Nature and Process of Psychotherapy

Humans are social creatures that rely on one another to maintain their physical and mental health. They often seek assistance from one another when this is in any way threatened. Any mental health professional will attest to the difficulty of learning how to assist those who are experiencing psychological issues. Psychotherapy can be useful in situations like these. Individuals with psychological issues can benefit greatly from psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is a medical word that refers to the use of psychology's theories and principles to heal emotional pain. Though not as structured as modern psychotherapy, we find reflections on notions that were fairly psychological in philosophical texts such as epics and other works.

What is Psychotherapy?

The American Psychological Association states that talk therapy, sometimes known as psychotherapy, is a sort of treatment or a means to assist people with a wide range of psychological issues, mental disorders, and emotional challenges. In order to improve functioning, well-being, and adjustment, psychotherapy can aid in reducing or controlling bothersome symptoms. In psychotherapy, psychologists use methods that have been supported by science to assist clients in creating better, more productive routines.

In a general sense, psychotherapy can be described as having three main parts: a healing agent, a patient, and a healing or therapeutic relationship (Frank and Frank 1991). According to Strupp (1986), psychotherapy is the methodical application of human interaction for therapeutic goals to bring about long-lasting changes in a client's thinking, feelings, and behavior. This alleviates emotional discomfort. The cornerstone of successful psychotherapy work is the client and therapist's shared cognitive and emotional engagement. Historically, the term "psychotherapy" has been used to describe a client-therapist interaction in which mental problems are treated using psychological approaches. It is a procedure in which a qualified expert establishes a connection with a client in order to assist him in overcoming behavioral issues, mental health symptoms, or other obstacles to personal development. According to Wolberg (1988), the goal of psychotherapy is to help maladjusted individuals improve their behavior and attitudes in order to achieve more positive results.

Historical Background of Psychotherapy

The history of psychotherapy in Europe dates back to the nineteenth century. For a long time, roughly from the end of the nineteenth century until the 1960s, psychoanalysis and its derivatives were the dominating influences in psychotherapy. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, oversaw its growth until his death in 1939, and he generally rejected attempts by others to significantly alter Freudian theory and practices. The Freudian model was significantly modified by a number of his earlier (and later) followers, including Adler, Jung, Horney, and Sullivan.

Along with the growth of these Freudian psychoanalytical offshoots, other significant new schools or approaches to psychotherapy have left their imprint over time. The client-centered approach created by Carl Rogers was one novel technique that stood out from the prevalent analytically driven therapies in significant ways. Rogers criticized the more conventional therapists' "expert" roles, which placed a focus on how to interpret the underlying conflicts of their patients. Rogers emphasized in its place. Instead, Rogers highlighted the client's capacity for development and the therapist's capacity to be empathically responsive to the client's feelings.

The gradual development of behavior therapy was another more dramatic advance. Even though learning theory-based methods were developed quite early, they had little influence on practice until Joseph Wolpe's book Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition was published in 1958. Although Wolpe was a psychiatrist, psychologists have been crucial to the development of behavior therapy since it is more closely related to psychology than other types of psychodynamic psychotherapy.

The main benefits of behavior therapy included a more direct approach from the therapist and an emphasis on behavior and performance. Additionally, compared to the practitioners of other orientations, Rogers and the behavior therapists placed a larger focus on the necessity of evaluating the outcomes of their therapy. Another distinction between the relative briefness of the former set these two orientations apart from the more conventional types of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy. The client-centered and behavior therapies lasted for a period of weeks or months but the psychoanalytically oriented therapies required a few years to complete, notwithstanding disagreements regarding the various goals and sorts of outcomes achieved by means of the varied therapeutic approaches.

Aims of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is more than just a conversation between two individuals about an issue. It is a cooperative effort that was initiated and maintained on a professional level with a focus on certain therapeutic goals. These are −

  • Removing existing symptoms − Eliminating symptoms that are generating anguish and obstructions is one of the main objectives of psychotherapy.

  • Modifying existing symptoms − Under some conditions, symptom removal may not be the goal (e.g., due to lack of desire, diminished ego strength, or budgetary limits); the goal may instead be symptom modification rather than symptom treatment.

  • Retarding current symptoms − There are some malignant kinds of issues, such as dementia, when treatment just assists to postpone a natural decline. This aids in keeping the client's connection to reality.

  • Mediating irrational patterns of behavior − Emotional factors often play a role in social, marital, educational, and professional issues. From simple symptom alleviation to the rectification of problematic interpersonal behaviors and relationships, psychotherapy can play a crucial role.

  • Promoting healthy personality development − Addresses the immaturity of the average individual and the characterological challenges brought on by growth inhibition. Here, the goal of psychotherapy is to remove any obstacles to fuller creative self-fulfilment, productive attitudes, and fulfilling interpersonal interactions.

Schools of Psychotherapy

Major schools of psychotherapy are −

  • Psychodynamic Therapy − The foundation of the psychodynamic theory is laid by Sigmund Freud, who focused on giving the client more ego power and/or relieving them of the strain of suppressed urges so that they may be free to live their own lives. The foundation of psychodynamic therapy is the idea that issues arise as a result of unresolved, frequently unconscious tensions that often date back to infancy. The clients of this treatment benefit from increased comprehension and coping skills.

  • Behaviour Therapy − The major focus of behavior therapy is to alter or modify harmful behavior. Maladaptive behaviors are detected during this treatment and then replaced or adjusted using a variety of strategies. Behavior therapy has benefited greatly from learning theories. Also notable are Ivan Pavlov's contributions to classical conditioning and B. F. Skinner's to operant conditioning.

  • Humanistic Psychotherapy −The primary focus of humanistic treatment is on the client's conscious, subjective experiences. The therapist concentrates more on the here and now. The client participates much more actively than the therapist, who mostly maintains a supportive environment.

  • Existential Psychotherapy − Existential approaches to psychotherapy have a tendency to appear when there is a wave of interest in existential philosophy, as well as in certain parts of the world. Rollo May and Frankel made the biggest contributions. Existentialism is a philosophy that explores the purpose of life. They hold that people's freedom to pick from the options accessible to them has a significant impact on how they shape their own moral dilemmas falls under Logotherapy.

  • Gestalt Therapy − Germany gave birth to Perls' Gestalt treatment. This treatment was developed in part by Gestalt psychologists Wertheimer, Koffka, Kohler, Lewin, and Goldstein. Gestalt’s theory emphasizes organization and relatedness, which contrasts with Wundt-reductionism Titchener’s, and mechanical behaviorism. When applied to human life, this theory integrates the various dynamic, affective, cognitive, and social aspects into one whole before being understood as a complete unity.

  • Interpersonal Therapy − Based on the theories of Harry Stack Sullivan, Gerald L. Klerman and Myrna Weissman provided interpersonal therapy. As the name implies, the major focus of this treatment is on the client's current and previous social roles and interactions. During treatment, one or two issues the client is currently dealing with are taken into account. Conflicts with friends, family, or even co-workers are a concern. Additionally, it can assist people in coping with loss and sadness. With the help of this therapy, other problems like retirement and divorce can be resolved.

Psychotherapy in India

Giridra Sekhar Bose founded the psychoanalytic movement in India. He established the Indian Psychoanalytical Society in 1922. In his view, psychological antagonism to infantile wants was the root cause of repression rather than social and biological circumstances as suggested by Freud. In 1964, Surya and Jayaram were the first to voice their displeasure with Western psychotherapy. Instead of focusing on intrapsychic explanations, they concentrated on the importance of the local language and situational direct assistance. Attention and concern have been drawn to the effectiveness of western psychotherapy in Indian culture. Easterners are deductive and place great importance on harmony, in contrast to Westerners who are inductive and analytical.

One such exercise that can be used to cure and prevent mental illnesses is yoga. It is a long-standing way of thinking and acting. Additionally, it may be utilized to maintain and advance both physical and psychological wellness.


Nearly 100 years have elapsed since the implementation of a structured therapeutic strategy, making psychotherapy a challenging procedure. A better understanding of one's condition or situation, the ability to recognize and alter behaviors or thoughts that have a negative impact on one's life, a deeper comprehension of one's relationships and experiences, and the development of self-awareness are all possible with the aid of psychotherapy.

Updated on: 02-Dec-2022


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