What is Psychotherapy? What are the different types of psychotherapy? What is the status of a psychotherapist? What is the role of a psychotherapist? In what circumstances do you consult a psychotherapist? In short! In this article, you will discover everything about psychotherapy and psychotherapist
Psychotherapy refers to the care or accompaniment by an individual trained in this, of one or more people suffering from psychological problems, sometimes in addition to other types of therapeutic interventions (drugs, etc.).
Depending on the patient (child or adult), the type and severity of the disorder, and the context of the intervention, there are many different types of psychotherapy that rely on as many different practices based on various theoretical approaches and sometimes contradictory.
Most, however, rely on the establishment of an interpersonal relationship between the patient and the therapist as part of an explicit contract of care. In this respect, it differs from practices of accompaniment of the healthy individual (coaching, personal development) sometimes carried out in a spiritual, religious or even sectarian framework. So, what are the different types of psychotherapy?
I – Different Types of Psychotherapy
In recent years, we often talk about different approaches used in psychology and particularly in psychotherapy. A theoretical approach or a theoretical orientation is a model of theoretical intervention built by researchers and clinicians who question the functioning of the human psyche. These approaches offer, as it were, an explanation of the human person, his personality, his reactions, his emotions and his behaviors that correspond to a certain logic. To these approaches are grafted psychotherapeutic techniques that are consistent with their theoretical reference.
There are a lot of psychotherapeutic approaches, here are some of them:
1 – Psychoanalysis:
It was founded by Sigmund Freud, from the beginning of the 20th century, and then gradually became a collective work, in which the various collaborators and pupils of Freud participated. For a little more than a century, psychoanalytic thought has diversified, creating different currents, notably the schools of C.G. Jung, J. Lacan and those of M. Klein and D. Winnicott. Their basic principles remain common.
The fundamental idea is the existence of the unconscious as the epicenter of life: it is here that every day and conscious life takes shape. From then on, all psychoanalytic work consists of establishing the links between the current difficulties on the one hand and the experiences, the repressed and unresolved conflicts of the personal history of the other. The patient is thus led to relive and understand the meanings and the influence of his unconscious conflicts on his current functioning and to emerge gradually.
We differentiate the analytic treatment from the psychoanalytic psychotherapy, which uses the same principles but has different objectives and frameworks:
The psychoanalytic cure consists of work in depth at the rate of 3 or 4 sessions per week where the analyzed, lying on a couch, is brought to tell freely to the psychoanalyst all that passes through the mind. The speech and the psychic reality of the patient are at the center of the treatment, as is the relationship between the patient and the psychoanalyst. The agreed goal is not the disappearance of such or such other specific symptom but self-knowledge and the acquisition of a better overall existential equilibrium. The analysis allows important reorganizations of the patient’s fundamental structure; it can require the development of several years, between 4 and 10 years.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy, more commonly used than the analytic cure, has defined goals around psychic suffering and specific symptoms. Its frame is adaptable according to the situations: one to three weekly sessions, face-to-face but possibly also lying on the couch, with a duration ranging from a few months to a few years.
For more info: Raymond de Saussure Psychoanalysis Center, www.cpsr.ch; Charles Baudoin Institute, www.institut-baudouin.org
2 – Systemic Psychotherapy:
Systemic orientation therapies appeared in the United States in the 1950s under the impetus of anthropologist Gregory Bateson. With the school of Palo Alto, he develops a new understanding of the functioning of human groups based on the contributions of the theories of systems and information, the pragmatics of communication and cybernetics.
From these early works, the systemic approach, which developed in Europe from the 1970s, is characterized by a large number of currents that illuminate the different aspects of the functioning of human systems: the different forms of verbal communication non-verbal and metaphorical; the analysis of power, alliances and relational games; the structuring of relationships within a family; intergenerational transmission of family behaviors and values, etc.
Systemic orientation psychotherapy is the treatment of a relationship problem, psychological and/or psychiatric, in the context of the social system in which it arises. It uses as a lever of changing the interview with all the people concerned by the problem or during individual psychotherapy, the linking of the problem of the person with his entourage. The systemic psychotherapeutic approach will, therefore, seek to act both on the individual and on his or her relationship context. The psychotherapist will attempt to establish a relationship of trust, based on acceptance and respect for patients’ representations and values.
For more info: Geneva Association of Family Therapies,
3 – Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapy (CBT):
In the first half of the twentieth century, psychologists are concerned with deepening the understanding of human behavior on the basis of rational and measurable science. Coming from this current, behavioral psychologists, J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, confirm that human behavior is conditioned. After the first two waves (behavioral and cognitive (see Beck)) succeeds a third so-called emotional wave by introducing innovative methods (schematic therapy, dialectical therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, acceptance therapy, and commitment, etc.).
This current also postulates that emotions and behaviors are more determined by the interpretation that individuals give to an event than by the event itself.
Thanks to an active and collaborative therapeutic style, the patient and the therapist identify together the difficulties of the patient’s daily reality and define the therapeutic objective to be attained. Therapy focuses on how the problem works, here and now, in its cognitive (thoughts), emotional and behavioral components, in order to understand the consequences. The difficulties are then approached from the perspective of dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. They also highlight the beliefs, patterns, and habits more or less rigidified that should be relaxed to promote a better adaptation of the patient to its current situation.
Change strategies and learning new skills are proposed and tested during homework tasks that complement the work done in the session. Regular assessments of progress are made during treatment and determine its duration, usually short and limited in time.
For more info: Swiss Association of Cognitive Psychotherapy,
4 – Existential / Humanistic Psychotherapies: Gestalt Therapy
Frederick S. Perls, psychiatrist, Jewish psychoanalyst emigrated to the USA, began to develop the basics of Gestalt therapy from the 1950s on the basis of Gestalt-Psychology (psychology of the form), psychoanalytic writings as well as on phenomenological and existential research. This approach is part of the current of humanistic psychotherapies that promotes a holistic view of man. In this approach, the person is taken into account as a whole, in his relationship with his environment and in his life context.
Gestalt therapy emphasizes awareness of what is happening in the present moment. She is interested in the “how” of the person’s functioning rather than in the search for causes in the story of the subject. It allows us to see how our body, our emotions, our thoughts, we come in contact and interact with the world around us. She proposes to raise awareness of our way of existing in our relationships and invites us to discover how we can create novelty and learn how to adjust creatively in our lives.
Gestalt therapy is a relational therapy. The therapist’s presence is active, engaged, involved, but not directive. It accompanies the process and the integration of change. The therapist dialogues with the patient and may also be asked to propose experiments, for example, by working on movements, drawings, photographs, etc.
Gestalt therapy aims to restore and develop our abilities of choice, responsibility, and creativity. It is particularly adapted to situations of choice of life, emotional and relational difficulties.
5 – Transactional Analysis:
Created by an American psychiatrist, Dr. Eric Berne (1910-1970), the Transactional Analysis comes from humanist currents, psychoanalysis, and theories of communication. Integrative, it takes into account intrapsychic dynamics (what is lived in the psyche of the person) and interpersonal dynamics (what is lived in the relationship with others).
One of the originalities of the TA lies in the desire of its founder to make psychology accessible to as many people as possible. In this perspective, the theoretical framework of TA is formulated in a deliberately colorful and familiar language.
The theory of Transactional Analysis is based on some founding principles:
– a postulate: each person does his best in the situation as it sees it.
– a model of the functioning of the psyche modulated by three “instances”, the states of the self (Parent, Adult, Child). These influence the human being during internal conflicts, during decisions and in his behavior with others.
– The notion of “script” or “scenario”, a generally unconscious life plan based on an image of the self and the world developed during childhood, which continues, in adulthood, to influence the individual in his own way to interpret his experiences and to arrange his life.
– a dynamic: the need for common and necessary recognition for all human beings.
Client and psychotherapist establish a therapeutic contract that stipulates the goal and what everyone will do to achieve it. This contract can relate directly to the client’s complaint, aim at a relational or intrapsychic change, or aim from the outset for a profound change in the scenario. AT therapy can be done individually and/or in groups.
For more info: Center AT Geneva, www.centreatgeneve.com, Institute of Psychotherapy of the Swiss Association for Transactional Analysis, www.sgta-asat.ch/215d429.html
6 – the Person-Centered Approach:
The person-centered approach was developed in 1940 by the American psychologist Carl Rogers (1902-1987). It is centered on the person and not on a problem, a disease or a particular symptom.
During the session, the client is listened to with empathy, in a relationship of trust and authenticity. The psychotherapist respects three fundamental attitudes defined by C. Rogers:
Congruence, or agreement with itself. This leads the client to thwart his defense mechanisms to restore his own congruence.
Empathic understanding While remaining himself, the psychotherapist tries to put himself in the place of his client. To enter his world and his feelings, trying to see them from the same angle.
The unconditional positive acceptance of what the customer shares. According to Rogers, the majority of psychological problems stem from the scarcity of such acceptance by parents during infancy.
Person-centered attitudes, that is, the deep inner attitudes of the psychotherapist will enable the person to overcome the blockages that hinder his or her self-fulfillment and pursue her or his path towards a more harmonious personal accomplishment. These basic attitudes will gradually be developed by the consultant to become what C. Rogers defines as the “fully functioning person”.
For more information: Swiss Society for People-Centered Approach,
II – Status of the Psychotherapist
– Sometimes also a psychiatrist or psychologist.
– Often trained in a recognized intervention method (postgraduate training).
– Title not protected by law. Even if a worker had not taken any of the training necessary for good practice, he could still be called a psychotherapist.
– The psychological or psychoanalytical approach in a helping relationship. More rarely, approach “new age” or esoteric.
– Cannot prescribe (or recommend) medication. Does not issue medical certificates.
– Intervention partly reimbursed by certain supplementary health insurances.
III – Ethics of the Psychotherapist
Respect for different codes of ethics depends on the affiliation of psychotherapists to professional organizations such as the Doctor’s orders. The practices of psychotherapists who are not registered in a professional organization demanding the respect of specific ethical rules fall under common law.
Patients, people in difficulty, are vulnerable. In accordance with the deontology, it is in particular necessary to take care to respect the identity of the patients, the confidentiality of the exchanges, the neutral attitude of the therapist, the absence of judgment, the non-directivity and the benevolence. Even if most practitioners are in good faith, the risk of manipulation by “false practitioners” remains unresolved, due to the position of the psychotherapist.
However, some principles have been set out to define the framework for ethical psychotherapy. The psychotherapy must result from an oral and/or written contract which is based in principle on the volunteer of the patient and the psychotherapist (except for judicial expertise or duty of care). The psychotherapist must be trained in a psychotherapeutic stream and must be able to explain it to the patient. He must specify the technique he will use, its implementation modalities, its limits, the theory it uses, the cost of treatment, payment terms, etc. The goal of treatment is the alleviation of mental suffering, access to greater individual freedom and empowerment. A psychotherapist will not seek to oppose a patient to his or her family and cultural background.
IV – the Role of the Psychotherapist
In care and counseling relationships, both the subject of the request and the way in which it can be answered can be clearly stated. This is not always the case in the helping relationship (nor in many assistance situations). When the contours of such a relationship are too vague, there are two risks:
On the one hand, people who consult sometimes have expectations that the practitioner can not (or should not) answer.
On the other hand, the practitioner may lack reserve, prudence and even benevolence, when he has not defined a clear intervention framework that he uses the full potential and whose limits he respects.
The role of the psychotherapist is not simply to listen, to orient the speech or to free the patient from his emotional states. These actions are just a starting point from which real work can be done.
Its role consists first of all in an infinite responsibility. When a patient has a psychotherapeutic demand, it is his story that is involved, his suffering, not just his childhood, but the child lying deep inside him.
It is his frustrations that are involved, his memory, all that invisible that is alive more alive than the biological and yet carries in itself something “dead” and “bruised” to which the psychotherapist Guarantor of his patient and repository of his experience, thanks to his techniques, his play between speech and silence, will breathe life.
By Way of Conclusion: When and Why Consult a Psychotherapist?
It is not always easy to know when we need help to overcome an ordeal, anguish.
Some people live ill-being without being able to identify them and this disturbs their daily life.
Here are some good reasons to take the step of consulting a psychotherapist:
– Your surroundings find you “depressed”,
– You doubt yourself and constantly hesitate
– You repeat the same failures
– You feel like sabotaging yourself
– You have mood swings
– You lock yourself in an unhealthy situation for you, whether at work or in a relationship
– You have experienced personal trauma etc…
In either case, look for the nearest psychotherapist. But above all else, I advise you to surrender to Jesus Christ! Amen!