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A psychotherapist is a mental health professional who specialises in treating emotional problems and mental health conditions. This type of treatment is known as psychotherapy. Psychotherapy employs various psychological methods, of which the most common is counselling and discussion. It aims to improve one’s mental health and well-being by eradicating irrational behaviours, beliefs, thoughts and emotions to perform better in relationships and social skills.

Psychotherapists listen to a person’s problems, try to find out the causes and find possible solutions to them. They also suggest strategies for mitigating the problems and help change one’s attitude, personality and behaviour. One may also learn to adopt certain skills to independently handle one’s own problems.

All sessions conducted by a psychotherapist are strictly confidential. Thus, one can share all personal or embarrassing information with them. Individual sessions usually take about 50 minutes to an hour.

Conditions psychotherapists treat

Psychotherapists treat several mental health conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
  • Personality disorders like borderline personality disorder or dependent personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders
  • Addictions like alcoholism, drug abuse or compulsive gambling

Apart from mental illnesses, psychotherapists also help in coping with stress and conflicts in one’s life. For example:

  • Relationship conflicts
  • Anxiety and stress related situations
  • Major life changes like divorce, death etc.
  • Unhealthy reactions like road rage, passive-aggressive behaviour etc.
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Sexual problems
  • Insomnia

Types of psychotherapy

There are several categories of psychotherapy like:

  • Psychodynamic (psychoanalytic) psychotherapy – A psychoanalytic therapist encourages one to express the thoughts in one’s mind. This helps understand the roots of several mental problems and resolve them
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – This therapy connects beliefs and thoughts to behaviour and feelings. It teaches specific skills to direct one’s behaviour and style of thought to deal with stressful situations
  • Cognitive analytical therapy (CAT) – It combines both psychodynamic psychotherapy and CBT to understand how one’s behaviour creates problems and how to resolve them through self-help
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) – It tries to evaluate how mental well-being is disrupted through events involving relationship with others like death, relocation etc. and help to cope with the feelings as well as experiment with coping strategies
  • Family and couple (systemic) therapy – It is a group therapy with all members of one’s family to figure out solutions to problems together
  • Humanistic therapies – These are therapies that motivate one towards positive thinking and enhance self-confidence

Becoming a psychotherapist in the UK

To start practising as a psychotherapist, having the following subjects is preferable:

  • Psychology
  • Nursing
  • Medicine
  • Social work
  • Sociology

Aspirants will require an honours degree in relevant subjects along with the prior experience of working in a related area like social work, psychology etc. A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is necessary. All details concerning the same are provided by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

The courses are usually part time and can be completed in four to six years. Apart from theory, the course comprises clinical work and seminars. Undergoing personal therapy training in a well-established institution is also included.

For securing a recognised position with a public institution, it is a requirement to undergo training that conforms to the standards stipulated by the UKCP or the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC). 

Posted on 1 July, 2017