What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is defined by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP, 2009) as a process “to help clients gain insight into their difficulties or distress, establish a greater understanding of their motivation and enable them to find more appropriate ways of coping or bring about changes in their thinking or behaviour. Psychotherapy involves exploring feelings, beliefs, thoughts and relevant events, sometimes from childhood and personal history, in a structured way.”
There are different types, or ‘schools’ of psychotherapy which see and understand human experience, behaviour and the mind, in very different ways. The way in which your psychotherapist understands the nature of human experience can affect how they perceive, and therefore respond therapeutically to, your difficulties.
Psychodynamic theory and psychotherapy understands our issues as arising from our important childhood relationships, particularly in our family of origin and our parents. Hence, a psychodynamic therapist will explore your past and childhood experiences for the root of your current difficulties. As hypnosis has its roots in the work of Freud, hypnosis is initially understood within Freud’s psychodynamic framework, though many hypnotherapists will now practise an a-theoretical approach.
Experiential philosophy and psychotherapy views distress as a normal, natural human experience rooted in ‘problems of living’. This incorporates experiences of bereavement, unemployment, rejection etc. Experiential psychotherapy also prioritises the client’s ‘world view’ rather than the therapists’ theoretical stance. Within this ‘no technique’ therapy, the therapist aims to help the client come to terms with such ‘problems of living’ and find ways of living within recognised social constraints (such as embedded racism, sexism, classism or socio-economic disadvantage) to enable the client to fulfil his/her potential as much as possible.
CBT understands emotional or psychological distress, not as normal ‘problems of living’ but as stemming from what’s termed as ‘maladaptive’ or ‘dysfunctional’ thoughts – which then give rise to ‘inappropriate’ patterns of feeling termed emotional ‘disorders’, such as Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder or OCD etc. CBT therapists are more likely to believe that the way we are thinking about our difficulties is the problem – rather than the problem being the difficulty in itself. By focusing on and re-training our thoughts, CBT theorists and therapists believe we can overcome distressing emotions and change unhelpful behaviours.
From these examples it’s clear that the way your therapist views your distress or behaviour is very relevant in the way they will then understand and approach your issue or difficulty.
My approach to Psychotherapy
As an integrative psychotherapist and hypno-psychotherapist, I offer an atheoretical approach to therapy. This approach utilises and draws on multiple ways of understanding human experience stemming from my own experience and training in psychotherapy over more than twenty years, along with my study of ‘critical’ social psychology, which considers the impact of the family and wider society on the individual. These ways of understanding include:
This cutting-edge, research-based model is based in psychotherapeutic understandings of development, attachment, and the effect of early trauma and adversity on subsequent emotional functioning, behaviour and personality development – including the development of addictive behaviours such as substance abuse and eating disorders.The recognition of the centrality of emotion enables the promise of a lasting treatment for such serious conditions and an alternative to other models. It can also be helpfully utilised for additional conditions such as personality disorders and other mental health issues.