What Is Psychotherapy and What Can You Expect From a Psychotherapy Session?
We have heard of psychotherapy and how this form of therapeutic intervention can greatly benefit people with emotional challenges and mental conditions. But what exactly happens during these psychotherapy sessions?
In this article, we will explain what Psychotherapy is and detail the content covered during the sessions, use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other effective techniques, and duration and length of the sessions at Dynamics Psychological Practice, plus other useful tips.
Let’s dive right in!
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, leverages interpersonal relationships to empower individuals to develop greater self-understanding and make positive changes in their lives. Psychologists guide individuals to discover more about themselves, find answers to their problems and make appropriate transformative decisions.
You might ask what the difference is between Psychotherapy and Counselling.
Psychotherapy and Counselling, though similar in many ways and the terms are often used interchangeably, differ in that Psychotherapy is a long-term therapy that delves into long-standing beliefs or attitudes and root causes of problems to resolve underlying issues and empowers individuals to change their mindset. Whereas Counselling is a more short-term approach to address mild to moderate symptoms and outward behaviours and is likely to focus on present issues that can be easily resolved on the conscious level. Counselling can help individuals deal with emotions, identify and manage stressors or change undesirable thoughts and behaviours.
At Dynamics Psychological Practice (DPP), our Psychologists provide highly specialised interventions for a diverse range of psychological problems faced by children and adults, from everyday issues to severe mental disorders. We develop and deliver effective personalised treatment plans based on the results of the initial clinical interview and required diagnostic assessments.
Who Needs Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy treats a wide range of psychological problems. It can help individuals who:
- Have difficulty coping with challenges or even day-to-day activities
- Are adversely affected by a past traumatic event or situation, for example, death of a loved one, abuse, etc.
- Suffer from mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, sleep disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), etc.
- Encounter learning and behavioural challenges
- Are unable to manage their stress or anger
- Face communication and relationship challenges
- Abusing substance use, such as drugs or alcohol
In addition to the above psychological problems and life issues, Dynamics Psychological Practice also offers clinical diagnoses, assessments, therapies and informative psychoeducation (PE) for:
- Depressive Disorders, e.g. Depression, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, etc.
- Bipolar and Related Disorders
- Anxiety Disorders, e.g. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), Separation Anxiety Disorder, etc.
- Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders, e.g. Somatic Symptom Disorder, Illness Anxiety Disorder, etc.
- Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, e.g. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder), Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder, etc.
- Trauma- and Stressor-related Disorders, e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Adjustment Disorders, etc.
- Mild Neurocognitive Disorders (Memory Decline Prevention)
- Personality Disorders, e.g. Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, etc.
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders, e.g. Delusional Disorder, Schizophrenia, etc.
- Sleep-Wake Disorders, e.g. Insomnia Disorder, Hypersomnolence Disorder (Hypersomnia), etc.
- Eating Disorders, e.g. Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-Eating Disorder, etc.
What are the Benefits of Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy can help struggling individuals to:
- Live a better quality and more meaningful every day
- Identify and overcome harmful thought patterns and/or behaviours
- Understand what their stressors or triggers are and learn how to anticipate and control them better
- Learn new or refine skills, such as problem-solving skills and coping skills to better manage their challenges and/or emotional or mental struggles
- Mend strained or broken relationships with improved communication and conflict management skills
- Enjoy a boost in their physical health
Research has also shown that Psychotherapy, whether used as a sole treatment or with other treatments, can improved symptoms of mood and other mental disorders that include depression, anxiety disorders, OCD and panic disorders (Hunsley, Elliott & Therrien, 2013).
What Happens During Psychotherapy?
At Dynamics Psychological Practice, our first session is called a consult session. This is the time when your Psychologist gathers information about you and your needs. You may be asked to fill out forms about your current and past physical and emotional health. It might take a few sessions for your psychologist to fully understand your situation and concerns and to determine the best approach or course of action.
The Psychologist will explain to you what psychotherapy is, what to expect in the sessions, the fees, and other administrative details. This is also an opportunity for you to interview the psychologist and assess if they are a suitable match.
Content Covered During the Sessions
Psychotherapy is offered in different formats, including individual, couple, family or group therapy sessions, and it can be effective and beneficial for all age groups. There are also various frameworks and techniques in psychotherapy. Your Psychologist may specialise in a particular framework or adopt an eclectic approach. Depending on your specific issues, format, personal characteristics, and the Psychologist’s training, different frameworks and techniques may be used.
While the framework is a consideration, personal factors, such as being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings, are also important to ensure the effectiveness of your therapy. For most types of psychotherapy, your Psychologist will encourage you to talk about what is troubling you. As you work through the difficult issues, you may experience intense emotions and may find yourself crying, upset or even having anger outbursts. Do not give up in such situations; your Psychologist is there to help you to understand and cope with these emotions.
You may also be given homework — activities or practices to build on what you have learnt and felt about yourself, and improve your ability to cope with problems. Your diligence in completing the homework will contribute significantly to your successful outcome.
Therapeutic Approaches and Techniques
Our clinically certified and experienced Psychologists conduct therapy sessions that use evidence-based Psychotherapy approaches and interventions that have been proven effective in treating specific disorders or issues. The techniques and tools we use include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Helps you identify and change detrimental behavioural and thought patterns. We will cover more details about this popular technique in the next section.
- Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Helps you identify irrational beliefs and better manage your emotions, behaviours and thoughts.
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Is a modified version of the CBT that teaches you how to develop skills to cope with stress, manage emotions and improve relationships.
- Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Focuses on finding solutions to your current problems, rather than analysing your problems or past experiences.
- Reality Therapy (RT). Focuses on the concept that you can control how you think and behave. It teaches you to take control of enhancing your life by learning how to change undesirable behaviours and making better choices.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Helps increase awareness and acceptance of your thoughts and feelings and commitment to making changes. It also increases your ability to cope with and adjust to situations.
- Psychodynamic and Psychoanalysis Therapies. Focus on increasing your awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviours, developing new insights into your motivations and resolving conflicts.
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT). Focuses on addressing problems with your current relationships to improve your interpersonal skills — how you relate to others, such as family, friends and colleagues.
- Supportive Psychotherapy. Reinforces your ability to better cope with stress and difficult situations.
What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and How Will It Benefit You?
One of the widely used techniques is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It is a short-term psychotherapeutic treatment and is considered to be most effective for a range of problems, which include phobias, anxiety and eating disorders, addictions, depression and severe mental illness. Scientific evidence also supported CBT as an approach that produces lasting positive changes in individuals’ lives and boosting their mental health and well-being.
CBT is based on the concept that our thoughts and emotions can influence our behaviours; we feel better about ourselves when we change the way we think and react to situations. CBT focuses on helping individuals with psychological problems change detrimental thinking and behavioural patterns to alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
It helps identify unhealthy and negative thoughts and behaviours and replace them with healthy, positive ones. This technique also teaches behavioural skills to help you handle stress, manage your emotions and improve your relationships with others.
CBT Strategies and Techniques
CBT comprises a wide range of strategies and techniques. The CBT strategies, which focus on cognitive and behavioural aspects, include:
- Cognitive restructuring or reframing
- Functional assessment (ABCs)
- Guided discovery
- Exposure therapy
- Journaling and thought records
- Activity scheduling and behaviour activation
- Behavioural experiments
- Relaxation, mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques
- Skills training (social skills, communication skills, assertiveness training)
- The SOLVED technique (problem-solving training)
A CBT therapist will adopt the approach that best addresses the individual’s issues, meets unique needs and achieves the desired outcome. The personalised treatment plan is usually developed in collaboration with the individual.
CBT is structured, consisting of interviews and talks, strategies and exercises inside and outside of the sessions. Although the initial session is dedicated to understanding the history and background of the individual, CBT focuses more on the individual’s current life issues, to help them develop more effective thought and behaviour patterns for a better life in the future.
It is important for individuals undergoing CBT to understand that they too play an important role in the success of their therapy. They need to be willing to change, even if it is tough, and be prepared to spend time and effort to make the much-needed changes to achieve their goals. Our team of experienced psychologists are trained and experienced in the practice of CBT and can help guide you to make positive changes in your life and minimise your psychological struggles.
Duration and Length of Psychotherapy
Each therapy session is 50 minutes in duration. The number of sessions you require depends on many factors, which include but are not limited to:
- Your specific issue(s)
- The severity of your symptoms and their impact on your everyday activities
- The length of time you have experienced the symptoms or have dealt with your situation
- The speed of your progress
- The amount of support you receive from your family members and others
There is no fixed answer to the exact number of sessions needed. A short-term therapy, dealing with mild issues and generally using problem-solving methods, may take around 4 to 6 sessions. A medium-length therapy framework that works on a change in cognition style might take around 8 to 12 sessions. For deeply rooted behaviours, a psychodynamic framework exploring unresolved conflicts may be required and this is a long-term approach that can take more than 20 sessions.
How to Prepare Yourself for Your Psychotherapy Sessions?
“To be prepared is half the victory.”
Being prepared can help you significantly as you embark on your therapeutic journey. Gear yourself up mentally and physically for your therapy sessions through:
- Defining clear and achievable goals. These can be or will be discussed with your Psychologist at the first consultation session.
- Having realistic expectations. Psychotherapy should not be seen as a guaranteed cure. Outcomes of the therapy can vary among individuals, depending on unique needs and abilities. Much hard work goes towards helping you achieve your goals.
- Ensuring a good night’s sleep the day before the sessions. This will keep you rested and refreshed for the sessions.
- Staying comfortable. Indulge in some me-time before the session, avoid being late and dress comfortably to help maintain your comfort level. Being relaxed mentally, emotionally and physically can help increase your receptiveness and lower potential pressure or stress.
- Willing to be transparent with your Psychologist about what you are going through and how you are feeling. The more honest you are, the better and faster your recovery process.
How Can You Contribute to the Success of Your Psychotherapy?
Many factors can affect the outcome of the therapy, which can include the techniques used, the skills and experience of the Psychologists and therapeutic relationships.
You are also an important factor in this equation, and what you do or how you respond can greatly influence the outcome of your therapy. Here are some useful tips on how to help you help yourself:
- Treat your therapy sessions and homework seriously
- Take time to reflect on what you and your therapist have talked about during the session and put into practice what you have learned
- Garner support from family members and/or friends by talking to them about your therapy sessions and experience and letting them know how they can help you
- Keep a journal to note when you feel things are not working out and when you feel that you are making good progress. This exercise helps you keep track of what works and what doesn’t work for you, and discuss these with your therapist
- Be patient. There may be moments you would experience distress and discomfort during therapy, but this is only natural when talking about your problems or challenges
- Do something nice for yourself — every day. Appreciating, loving and caring for yourself can improve your therapeutic outcome
Undergoing the psychotherapeutic process, achieving your goals and ensuring successful outcomes may require much time and effort, but the returns from investing in your mental health are both rewarding and fulfilling.
About Dynamics Psychological Practice (DPP)
Dynamics Psychological Practice is made up of a highly trained and experienced multilingual team of international and local Psychologists. They are dedicated to helping children, adults and families in Singapore and Southeast Asia build good mental health, and are committed to providing quality service, evidence-based, inclusive, empathetic and personalised care and support to each individual.
Have a chat with our Psychologist to learn more about DPP and how psychotherapy and counselling can help you or a loved one.