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The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

Instructor: Nathan Kilgore

Nathan has taught college Psychology, Sociology, English, and Communications and has a master's degree in education.

The effectiveness of psychotherapy often hinges on two essential attributes. This lesson provides a brief overview of psychotherapy and explores these attributes. At the end, you can test your knowledge with a brief quiz.

What Is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a general term used to describe the treatment of mental disorders by way of communicating with a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist. Many times, psychotherapy is non-medicinal in its approach. However, sometimes psychotherapy alone is not enough to alleviate symptoms, in which case patients may undergo a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

There are many different types of psychotherapy, among the most common of which are cognitive behavioral, dialectic behavioral and interpersonal therapy. Each follows its own approach and may be best suited for certain mental disorders. The following are mental illnesses often treated through psychotherapy:

  • Anxiety disorders (including, but not limited to, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia)
  • Addictive disorders (like drug, alcohol, gambling and sex addictions)
  • Mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  • Personality disorders (such as borderline personality disorder)
  • Psychosis (which is disengagement from reality)

It's important to note that just because someone participates in psychotherapy doesn't mean they have a diagnosed disorder. Psychotherapy can also prove beneficial to those struggling with stress, marital issues, divorce, death of a loved one, worry and other situational challenges.

Determinants of the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

The overall goal of psychotherapy is to help the patient understand their mental disorder. This is based on the premise that the better a patient understands their condition, the greater their ability to manage and function in life. The effectiveness of psychotherapy generally relies on two major factors: the willingness of the patient to participate and the quality of the therapist. Let's discuss these two factors in greater detail.

_Willingness of the Patient: Perhaps the greatest determinant of how effective psychotherapy can be is the willingness of the patient. Therapy only works when the patient has a desire to get better. Sometimes, the patient has to be willing to acknowledge and discuss past trauma or pain, uncomfortable emotions, or feelings they'd rather not discuss. But no matter what method of psychotherapy is being used, patients must have some desire to get better.

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