What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is repairing and tuning up our ability to live our lives fully. All of us have some wear and tear from our experiences which gets in the way of our ability to be happy, loving and successful in our careers and our relationships. It is possible for traumatic events in adulthood to require repair. However, usually there is some origin early in life that led to patterns that were the best we could do at the time but that are no longer helpful in adulthood. Psychotherapy is investigating old patterns and developing new ones. This is not just an intellectual exercise, although arriving at new understandings and making new meanings is part of what takes place. The work involves developing greater awareness of our feelings and our bodies. This inevitably leads to change in our lives and our understanding.

There is a growing consensus that whatever the technique or theoretical orientation, the relationship between the client and therapist is the key to healing. Sometimes this is explained as “we were injured in relationship and our healing must take place in relationship”. For this relationship to work, the therapist must be able to be non-judgmental, non-shaming and completely open to the client’s experience, whatever it might be. The therapist must be able to hold the client’s experience with compassion while maintaining their own sense of calm and stability.

We get stuck on the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we push away and try to exclude. They become pesky and come back to haunt us, whether we’re fully aware of it or not. Therapy provides an opportunity to open to what we have pushed away so that we can move beyond it. Alternatively for that which is truly unreachable at present, therapy can be a school for coping skills. Both of these approaches can be combined; they are not mutually exclusive.


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