Psychotherapy is the treatment that aims at psychological change, with the purpose of feeling better. This improvement is achieved through personal growth, but the main motivation of people who come to psychotherapy, as well as the main objective of the psychotherapist, is to alleviate suffering and increase well-being.
Is psychotherapy effective as a treatment?
The effectiveness of psychotherapy has been accredited in many research studies for more than 40 years. These investigations have been carried out by entities such as the American Psychiatric Association in 1982, the Office of Technology Assessment of the United States Congress in 1980, or the Qualitative Safety Project of Australia and New Zealand in 1983, and their results allowed reaching the consensus that the improvement obtained by psychotherapy is greater than that produced by spontaneous remission (improvement of symptoms by the simple passage of time) or the placebo effect (improvement obtained by the expectation of receiving a treatment).
There are different types of psychotherapy, depending on whether they focus on behaviors, thoughts, emotions, relational systems in which the person moves, etc. In the research carried out, all psychotherapies have shown similar effects. This, together with the fact that in other studies it has been observed that two expert therapists (more than 10 years of practice) of different psychotherapeutic orientations work in a more similar way than an expert and a novice psychologist of the same current, seems to indicate that what generates the result are the elements common to all psychotherapies, especially the psychologist-patient relationship. This highlights the importance of adapting psychotherapy to the individual patient, since there are no universal prescriptions that work optimally with everyone.
Can psychotherapy be combined with medication?
Some people believe that they have to choose between medication and psychotherapy. However, this is not the case. There is no contraindication between these two ways of coping with suffering. Medication can be very effective in relieving certain symptoms quickly and psychotherapy allows us to generate lasting changes. In the same way that with a muscle injury we can take analgesics for pain while we go to the physiotherapist to recover the muscle.
Psychotherapy and Psychology, a taboo subject?
At other times in history psychotherapy has been treated as a taboo, due to the general population’s lack of knowledge and the prejudice that people who went to a psychologist were “crazy”. This kept people from saying that they went to therapy. However, in my personal experience I see that this prejudice has been overcome because many of the patients who come to my office come because someone else has told them that psychotherapy was helping them, or had helped them a lot.