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What is Psychotherapy and What Conditions Does It Treat

November 13, 2023


A man sitting across a woman crying and having a conversation during an in person consultation


Have you been hearing people talking about the term “psychotherapy” more often lately and wondering what that actually means? You’re not the only one. With the latest developments in the global pandemic and other global issues, people are seeking options for emotional guidance and mental health support more than ever.

Psychotherapy is becoming America’s go to option for managing chronic mental health issues and emotional trauma. In this article, we provide an overview of how psychotherapy works. We also provide information on common chronic mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Goals of Psychotherapy

The term psychotherapy describes psychological talk therapy sessions that are conducted by a licensed psychotherapist. Licensed psychotherapists or simply “therapists” have been educated and trained to provide emotional support and relief for people experiencing emotional, psychological, and mental health issues.

The goal of psychotherapy is to help people suffering from mental health issues to find relief by learning how to understand and regulate their moods, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Psychotherapists use appropriate therapy methods to help like cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and humanistic therapy to help people find relief and heal traumatic issues.

Sessions with a psychotherapist are private and the information you share with your therapist is confidential. This means that your therapist isn’t allowed to discuss information revealed to them in therapy (except in cases mandated by law). When you get psychotherapy you can expect to receive confidential and professional advice for resolving the issues and challenges you’re experiencing in your life.

People seek out therapists to get help with personal issues like chronic mental health, relationship issues, family issues, societal concerns. A therapist is a clinically trained confidant that can help you sort out the issues in your life.

A diverse group of individuals sitting in a circle with smile on their faces during a group therapy session

Psychotherapy vs. Psychiatry

When people seek therapy for the first time, it can be confusing to understand the difference between psychotherapy and psychiatry. Psychotherapists are licensed clinicians that have completed a minimum of a master’s degree in their chosen field of therapy. In addition to meeting stringent educational requirements, psychotherapists are also required to complete thousands of hours of hands-on post-graduate training.

After completing their educational requirements, psychotherapists are eligible to apply for licensure within their state of residence. Psychotherapists who successfully complete local and state requirements are awarded a license to practice clinical therapy. A clinical therapy license allows psychotherapists to provide mental health counseling services in private practices, hospitals, clinics, public health facilities, and online.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who has completed medical school and been awarded a doctorate degree.

Unlike psychotherapists, psychiatrists are medical doctors that can diagnose and treat both mental and physical health disorders. A key difference to note between psychiatrists and psychotherapists is that psychiatrists generally treat cases of severe mental illness that requires inpatient hospitalization and strict monitoring.

Examples of severe cases of mental illness are dementia, schizophrenia, and other severe mental illnesses that require treatment using inpatient hospitalization and medication. Psychotherapists treat mild to moderate mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. When issues become more severe, a psychotherapist will refer a client to a psychiatrist of a medical doctor for more hands-on support.

A man and a woman sitting on the both end of the couch and engaged in a conversation while having an in person visit with a therapist

Conditions Treated Using Psychotherapy

Mood Disorders – According to psychology and mental health experts, depression, and bipolar disorder both fall into the category of mood disorders. As indicated by the name, mood disorders often result in drastic and unexpected changes in the mood and behavior of the person suffering from the disorder.

Depression – This is a mood disorder that causes people suffering from it to feel a lack of happiness, interest, or excitement in their lives. People who are suffering from depression often appear to be in a detached or flat state and show no interest in things they used to enjoy. The common ongoing theme for people who suffer from depression is deep sadness. Talking to a psychotherapist can help people suffering from depression discover and heal the root of their sadness.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – This disorder falls into the category of anxiety disorders. People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder have often been exposed to or witnessed a traumatic event from which they have yet to recover. PTSD symptoms like night sweats, flashbacks, and panic attacks can become debilitating when trauma remains unhealed.

Substance Abuse and Addiction – Substance abuse and alcoholism disorders have shown promising results in response to psychotherapy. People who suffer from substance abuse and alcoholism often have concurrent issues with mental health that makes their situation worse. Psychotherapists provide talk therapy and other social services support from people suffering from substance abuse and alcoholism issues.

Grief and Loss – When we lose a loved one, relationship, or another important part of our lives, we may begin to grieve. Grieving is a normal response to an emotionally devastating event and is also necessary for our healing. When grieving continues for an extended period of time or begins to affect your ability to carry out your daily functions, this is an indicator that your grief has become complicated. Complicated grief can become debilitating without the help, support, and guidance of loving family members and a licensed psychotherapist.