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Home / Advice / Anxiety / What is psychotherapy and how will it help me?

What is psychotherapy and how will it help me?

By: Peter Walsh

Updated: 19 October 2020

What is psychotherapy and how will it help me?

What is psychotherapy and how will it help me?

Starting psychotherapy may seem like a big step.  Meeting a stranger to talk about deeply personal matters and problems can be a bit daunting. You may have seen therapy on television or in the movies or from talking to people. But, how does it really work in the real world? What exactly is psychotherapy and can it really make a difference? I hope that this short article will answer some of those questions and help you to decide how it might work for you.

In my time working as a psychotherapist, I’ve had the good fortune to work with many people from different backgrounds and cultures. Each person brought their own story, as unique and individual as a fingerprint. They each brought problems and challenges and expectations about how they thought therapy might help them. Almost all of them brought the courage and willingness to make changes in how they think, behave and relate to themselves, others and their own lives. And, despite all of their differences and individuality, they all had one thing in common.

They wanted to feel better.

Helping people to feel better is at the foundation of what psychotherapists do. Therapists work in different ways and use a variety of methods, but all of us are primarily interested in helping people to overcome suffering, pain and dissatisfaction and to experience greater satisfaction, joy and meaning in living.

Psychotherapy can be viewed as a kind of communication designed to bring about positive change. Therapists are trained to help you feel at ease. We are trained to listen and to help you to express yourself. We aim to put aside our own concerns, beliefs and judgements in order to give full attention to understanding and helping you.

The uncomfortable feelings that prompt people to seek help are not merely symptoms to be eliminated or replaced. Indeed, many of the problems that people describe when they first come to therapy are themselves an unhelpful means of avoiding or numbing feelings that they do not want to acknowledge. Instead of dodging or ignoring them, we can view those feelings as useful indicators that some area of our lives needs attention.

As psychotherapists, one of our first tasks is to help you to interpret and understand which areas of your life need attention. Different schools of therapy approach the task in different ways. I have found that one of the most useful ways is through the lens of emotional needs. Every human being has certain inborn emotional requirements that must be fulfilled in balance in order to achieve optimal psychological health and wellbeing. These include things like a sense of security, being able to exercise control over important aspects of our lives, supportive relationships and intimacy, the ability to achieve privacy when we need it, the ability to learn, develop skills and achieve things, being respected and valued by those around us and having a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. When any of these things are lacking, we tend to experience psychological stress, anxiety and emotional distress over time.

In addition to wanting to feel better, I believe that almost everyone who comes to therapy brings something else: the seeds of the solution to their own problems. As well as the needs that we all have as human beings, we also have a wealth of untapped potential to resolve the challenges that face us. We can tap into the wealth of experience that we have already gained through the experiences of living. Psychotherapy can help you to mine memories and past experiences for solutions that you can apply to your current challenges.

Our human brains have the capability to think rationally, but when stressed and overwhelmed, it becomes difficult or almost impossible to think clearly. A psychotherapist can help you to become more calm and centred, so that you can find rational solutions to your problems. The extraordinary gift of imagination allows us to anticipate and envision future events. Some of us have formed the habit of constantly misusing our imaginations to create paralysing visions and worries about the future or fantasy worlds into which we escape. Psychotherapy can provide a means of establishing a more realistic and achievable vision of how life can be better in the future and help you to formulate an achievable plan for attaining your goals.

As humans, we also have the capacity to see situations from other points of view and to feel other peoples’ feelings. As social beings, the capacity for empathy is the foundation of the relationships that support us throughout life. Empathy is at the root of the work that psychotherapists do. By exploring and understanding your emotional experiences, we hope to help you to accept and understand your own feelings and to better appreciate how they influence the dynamics of your most important relationships. A psychotherapist can help you to improve your ability to communicate constructively and empathically in order to gain greater satisfaction in your relationships with family, friends and others with whom you interact.

While we all have been given the innate resources required to solve our own problems, the experiences we’ve had in life often determine how well we can access them. Childhood is a particularly critical period in the development of human beings when we learn many of the skills and beliefs that we rely on throughout our adult lives. Experiencing deprivation, neglect or abuse during these years can leave a mark on our ability to fully access the potential to fulfil our emotional needs. We may experience particular problems in forming trusting relationships, in believing in our own capabilities or in coping with stressful events. Psychotherapy can address some of the effects of these past experiences, help you to gain and practice missing skills and learn more effective ways to relate to others, to ourselves and the challenges of living.

The journey through life inevitably involves challenges, losses and periods of stress. None of us can avoid some measure of sadness, disappointment and heartbreak.  Uncertainty and change are unavoidable. Yet, human beings are extraordinarily adaptable and have found ways to overcome every imaginable stress and challenge through the use of our amazing brains and ability to support each other to solve problems.

At its root, psychotherapy is about helping you to access your own natural ability to adapt to the challenges that life presents. It can help you to transform a moment of crisis into an opportunity to change direction, to grow stronger and more resilient and to gain the wisdom, skills and self-knowledge that will serve you during the rest of your life. The journey of change can involve discomfort, frustration and confusion. A psychotherapist can be a guide and ally on the way. And, once the journey begins and you begin to observe progress, I think that you’ll notice something else.

You’ll feel better.


Daizan Kaarlenkaski Psychotherapist Location: Dublin 1

Approach: Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Mindfulness , Person-Centred Therapy , Somatic Experiencing , Other

Works with: Individual Session

Specialities: Anger , Anxiety , Bereavement / Loss , Co-Dependency , Communication Issues , Depression , Educational , Isolation / Loneliness , Obsessive Compulsive Disorder , Panic , Personal Development , Phobia , Relationship issues , Self Care , Self-Esteem , Somatic Experiencing , Stress , Trauma , Work Issues, Work/Life balance

Next avaialble appointment: 10:00 02 October 2023

Patricia Bourke Psychotherapist Location: Online

Approach: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) , Gestalt Therapy , Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Person-Centred Therapy , Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Works with: Individual Session

Specialities: Relationship issues , Depression , Bereavement / Loss , Anxiety , Addiction , Self-Esteem , Stress , Work Issues, Work/Life balance

Next avaialble appointment: 9:00 02 October 2023

Elaine Martin-Sullivan Psychotherapist Location: Online

Approach: Gestalt Therapy , Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Mindfulness , Person-Centred Therapy

Works with: Individual Session

Specialities: Depression , Bereavement / Loss , Anxiety , Anger , Eating Disorder / Body Image , Fertility , Isolation / Loneliness , Personal Development

Next avaialble appointment: 11:00 02 October 2023


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