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What is Therapy?

I often come across people who have never been to therapy and/or they are not aware of the process which makes therapy work. The reason for therapy can vary based on individual clients’ goals and needs. For example, for someone who suffers from symptoms of depression, their goal would be to get rid of the symptoms which usually interfere with their daily functioning in their personal, family, work, and social life. However, a person can also come to therapy to understand themselves and reflect on their life in general while others might focus on solving their problem with their partner or family members. Roughly speaking, therapy can be categorized in the following domains.


Mind as an Illness and Symptoms Treatment


When multiple symptoms of a disorder compromise a person’s daily functioning and life, then the goal is to work on the symptoms with the aim of reducing or eliminating the presenting problem. For instance, someone with depression can sometimes have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, eating more than usual, feeling hopeless and helpless about their life, and experience extreme negative thoughts about themselves and the people around them. In these circumstances, therapists use treatment methods that fit the person’s psychological needs that are in most cases, well supported by research. For instance, a treatment of choice for depression is usually cognitive behaviour therapy and part of the method involves targeting negative thoughts by tracking them down and then restructuring.


Mind as a Social Agent and Solving Interpersonal Problems


The phrase “we are social animals” is more apparent and relevant when it comes to our mental health in relation to other people. Our relationships can sometimes lead to emotions such as hate, guilt, and shame, which are social responses that can sometimes lead to mental distress. Being able to safely communicate with one a loved one without having the problem escalate can be a stressful and challenging experience and settings like therapy with emphasis on objectivity and neutrality towards solving problems can be suitable in facilitating concerns and relationship dissatisfactions.


Mind as Resource to Deal with Life Crises


Life can be full of surprises and sometimes these surprises include unpleasant or even shocking events. Occasionally we can handle the stressors without any help of others but there are times when situations become too difficult to deal with. For example, a person might seek therapy because they experience hurt, pain, and have a broken heart after their partner ended the relationship. In these situations, the focus might be to help the person develop new or strengthen their existing coping skills. The therapist can facilitate an environment of trust and non-judgements for self-reflection and guide the individual towards skills that can help them get through the experience.


Mind as Tool for Change


One of the most accurate observations about change is that “change is the only constant.” Human beings do not normally like or enjoy change because we often prefer our routine and the familiar. However, life can be unpredictable and sometimes challenges demand us to change. For instance, people who are diagnosed with an incurable disease might join therapy to adjust in their current condition and revisit their life goals and search for new meaning. In other situations, a difficult divorce might challenge the identity of a person who had dedicated and devoted most of their time and energy towards building a home and raising family and now they are confronted to rediscover the sense of who they are.


Mind as Map for Spiritual Quest


Sometimes in today’s science-driven world believing in higher power can be subject to mockery or even ridicule while other times not believing might result in serious disagreements and heated arguments among friends and family members. People often go to places like therapy that is safe, accepting, and undogmatic in which they can explore their search for higher meaning and purpose in life. Some individuals might have questions about their current religious beliefs or in process of transitioning to another type of belief system. Other times, they come across a rude awakening about life as pain and suffering and as result they might search for questions such as the meaning for their existence.


How long does it take to be in therapy? Psychotherapy can range from two months to many years depending on the individual’s goal and nature of the problem. However, it is important to mention that not all therapists are trained or, in other words, equipped to help and address all of life’s problems. Therefore, prior to committing to the process, discuss your goals and possible outcomes with your therapist. To begin this journey, book your appointment with your therapist today.



Khobi Attai, MA, specializes the areas of abuse and domestic violence, as well as a variety of other subjects. For more information on Khobi and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.