A guide to the history of psychotherapy

Image of a dictionary with words starting with P. Photo by Edurne Tx.

A guide to the history of psychotherapy

Scientists and experts have long created and refined a range of processes, theories and ideas to help us navigate the inner workings of the human mind. Psychotherapy is a key element of this, and we have put together all you need to know about the history of psychotherapy and its place in the wider world of psychology.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a form of therapy that focuses on helping people who are experiencing emotional or mental health issues. It can be used for a wide variety of problems including anxiety, depression, trauma, relationship difficulties, eating disorders, addiction, OCD, phobias and more.

The term ‘psychotherapist’ was first coined by Sigmund Freud in 1892 when he published his book Jenseits des Lustprinzips (translated as Beyond the Pleasure Principle). He defined psychotherapy as “the treatment of neurotic symptoms with the aim of restoring the patient to a state of normal functioning.”

The word ’therapy’ comes from the Greek words therapia, meaning cure, and therapeutos, which means one who treats. This is why the title of the profession is ‘psychotherapist’.

Who uses psychotherapy?

There are many different types of psychotherapy available, but they all share some common characteristics. They include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is based on the idea that thoughts and behaviours are linked. If someone has negative thoughts, then their behaviour will reflect this. For example, if someone thinks something bad will happen, they may act in ways that make sure it does. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps people change these negative thought patterns into positive ones.

  • Mindfulness Based CBT

This type of therapy uses mindfulness techniques to help people become aware of what is happening inside them. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment without judgement. By doing so, you can learn how to manage your emotions better.

  • Interpersonal Therapy

This type of therapy looks at relationships between people. Interpersonal therapy aims to improve communication skills within relationships.

  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

This type of psychotherapy is focused on finding solutions rather than focusing on problems. Solution focused brief therapy works well with young children and teenagers because it allows them to express themselves freely.

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Dealing with difficult situations such as anger management, self-harm and substance abuse, dialectical behaviour therapy teaches people to identify and challenge unhelpful beliefs.

How does psychotherapy work?

In order to understand how psychotherapy works, you must first understand the brain. The brain consists of two parts; the left side and the right side. Each side controls a specific function. When we have an emotion, our limbic system sends signals to both sides of the brain. These signals tell each side of the brain what to do.

For example, if you feel sad, the left side of the brain tells the body to release chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins give us feelings of happiness. However, if you feel angry, the right side of the brain tells your body to release adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you feel more aggressive.

When we have a problem or difficulty, the left side of our brains becomes overactive. It causes us to think about the problem too much. We start to worry about things that aren’t really important. Our minds can get stuck in a loop and we may stop thinking clearly. This leads to stress and anxiety.

The right side of the brain tries to calm down the left side by sending calming messages. But when the left side gets overwhelmed, the right side can’t keep up. So, the left side starts to take control again. This results in depression.

When we talk to a therapist, we use words to communicate with each other. Words are like tiny magnets. They attract certain ideas and repel others. Therapists use words to help us find new ways of looking at ourselves and our situation.

Psychotherapy also encourages us to look at our lives from different perspectives. A good therapist will ask questions that encourage us to consider alternative points of view.

Therapy can also teach us to be more flexible. If we try to force something into place, we may cause damage. For example, if you want to change a habit, you shouldn’t just focus on changing one thing at a time. Instead, make small changes all at once. This way, you won’t notice any difference.

Therapy helps us to develop coping strategies, and can lead to a happier, more fulfilled life.

Final thoughts

Psychotherapy isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we need to work through painful memories. Other times, we might struggle with emotions like sadness, fear, and loneliness.

But the benefits of therapy far outweigh the challenges. In fact, research suggests that psychotherapy has helped millions of people around the world. And there are many types of therapy available. With so many therapy rooms to rent in London, you can choose the therapist that best suits your need.

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