From Ask Dr Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search



Psychotherapy is education of a specific individual, to correct a specific deficiency or error in that individual’s learning, which causes difficulty in function, or discomfort.

Psychotherapy differs from general education in that the latter is presented to a mass audience which participates because of the individuals’ curiousity or need to demonstate accomplishment to qualify for increased social status, eg a degree, certificate or job.

An individual may seek psychotheraputic benefit from general education, and may succeed. Both therapy and general education risk miseducation which can worsen the situation or problem.


Psychotherapy is often done by one therapist with one individual but subjects may be addressed in groups and more than one therapist may participate. Verbal communication is often the primary mthod but any form of communication or experience designed to bring about the necessary learning in the subject(s) may be used.

An effort is made to identify (diagnose) the deficiency or error early in the process so it can be specifically corrected.

Psychotherapy may be accomplished in spite of major mental illness or brain damage to the degree the subject remains able to learn and apply new understanding.


Popular schools of therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Emotive Therapy (RET), Interpersonal Therapy (IP), Neurolinguistic Programing(NLP), Transactional Analysis (TA), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Hypnotherapy. These schools all teach methods of therapy which conform to the above definition but each uses a unique vocabulary and somewhat different perspective which may give an appearance of conflict and cause confusion.

CBT focuses on correcting “automatic thoughts,” DBT on improving interpersonal skills, RET “core Irrational Beliefs,” IP relationship skills, NLP clear communication and social competence, TA “Basic Positions,” EMDR changing the attitude toward a past experience, and Hypnotherapy accepting a better suggestion. But, all are striving to reeducate a person to relieve a specific problem.

The TA definition of a Basic Position is a belief, usually from past experience, about the way the environment (social and physical) is and operates. We adopt thousands as we grow and base our decisions for behavior on them, so if we use one that is wrong our behavior is likely to cause problems.

Using this terminology psychotherapy is defined as correcting problem causing Basic Positions. A simple and clear way to understand it.


As with any medical treatment there may be side effects and a cure is commonly not expected, but sometimes occurs. More often substantial relief is obtained and long term followup may or may not be needed to reenforce it. In some cases only minimal benefit results and harm may be done if a socially incompatible or otherwise ineffective Basic Position is taught.


Even animals may inadvertently achieve psychotherapy with new or naive members of their group by modeling proper behavior and other pressures to conform. Humans have always tried to help each other both physically and emotionally. Those who were better at the latter most likely became the tribe’s psychotheraputic professionals. Since language is a late acquisition in our striving toward humanity, it is not surprising some not-verbal therapeutic rituals continue.

The beginning of modern intellectually based psychotherapy is often dated to Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, who developed “Psychoanalysis” from his clinical observations and speculations. This traditional method of development continues and is an appropriate place to start but controlled studies are needed to know what really works and for which problems.

Personal tools