The information below is for informational purposes only, and it does not substitute for obtaining professional services.
Psychotherapy is a helping relationship between a psychologist and a client. It is a professional relationship, in which the psychologist helps the client address specific challenges in the client's life. These challenges often have to do with self-esteem, handling stress, social functioning, close relationships, succeeding at work or at school, coping with physical illness, or improving mental health. The therapist and the client agree on certain rights and responsibilities and work together for the benefit of the client.
The process requires regular meetings between the therapist and the client, during which the client brings up problems or goals and the therapist responds, based on the client's personality and needs. Therapy is likely to succeed if the client engages during sessions and works on the goals between sessions.
Therapy can have benefits as well as discomforts. For example, it may involve discussing unpleasant experiences and feelings. Researchers have shown repeatedly and convincingly that therapy leads to benefits, including improvement in relationships, solutions to specific problems, and significant reduction in distress. There is no guarantee what a given client will experience.
In general, the first 1 to 4 session involve an evaluation of the client's needs. By the end of the evaluation, the therapist offers an initial impressions of what may be helpful. The client should evaluate the information along with their impressions of the therapist. Because therapy costs time, money, and energy, the client should pick a therapist with whom the client feels comfortable.
If you begin therapy, you and the therapist will usually schedule one 45 or 50-min. session (one appointment hour) per week at a time you agree on. The therapist will expect you to come regularly and on time. If you cannot attend a session, then, with advance notice, the therapist may try to reschedule. If and only if clinically indicated, the therapist may ask the client to commit to attending a given number of sessions. Psychotherapy usually ends when the client decides so (for example, because the goals of treatment have been met) or when external circumstances require it.
The American Psychological Association, at its help center site, offers the public free information resources about psychological health and well-being.
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