PICTURE IS MOCK SERIOUS. LIKE, A JOKE. I'M REALLY FUN.
Like every profession, psychotherapy is filled with good or at least adequate practitioners, great practitioners, and just terrible terrible shouldn't ever see another human in this capacity practitioners. Think of your most hated school teacher and the damage he/she did to students. Now think of a transformative teacher you know that is rocking students' worlds. Like that. Or Michael Jackson's doctor versus, um, I don't have an example of an awesome doctor, but you get it. Be careful who you trust with your mind.
That said, GO TO A THERAPIST if you need help. Some of us are awesome! I know people who don't "believe in therapy" or feel like it is a failure to have to talk to someone other than family or God. Nooooooo! If you are in need of serious medical attention you wouldn't just pray and then think you should suck it up and the problem will work itself out. Our minds can also become sick or wounded through organic or experiential means. Thoughts can become overly negative and emotions can become overwhelming. Physical responses can get out of hand and life can get harder than it needs to be. There are interventions and professionals that can help, so seek it out.
As a psychotherapist, I work to correct uncomfortable physical reactions to distorted thoughts and painful emotional states. For example, my clients with an eating disorder have become physically and behaviorally sick because of warped and anxious thinking. Another example, my clients with panic attacks are experiencing their body's fight or flight response without stimulus; a hijack of the nervous system due to warped thinking or past traumas that have become stuck in the present. Chronic mild depression is an epidemic, and my clients with dysthymia are lethargic and drained physically. These conditions (and an infinity more) are often easily (if not quickly) treatable with a wise therapist who can recognize distorted thinking and/ or past traumas that are guiding current emotional states.
Every psychotherapist is different in their approach. But hopefully all are ethical, safe, warm, client- guided, knowledgeable of the best intervention for the problem, and working without personal agenda. If you don't feel that way after an assessment, move on. Really, run away. But don't give up. Find someone who looks you in the eyes with warmth, who makes you feel "normal", and gives you hope.
My interest as a psychotherapist is most piqued by the developments in neuroscience that help us understand how we think, remember, and respond to stimuli. How some thoughts become rigid even when they are untrue, and above all, how on a neural level an individual's brain will fire or misfire safety and danger throughout life based on the security of attachment relationships during formative years. The interventions in therapy I believe in, and research shows work best, are designed with these understandings at the core. I am very passionate about the efficacy of some of these treatments and could bore you to death talking about them (have I already?) But, I'll just give you some idea of what I do in treatment course with a client:
First, assessment. But mostly this is just creating a secure attachment where the client feels very safe and heard. Attachment wounds, relational style, and also family of origin "rules" are determined- the stuff that's guiding what's going on in the current. Also, what medically is going on and does the client need a good physical? What trauma has the client experienced? How has this trauma (and whether it's lots of "little t" traumas or "big T!" trauma(s)) been understood by the client? What meaning has it been given? Are the wounds healed or wide open? Is there salt being poured on those wounds? Sexual abuse seems to be the most insidious. Addiction, at some level, is often present as part of unhealthy coping with whatever is going on. Maybe addiction has become the biggest monster. Body image? Self-loathing? Self harm? Or, a client simply doens't know why they are sad, but they are just very sad. We decide together that the big "it" will be addressed and we'll make "it" manageable. We decide together to live in hope and radical self-compassion.
Then, the client gets to vent about present concerns to keep a feeling of safety and validation during our time; we work on cognitive behavioral (CBT) or dialectical behavioral (DBT) interventions that change the clients thinking world and resultant physical reactions; if needed I use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to put traumas in the past and give the events proper meaning resulting in post-traumatic growth instead of stress. I use a lot of art therapy interventions throughout because emotional pain is often in implicit memory held in the neural networks of the right side of the brain. Helping the right and left sides of the brain become integrated is what neuroscientists are finding heals emotional overwhelm/ depression. It's hard work, and it's the absolute best. Learning to tolerate difficult emotions without self- judgement or behavioral impulsivity is a skill almost everyone needs to work on. So we practice.
My favorite thought by a cognitive- behavioral therapist: "Finding permanent and universal causes of good events along with temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope; finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune and temporary and specific causes of good events is the practice of despair." -Martin Seligman. Yes and yes.