Most of us have heard of psychotherapy, with a percentage of that number being in treatment. What drives people to see a therapist? What is therapy? Why and when should you see a therapist?

This article, piece one in a series about psychotherapy, will attempt to answer these questions and offer realistic information to those with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.

What is Psychotherapy?

Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is a tool to treat mental health issues. In psychotherapy, you will talk to a stranger telling them what is bothering you, and the therapist acts like a neutral person reflecting back to you what you have said. The therapist becomes a mirror helping you to find your own path and answers.

The theme of psychotherapy is to help you identify and change your thoughts, behaviors, and troubling emotions. Sometimes medication is used in consort with psychotherapy to help ease some symptoms that surface during treatment.

Psychotherapy is typically practiced in the office of a licensed mental health professional, one-on-one with the therapist. However, group therapy is not uncommon.

The real work begins once the client and psychotherapist have passed the introduction stage. The client shares their wounds with the therapist to be addressed, and the two begin talking about and sometimes feeling the emotions that go along with the issues the client is facing.

Psychotherapy can be a short string of sessions during and after which the client feels better and can function better in their life. However, some disorders may require that a client be in therapy may for a year or even decades.

Why Seek a Therapist?

There are as many reasons to see a therapist as people seeking or needing one, including serious mental health disorders, relationship issues, stress, grief, anger, and substance abuse.

Mental Health. A mental health disorder can lead to anything from mental discomfort to suicidal ideations. Some mental health disorders a therapist treats are anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Relationship Issues. Any married couple can tell you that sometimes they need help to stay together. There might be marital problems such as infidelity or divorce. But treatment for relationship issues does not end with married couples. Anyone, especially those who survived child sexual abuse, can find themselves struggling with relationships and needing help.

Stress. Stress is usually related to either your job or unexpected life changes. Psychotherapy can give you a place to go when times get rough. In therapy, you can vent all your frustrations and let yourself speak about how you are feeling for one hour without judgment.

Grief. Facing a loss and the bereavement accompanying it can significantly affect how you are feeling inside and reacting outside. On the inside, you feel the acute loss as an empty space in your gut, and on the outside, you react by weeping and passing through the five stages of grief. Therapy allows you to mourn without judgment and in a safe place.

Anger. Many people believe they cannot control their anger and that outbursts of yelling or physical behaviors that are unacceptable are common. If you react with anger instead of thinking your options through, you may need a psychotherapist’s services.

Substance Abuse. Substance abuse includes alcohol, all unprescribed drugs, such as meth, AND substances that are prescribed but are not taken as ordered. It is nearly impossible to get sober on your own. You need the help of someone else who can be there when you need them. Therapists can and do help those who live with addiction by helping those suffering from it to understand better what they are burying under the high the drugs or alcohol bring.

Author’s note. People who have substance abuse disorder are not weak or flawed. They are good people entrapped by destructive substances and their brain’s reactions to them.




Different Types of Therapy

There are literally hundreds of forms of psychotherapy, and for the sake of this piece, we shall cover only three of them, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), behavioral therapy, and dialectic behavior therapy (DBT).

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) explores the relationship between how a person feels and how they behave. The therapy’s purpose is to teach a client how to control emotions and behaviors.

Behavioral therapy, one of the many forms of psychotherapy, aids one in learning to control their emotions and behaviors. Behavioral therapy has at its base the notion that all behaviors are learned and can be changed. One does this by exchanging potentially destructive and unhealthy behaviors for those that are desired.

Dialectic behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy that is adapted for people who feel intense emotions. The end result of DBT is to help clients understand and accept feelings that are difficult to manage. Acceptance means that the person’s feelings and emotions are valid, and change means that clients need to make positive changes to manage their emotions and move on.

Other therapies include art and music therapy, integrative or holistic treatment, and drama therapy, where the client lives in their adult shoes and goes back in time using their imagination to save themselves as children.

How Therapy Can Help You Overcome

Early childhood experiences of abuse or neglect form complex post-traumatic stress disorder. This mistreatment causes clients to have multiple emotional and physical problems that need addressing.

A few of the physical problems trauma can cause are as follows:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Being easily startled
  • Heart disease

A few of the emotional problems caused by trauma are as follows:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sadness
  • Numbness
  • Dissociation
  • Anger
  • Aggressive behavior

Both the physical and emotional symptoms are caused by having no control as a child while someone else abused their bodies and minds.

The best way to overcome these physical and emotional problems that have come from memories and emotions from the past is to learn to live in the now. People who have survived childhood trauma must let go of the past (not forget it, that is impossible) and stop worrying about the future.

Therapy aids you in the process of living in the present and allows the past to become just that, the past.

Ending Our Time Together

I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder and another mental health condition and would not be here if it were not for psychotherapy. Due to the added problems from my second diagnosis, I have spent many years healing myself.

That you heal yourself is critical to understand. The therapist has no special powers over you, nor do they have all the answers you seek. Therapists are simply people with a license trained to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. The therapist’s role is to prompt you to explore a different way of thinking and behaving. You do all the hard work.

No matter your problem, from wanting to quit smoking to learning to handle life on life’s terms, you can find peace of mind and healing in a therapist’s office.

“Be Your Best Without the Stress! Be the director and actor in your movie called My Life.”        — Katrina Radke

“Therapy will take longer than you want, but shorter than what you fear.” – Dr. Paula McNitt