This is an excellent article for people who have never been in therapy before and might have questions about what the process is like.
Psychotherapy and Counseling
by Donald J. Franklin, Ph.D.
Psychotherapy is a process by which you examine your thoughts, feelings, actions and relationships. With the assistance of a skilled professional, evaluate where problems exist, or where changes are likely to improve your life satisfaction and overall psychological adjustment. You can then learn how to make the changes that are necessary to achieve better life adjustment and satisfaction.
The terms counseling and psychotherapy are interchangeable because they describe the same process, and have similar goals. Counseling has its roots in personal development and life adjustment theory, while psychotherapy has its roots in a more medically oriented model of treating a mental disease process. Health insurance companies use a medical disease model, so insurance reimbursement is for “psychotherapy” not “counseling.” The distinction is unimportant in applying the process to life management problems, although sometimes lesser trained counselors will use the term counseling to avoid being accused of providing treatment services they are not qualified to provide.
Guided self-assessment to identify life adjustment problems, personal conflicts, relationship issues, behavioral problems, family conflicts, self-identity issues, emotional problems, and/or life stage development issues that are interfering with overall life adjustment, emotional well-being, and life satisfaction
Exploration and identification of the origins of these problems, conflicts and/or issues, both psychologically and factually
Development of a plan for change to resolve these problems and/or issues, including both personal psychological changes, and situational life changes
Assistance in making the necessary personal and life changes, through coaching, psychological education, ongoing behavioral and emotional analysis and feedback, emotional support, behavioral and cognitive training, and assistance in reformulating life goals and plans to achieve those goals.
Psychotherapy appointments are usually scheduled once per week. This allows for steady progress toward resolving the presenting problem, and allows enough time between sessions for you to work on issues discussed in the session. Occasionally, if a life crisis occurs, or if depression or anxiety are particularly severe, sessions may be scheduled more frequently. Once therapy progress is being made, some psychologists will schedule sessions less than once per week, if they feel that progress will not be hampered by the change in schedule.
Psychotherapy may be helpful to you when:
You feel overwhelmed by life problems
Depression, anxiety or anger are taking over your life
You don’t know how to manage a major life decision
You are having trouble with a major relationship
You are having difficulty coping with a serious illness in yourself, or in a family member or friend
Your job is too stressful and you can’t handle it anymore
You don’t know what to do, or where to turn for help