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.
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:
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.
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