include dissociative symptoms such as numbing, detachment, a reduction in awareness of the surroundings, derealization, or depersonalization; re-experiencing of the trauma, avoidance of associated stimuli, and significant anxiety, including irritability, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, and restlessness. The symptoms must be present for a minimum of two days and a maximum of four weeks and must occur within four weeks of the traumatic event for a diagnosis to be made.


The disorder may resolve itself with time or may develop into a more severe disorder such as PTSD. Medication can be used for a very short duration (up to four weeks) or psychotherapy can be utilized to assist the victim in dealing with the fear and sense of helplessness.


Prognosis for this disorder is very good. If it should progress into another disorder, success rates can vary according to the specific of that disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Common Characteristics

Anxiety Disorders categorize a large number of disorders where the primary feature is abnormal or inappropriate anxiety. Everybody has experienced anxiety. Think about the last time a loud noise frightened you and remember the feelings inside your body. Chances are you experienced an increased heart rate, tensed muscles, and perhaps an acute sense of focus as you tried to determine the source of the noise. These are all symptoms of anxiety. They are also part of a normal process in our bodies called the 'flight or flight' phenomenon. This means that your body is preparing itself to either fight or protect itself or to flee a dangerous situation.

These symptoms become a problem when they occur without any recognizable stimulus or when the stimulus does not warrant such a reaction. In other words, inappropriate anxiety is when a person's heart races, breathing increases, and muscles tense without any reason for them to do so. Once a medical cause is ruled out, an anxiety disorder may be the culprit.