What is Psychotherapy?

The term psychotherapy refers to any type of interaction between a trained professional and a patient that is therapeutic for the patient and that addresses psychological issues and concerns. The purpose of psychotherapy is to increase the awareness of the patient’s self and well-being and to help the patient resolve psychological issues and improve mental health.The trained professionals who practice psychotherapy for addiction have a variety of certifications, levels of education, and titles. They include psychologists and psychiatrists, clinical social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, occupational therapists, drug counselors, and many, many more.

The history of psychotherapy dates back to at least ancient Greece, but in modern times it was Sigmund Freud who took it to new levels. He developed a specific type of therapy called psychoanalysis, which involves allowing the patient to free associate until previously subconscious thoughts, urges, traumas, dreams, and memories are brought to the surface. The experience is meant to be cathartic and to lead to better mental health. Today, there are many different categories of psychotherapy, from behavior modification to group therapy to hypnotherapy and expressive therapy.

Many professionals in medicine, therapy, psychiatry, and other areas recognize addiction as a true disease of the brain. There is a genetic component that predisposes certain people to addictive behavior, and there is evidence that addiction, especially to substances, actually changes the chemistry of the brain. Simply wanting to stop using is not enough for someone to go from addiction to sobriety. The physical effects of addiction and withdrawal are often severe, but so are the psychological effects. Some addicts attempt to quit by going cold turkey or by participating in a medical detoxification program. These strategies often work in the short term, but relapse is very common.

To truly be successful in recovery, it is necessary to address the mental, emotional, and psychological aspects of addiction. Addiction cannot be blamed on genetics alone. Many addicts have a mental illness or experienced some type of trauma in life that ultimately led them to abuse drugs or alcohol. Even when the root causes are not so severe as a serious mental illness or a deep trauma, there are psychological underpinnings. By addressing those, the addict can begin to understand his behaviors and choices and start to make changes.

Psychotherapy for addicts can take many different forms and should be one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, which may also include support groups and a stay in a rehabilitation facility. Therapy sessions may be one-on-one between the professional and the addict. These can be very personal and can be a place in which the addict feels safe to bring up and talk about anything. Sessions may also involve groups of addicts, which can help make the patient feel comfortable by hearing the experiences of others. The patient may also choose to have sessions with family members such as parents, a spouse, or children. In these sessions, the addict works towards repairing broken relationships.

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