The Basics of Therapy

People who want help with their emotional pain or are interested in personal growth, may want to enter into therapy. Therapy involves talking with a trained professional about things such as symptoms, problems, and understanding one's self. Trained professionals have formal education and professional experience with problems in daily life including mental illnesses. They have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to look out for their patients best interests. For more information on therapy

One of the biggest misconception about therapy is that seeing a therapist is a sign of mental illness. In fact, seeing a therapist is a sign of mental health! While the possibility exists of being diagnosed with a mental disorder, only people who are in touch with themselves are able to recognize when they have a problem and need help.

Therapists help patients in many ways:

- Help patients understand and cope with their illnesses.
- Empathize with their patients and help them understand why they behave the way they do.
- Help patients make positive changes by discussing their past behavior.
- Help patients discover why they think certain thoughts and how these thoughts affect their feelings.
- Help patients to identify and repair problems with relationships.

For more information on Patients and Therapists Relationship

Therapy and Medication in Combination

Frequently, patients are treated both with therapy and with medication. Medication can reduce the symptoms of an illness so that the patient can work more effectively in psychotherapy.

Not All Psychotherapy Is Psychoanalysis

Many people have misconceptions about what psychotherapy is. Some people think psychotherapy involves laying on a couch and talking with a psychoanalyst who just says "tell me more." In fact, very few people receive this kind of therapy. The idea of lying on a couch while a therapist asks you questions is a thing of the past. Psychotherapy involves sitting comfortably face to face with a therapist and focusing on specific problems. Most modern therapies focus on reducing symptoms quickly and returning the patient to a relatively normal level of functioning.


Anything you tell a therapist or a therapy group should be kept strictly confidential. Under most circumstances, an ethical therapist will never repeat what you said without your explicit permission. However, there are some limitations to a therapist's confidentiality. A therapist is legally obligated to inform someone if what you tell them involves harm to you or someone else. Also, unlike a conversation with a priest or an attorney, a conversation with your therapist is not privileged. This means that the conversation and your therapist's case records can be subpoenaed in a court of law.

Getting Therapy

Any of the following are common reasons why people seek the help of a professional:

Treatment of a Clinical Illness

- Referral from doctor or other medical professional
- Thoughts or feelings of suicide or harming others
- Feeling down or depressed for a while and can't snap out of it
- Being unable to do the daily things you used to do

Getting Through Life's Challenges

- Going through a major life transition such as a divorce or chronic illness
- Wanting to understand yourself and your past better
- Handling difficult relationships

Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Problems

- Drinking too much or using recreational drugs
- Having drugs or alcohol interfere with your life

These issues are known as Defense Mechanisms