One of the most confusing issues for people facing psychological therapy is that they don’t know what to expect from it. Indeed, there are far too many ideas and speculations about how it’s carried out. Furthermore, tales from people who’ve been in therapy can also intensify this confusion. For this reason, before making an appointment with a psychologist, it’s important to know what psychological therapy really entails.
Within the field of psychology, there are a wide variety of approaches that determine the strategies and approach of therapy. As a rule, psychological therapy is the set of techniques applied by a psychology professional to improve an individual’s quality of life.
In this article, we hope to clarify what psychological therapy consists of, what you can expect from it, and how you should deal with it.
As mentioned above, psychological therapy is based on the application of a series of techniques and strategies that improve people’s lives. Its objective is to teach and train ways to solve, face, manage, or prevent more adaptive situations or dynamics. In other words, the aim is for the individual to acquire resources to solve their difficulties autonomously and independently. These resources should integrate behavioral, emotional, and thought aspects. For example, to identify the thoughts that lead to the kind of emotions that provoke a panic attack.
As a consequence, psychological therapy must be adapted to the needs of each individual and the problem in question. Therefore, the opinions and experiences of other people who’ve undergone therapy may not be relevant. In fact, every person is different, consequently, the effects of treatments also vary.
How does it work?
Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of psychological therapy is the relationship of trust between the therapist and the client/patient. Thanks to this relationship, they’ll be able to communicate in a sincere way, their concerns, expectations, and difficulties. Only then, will the therapist be able to understand the problem in a global way.
The next essential step is for the therapist to conduct an assessment. This will focus on the aspects that the client/patient has indicated they find problematic. Once the intensity of the problem has been identified and a diagnosis has been made, the therapist and client/patient jointly establish a series of objectives and the way in which they’ll work on them.
Later, throughout the therapeutic process, the appropriate and agreed techniques will be applied. Over time, the usefulness and effectiveness of these strategies will be reviewed. For instance, if it’s observed that a certain technique isn’t achieving good results, an alternative way of dealing with it can be found.
What to expect from psychological therapy?
Taking into account the above, what can you expect from psychological therapy? What will be expected of you?
Help and information
Psychological therapy is a source of help, a guide. What you find in a therapist is a person who offers their knowledge, time, and resources to reduce your discomfort. Therefore, you can expect that, from the first appointment, the therapist will be friendly, and helpful, and provide you with all the information you need.
In addition, you can expect that they’ll give you support to achieve certain objectives, based on proven techniques. However, there won’t be a foolproof formula and some changes and adjustments will need to be made throughout the process.
It’s not only about talking
When talking about psychological therapy, the first image that tends to come to mind is a room and two people talking. However, although talking is a powerful tool in psychology, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, in psychological therapy, other techniques can and should be used.
Sometimes, these techniques demand the involvement of the client/patient beyond the therapy session. Indeed, usually, some form of homework is given for the next session. For example, completing a record of uncomfortable situations or thoughts. On other occasions, in the consultation, practical training can be undertaken so that the client/patient learns a technique to generalize or apply in other contexts. For instance, relaxation training.
Technologies can even be used to work on specific aspects. Such as the use of virtual reality in systematic desensitization to expose an individual to a phobia of heights. Or, the use of computer programs in cognitive training.
As we’ve already mentioned, you mustn’t expect psychological therapy to provide a magical solution. In fact, you should expect just the opposite. That’s because, for therapy to be effective and to achieve the greatest possible benefits, you must work continuously and insistently on what’s necessary.
This work is especially important for you as a client/patient since the ultimate goal is for you to acquire a series of skills and resources that you can use independently at any time and in any situation. Therefore you must work constantly to learn and integrate these strategies. Without this work, it won’t be possible to advance and you won’t have much to offer your therapist with which they can help you.
Specific goals and tasks
Everything undertaken in therapy is part of an intervention with a specific objective. For instance, it might be to reduce anxiety and learn how to prevent it. For this reason, although it’s sometimes necessary to explore different areas to understand a problem, all the activities that are carried out should be justified and directed toward that goal.
This can help you realize your progress and become motivated, as well as help the therapist identify when to start spacing sessions further apart, or even bring your therapy to a close. Having this clear can also be useful to know if you’re in the hands of the right professional. After all, if the therapy is endless, it’ll make you feel uncomfortable. Furthermore, you might find yourself carrying out tasks are carried out that don’t contribute anything to your situation. Or, that nothing is worked on in the sessions. If this is the case, you should think about changing your therapist, or at least mention the issue to them.
What you shouldn’t expect from psychological therapy
In short, in psychological therapy, you learn to manage a problem effectively. Therefore, you mustn’t expect a quick fix, as learning takes time. It means facing painful situations, reflecting on them, and changing your lifelong thoughts and habits. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect it to be easy or that it’ll make your life a bed of roses.
On the other hand, don’t adopt the attitude that it won’t work for you. If you think in this way, it certainly won’t be successful.
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