Psychotherapy or counselling is a form of treatment used by psychologists which is designed to improve the patient’s mental health. The method involves creating a relationship between the therapist and the patient and then using mainly talking therapy in the form of regular conversations, although other methods such as music, art and role-play may be used, particularly in counselling involving children. As well as psychotherapy between the therapist and an individual, it is also possible to use the techniques in group therapy, or with couples or families in relationship and family counselling.
Counselling is more often used to describe the form of psychotherapy that treats more everyday problems, rather than mental health issues, such as divorce and relationship problems, bereavement counselling and parenting help. There is a clear structure to the therapy sessions, and psychotherapists are ethically and legally bound to keep complete patient confidentiality. Over a period of sessions, which may last weeks or maybe months, the patient is encouraged to come to terms with their situation and to learn to manage it. They should find the treatment helps them become more self-aware, to alter their behaviour and change their actions if necessary. In the case of bereavement counselling, the bereaved patient will be helped to accept and deal with their grief. It is not a way of making the grief go away, but the psychotherapist is able to help the patient learn to move through the process. With divorce counselling, it is the therapist’s role to help the couple make the right decision for them and if divorce is inevitable, then to help them through the experience with the minimum of trauma.
In some situations, psychotherapy is used to treat patients with mental health disorders, in conjunction with medical treatment from the psychiatrist. The talking therapy can be beneficial in helping the patient deal with their illness and treat the psychological aspect, whilst the medicine can help with the physiological. In some cases the therapy can actually help the medical treatment to work.
Psychotherapists should belong to an official professional body and an individual seeking a therapist with no reference from another medical practitioner should keep this in mind. The main three bodies are The UK Council for Psychotherapy, The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the British Psychoanalytic Council and there are other smaller associations for more specialised forms of psychotherapy.