Exploring the Basics of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a form of talking therapy that can lead to profound and meaningful changes to our mental health, by offering individuals a safe and confidential space to understand and dive deep into their thinking patterns, understand behaviours and unpack feelings. In this article, we will delve into the basics of psychotherapy, and give an overview of the nature and models in psychotherapy.

Understanding Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as counseling or talk therapy, begins with a collaborative process between a trained therapist and an individual seeking support. The primary goal is to help individuals find greater meaning and purpose in life by addressing their emotional and psychological challenges and helping them gain insight into their concerns and develop effective coping strategies.

Types of Psychotherapy

Over the last fifty years, a number of models in psychotherapy have emerged. Here is a list of the most common ones:

1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

One of the most evidence-based models developed since the 1950s. The main focus of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is identifying and changing the content of our thinking, such as negative thought patterns, and altering our behaviors. These are considered responsible for our emotional distress.

2. Psychodynamic Therapy

One of the oldest forms of psychotherapy. This model explores and uncovers our unconscious thoughts and early childhood experiences to understand our current problematic behaviors and address underlying conflicts we may be experiencing internally.

3. Humanistic Therapy

This is a popular model which emphasizes personal growth and self-actualization. At the core if the model is the belief that individuals have the capacity for positive change through the unconditional positive regard of our therapist.

4. Existential Therapy

This model has at it’s core the aim of examining the meaning and purpose of life, helping individuals explore their personal values and choices.

5. Mindfulness-Based Therapy

A more recent extension of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, it integrates mindfulness practices to increase an individual’s awareness of unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns to promote acceptance of thoughts and emotions.

6. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT is a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that focuses on changing our relationship with our thinking, nurturing acceptance in our unfolding experiences in the services of working towards building a life with greater value and purpose.

Building a Therapeutic Relationship

Numerous studies have shown that a fundamental element of effective psychotherapy is the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. The therapeutic relationship must engender a sense of trust, a feeling of being understood and the experience of a safe and non-judgmental space. These are the essential conditions for creating the context we need to be open and vulnerable enough to make the changes we want in our lives.

Setting Goals and Collaboration

In the first few sessions, you should expect to collaborate with your therapist to set goals and define the therapeutic journey together. As progress is made these goals can evolve. The goals can be based on addressing specific symptoms, improving relationships, or gaining self-awareness, amongst others. Setting collaborative goals helps us feel we are a team and we have a clear road map for therapy.

The Role of the Therapist

In all the models, therapists act as a guide, a caring and thoughtful listener, and, at times, someone to challenge and question our perspectives. They utilise their training and expertise to help individuals explore their experiences, challenge unhelpful patterns, and develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving.

The Power of Self-Reflection

Through the process Psychotherapy, individuals start to engage in more self-reflection, which leads to a deeper understanding of themselves, their unhelpful patterns, and their relationships. Through this introspective process, clients can identify patterns, triggers, and coping mechanisms that may be contributing to their challenges. This is a process they can continue to engage with even after therapy has terminated. Some individuals find the process of journaling as an excellent method to encourage self-reflection and deepen their own understanding.

Coping Strategies and Skill Development

Some individuals may require coping strategies. Psychotherapy can involve more practical interventions such as learning and implementing coping strategies. Coping strategies such as managing stress, regulating emotions and adopting more helpful behaviour.

The Duration of Therapy

The duration will depend on the needs of the client. Some individuals may feel better within a few weeks of starting therapy. Whilst others may benefit from longer-term therapy to address deep-seated issues.

The takeaways

Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective in helping individuals with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic pain, and interpersonal difficulties amongst other issues. There is also evidence that Eating Disorders, PTSD, and trauma can be helped by psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is certainly a valuable resource in promoting mental health and well-being. If you are considering psychotherapy, taking this step toward self-care can be a pivotal moment on your journey to a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Written by Emma Waddington, Founder & Senior Clinical Psychologist, reviewed in 2024


If you are considering psychotherapy in Singapore, then get in touch with Emma and all our friendly therapists at Us Therapy Singapore, our clinicians will welcome you to our therapy clinic with open arms.