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1. What is psychotherapy?

Technically speaking, psychotherapy is
  • intentional use of psychotherapeutic means

  • by a qualified specialist

  • in line with scientific evidence

  • with the aim of treating psychological pain, relationship problems, problematic behaviour or somatic reactions (bodily sensations). Further goals can include psychological support during periods of hardship, or the process of self-discovery and/or self-development. 

Metaforically speaking, psychoterapy can be seen as
  • A walk through the country - you choose the destination and pace, therapist knows the terrain

  • Gardening - some of us inherit a green lawn, others a bush, but by patient watering, pruning (and sometimes fertilizing :) you can cultivate a garden, which offers both sun and shade, bears fruit and gives joy

  • Mountaineering - you and therapist both climb your own mountains, but the therapist can see on yours what you cannot (e.g. avalanche is about to fall, there is a alternative route, or that you are forgetting to use your ice axe)

  • There's also an original IT metaphor - you are creating a new code, which is not going to replace the old one, but you can run it instead of the previous version

From practical point of view, it is useful to compare psychological counselling and psychotherapy. Counselling

  • Is usually a one-time contact, whether in person, by mail, phone, skype etc.

  • You state your issue to the specialist, elaborating briefly and emphasizing the present situation

  • He responds with an opinion, advice or inquiry

  • Ideally, you acquire a new perspective on your situation, and then proceed to do what is necessary. Or, by contrast, you realize your old perspective is perfectly fine and proceed according to it

  • Unfortunately, sometimes we cannot put the advice to use ("now I know, that my problem is connected to X, and I should do Y - but I just can't"). This is the point when therapy comes into play.


  • Is a process of meeting a psychotherapist, usually once a week for a few months

  • This allows for development of therapeutic relationship and exploring relevant topics

  • Communication is more dialogic, and focuses more on internal experiences than on external events

  • Improvement in therapy is based on

    • deepened self-knowledge and awareness of causality and context

    • experiencing of ones self and feelings, in a stable and warm therapeutic relationship

    • training / application of acquired knowledge and experiences

  • At the same time, human psyche is not a machine that can be disassembled and repaired at will. There's a lot that we do not know and can not do

  • Therefore, rather than warranting results, psychotherapy gives realistic hope (see "6. Does therapy work?")

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