How Psychotherapy Works

There is a lot of confusion about what psychotherapy is and how it works. There are so many competing different models and ideas about how to improve and change your life.

A lot of these ideas focus upon changes which will involve you learning how to do things differently.

I don’t hold with those ideas. I would argue that psychotherapy is actually about enabling you to do less, so that you can become a bit clearer about what it is you want and need to do.

Psychotherapy works by helping you to identify and stop doing things that hold you back.

  1. Enabling you to do less so that you can become a bit clearer about the things that you are doing which you need to stop or change.
  2. It’s not about false changes or creating new habits and practices that in the end become wearing and limiting.
  3. It’s about becoming clearer about the things you might like and want to do if you were not so tied up in things that you actually don’t want to do.
  4. It is about becoming clearer about who you are, and how you live. And making it possible for you to think about the kind of life and choices you want to make, and to develop and make for yourself.
  5. Psychotherapy does not work by giving people things to do, it’s not about giving you homework; it is about giving you a break.
  6. Psychotherapy works by enabling you to stop doing things that are bad for you.
  7. By enabling you to get the chance to relax, for your system to settle. As you relax and settle then you start to see what you want, what you need, what you might be capable of doing.

A lot of people come to psychotherapy not ever having had the chance to settle and relax. They have spent their whole lives trying to do right by what other people wanted, often their parents.

Psychotherapy is probably the one place in which you can get the chance to settle and, as it were, to start again.

At first a psychotherapy relationship can feel strange and unnatural

  1. you are given space and time 
  2. you are listened to 
  3. there maybe some silence
  4. you are not asked to do things

It may feel unusual at first, but as you develop trust and start to relax then you start to create a better connection with your self. This might lead you to rethink what you might want to do with your creativity, or the kind of life and relationships you want to develop.

Psychotherapy helps you to get a clearer understanding of the reasons your psychological conditions and experiences have developed the way they have.

Frequently we develop difficult symptoms like;

  • poor sleep 
  • anxiety 
  • stress 
  • nervousness 
  • illnesses with no apparent cause
  • stomach problems 
  • bowel problems 
  • RSIs

If these kinds of problems are left, then they build up their own momentum and complicated histories. 

Someone may have a long history of stomach problems, and during that time they may see all kinds of doctors and specialists, and possibly be put on all kinds of medication often including anti-anxiety medication.

Out of this, further problems can develop, and often there is a limited success in terms of what happened to the original presenting stomach symptom.

The reason for this is often found through psychotherapy – our problems tend to have a context.

In psychotherapy we take a careful history of your life, we learn about the context of your life.

You are treated as a whole person. It may be that you have come to therapy because of a particular symptoms such as stress, or sleep problems, or confidence problems.

In psychotherapy we try to get a clear picture of where these problems come from, when they started to develop, what they relate to, what tends to trigger them.

Psychotherapy works through conversation; establishing the details of your life. It is not done obtrusively with clipboards and questionnaires, it is done through conversations.

When I’m working with someone I enquire about their early life, the families they were born into and raised in. Their relationships with their siblings, the situation of the original family, and the history of what happened to that family.

I find that when you take the context of a persons life into account you start to shed light upon the symptoms that the person has brought to psychotherapy

There is generally a coincidence of things

Somebody might speak about problems with sleep. When you find out more about when the sleep problems started, you discover that there were events in the persons’ life going on at the same time, often very striking events.

Possibly these relate to a life change, perhaps divorce, bereavement, redundancy or the discovery of betrayal in a marriage or long-term relationship.

  • You find that there is a coincidence of the development of the physical and psychological problem and the life event.

That is where psychotherapy makes useful connections. It starts to help you see that the symptom you come with has a context.

The interesting thing is that generally speaking the context of these things is ignored. We focus on the problem we have with; headaches, tension, stress, stomach, bowels, sleeping, or acid reflux, without thinking whether this relates to something that has happened to us.

Psychotherapy gives you have a confidential safe and predictably controlled environment.

  • we meet at the same time each week
  • for the same amount of time – 50 minutes
  • for the same fee

This creates an environment in which there is real possibility of developing a greater insight into how you have become the person you are, psychological concerns and all.

  • These regular and predictable practices create the chance for you to develop trust in your psychotherapist which may never have been there in other parts or times of your life.
  • If you do not feel trust it makes it hard to feel safe. It makes it hard to have confidence in your own opinions and sense of yourself. When you develop trust everything changes.

Creating trust where there was no trust

Psychotherapy works by enabling you to change something in your one-to-one relationship with your psychotherapist.

Perhaps you feel that nobody believes you, and you move through life with people doubting you and being critical of your opinions and ideas.

Then in your psychotherapy it becomes possible to have the experience that you trust your psychotherapist. Because you have developed this relationship where there is trust, you are then able to take that experience of trust to other parts of your life. Now things are different. Now you have the sense that you are trusted and that changes everything.

Psychotherapy – developing your compass

It’s like developing a sense of where north is on a compass. If you don’t have that, if your childhood and early life did not give you a sense of where north is, then it is impossible to travel. Psychotherapy can give you a sense of your personal north.

Contact me

I have a great deal of experience of how psychotherapy works. Contact me, if you are interested to discuss how psychotherapy could help you address certain issues in your life.

Giving yourself the chance to speak in a confidential setting may help you develop a clearer understanding of how and what you need to change. This may prove to be the beginning of starting to develop greater insight into yourself and your situation.  It may provide you with the energy and motivation you need to carry on with renewed confidence.

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.