Psychotherapy engages mental health concerns and emotional difficulties with the aim of improving our general well-being. In this article I want to explore a few benchmarks of what I would say makes for good therapy. I could add more of my expectations to the list but I want to encourage you to do so. It’s a healthy practice to discuss those during your first session or anytime thereafter. My second aim with this article is to refer to a few examples of psychotherapy in practice.
Most of the therapies known as ‘psychotherapeutic treatments’ are talk therapies. To form an idea of how many types of therapies there are, one can imagine 20 letters of the alphabet each representing the first letter of a therapy with 8 types of therapies under each letter on average. Last time I counted the total number of recognised therapies were just over 160.
It would be helpful to see if all these therapies could be held to a set of minimum expectations.
I want my therapist to be present to me. This requires a therapist not only to have the time slot of our session free for me. It also suggests that his frame of mind is such, that he is able to listen to me attentively and compassionately without judgment. This is one of the great disciplines of psychotherapy.
I appreciate a therapist who takes care of my mental health. The care I want to experience is evident in the way he enquires, the compassion he shows and the gentleness of his approach. It can be likened to a doctor with good bedside manners. Psychotherapies do not need to be robotic in their enquiry and execution.
It is an interesting fact of psychotherapy that it’s much easier to diagnose a patient with a so-called disorder in your first session than it is to do so after many sessions. One of the reasons for this is that the beautiful complexity of our personalities outruns quick judgements. I would therefore want my therapist to refrain from seeking to pathologise me. If it becomes clear after she has come to know me more comprehensively, that I do suffer of a mental illness I want to be the first to know. Yet even then, I want to know that there is more to me than the illness.
I therefore want psychotherapy to assist me in exploring my inner landscape, especially the unchartered regions, before assumptions are made and conclusions are drawn. Only then can I be expected to trust new understandings of who I am.
A collaborative process between a psychotherapist and client empowers both parties. This is essential for the independence and long-term mental well-being of the client. Old models of research and health care regard patients as stricken passive receivers of help. Nowadays we centralise patients as the experts of their lives. Professional mental health carers collaborate with clients to reach the latter’s desired positive outcomes.
I want to feel safe. Both in the assurance that our conversations are confidential and that the sole focus our relationship is my mental health.
I want a psychotherapist to work intuitively with the most appropriate and best, if not always latest, scientifically grounded approaches to mental health. The challenge one faces with the varied types of therapies is that they’re not as clearly demarcated and predictable as the textbooks suggest. A skilled therapist can move between various schools of thought as the moment dictates. Lastly, I’m always disappointed when clinicians are unable to include suggestions of spirit in their work and my life.
I want psychotherapy to assist us in rolling away the obstacles to growth. It has to contribute to our mental health.
The next section contains links to my treatment of mental health concerns, or psychotherapy in practice, some of which I referred to on my homepage. Please click/tap on the image to open the article.
How to manage anxiety
Depression and Low Mood