There are several main systems of psychotherapy:
* Cognitive behavioral * Psychodynamic * Existential * Humanistic/supportive * Brief therapy (sometimes called “strategic” therapy, solution focused brief therapy) * Systemic Therapy (including family therapy & marriage counseling) * Integrative Psychotherapy
Alfred Adler created Individual psychology Alfred Adler created Individual psychology Victor Frankl, founder of logotherapy Victor Frankl, founder of logotherapy Carl Rogers, advocate for Person-centered psychotherapy Carl Rogers, advocate for Person-centered psychotherapy Albert Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Albert Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
In a sense, psychotherapy has been practiced through the ages, as individuals received psychological counsel and reassurance from others. Purposeful, theoretically-based psychotherapy was probably first developed in the Middle East during the 9th century by the Persian physician Rhazes, who was at one time the chief physician of the Baghdad hospital. In the West, however, serious mental disorders were generally treated as demonic or medical conditions requiring punishment and confinement until the advent of moral treatment approaches in the 18th Century. This brought about a focus on the possibility of psycho-social intervention – including reasoning, moral encouragement and group activities – to rehabilitate the “insane”. Psychoanalysis was perhaps the first specific school of psychotherapy, developed by Sigmund Freud and others through the early 1900s. Trained as a neurologist, Freud began focusing on problems that appeared to have no discernible organic basis, and theorized that they had psychological causes originating in childhood experiences and the unconscious mind. Techniques such as dream interpretation, free association, transference and analysis of the id, ego and superego were developed.
Many theorists built upon Freud’s fundamental ideas, including Anna Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Karen Horney, Otto Rank, Erik Erikson, Melanie Klein, and Heinz Kohut and often formed their own differentiating systems of psychotherapy. These were all later termed under a broad label of psychodynamic, meaning anything that involved the psyche’s conscious/unconscious influence on external relationships and the self. Sessions tended to number into the hundreds over several years.
Behaviorism developed in the 1920s, and behavior modification as a therapy became popularized in the 1950s and 1960s. Notable contributors were Joseph Wolpe in South Africa, M.B. Shipiro and Hans Eysenck in Britain, and B.F. Skinner in the United States. Behavioral therapy approaches relied on principles of operant conditioning, classical conditioning and social learning theory to bring about therapeutic change in observable symptoms. The approach became commonly used for phobias, as well as other disorders.
Some therapeutic approaches developed out of the European school of existential philosophy. Concerned mainly with the individual’s ability to develop and preserve a sense of meaning and purpose throughout life, major contributors to the field (e.g., Irvin Yalom, Rollo May) and Europe (Viktor Frankl, Ludwig Binswanger, Medard Boss, R.D.Laing, Emmy van Deurzen) attempted to create therapies sensitive to common life crises’ springing from the essential bleakness of human self awareness, previously accessible only through the complex writings of existential philosophers (e.g., Sren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gabriel Marcel, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche).
The uniqueness of the patient-therapist relationship thus also forms a vehicle for therapeutic enquiry.
A related body of thought in psychotherapy started in the 1950s with Carl Rogers. Based in existentialism and the works of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of human needs, Rogers brought person-centered psychotherapy into mainstream focus. Rogers’ basic tenets were unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathic understanding, with each demonstrated by the counselor. The aim was to create a relationship conducive to enhancing the client’s psychological well being, by enabling the client to fully experience and express themselves; Others developed the approach, like Fritz and Laura Perls in the creation of Gestalt therapy, as well as Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication, and Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis. Later these fields of psychotherapy would become what is known as humanistic psychotherapy today. Self-help groups and books became widespread.
During the 1950s, Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). A few years later, psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck developed a form of psychotherapy known as cognitive therapy. Both of these included short, structured and present-focused therapy aimed at changing a person’s distorted thinking, by contrast with the long-lasting insight-based approach of psychodynamic or humanistic therapies. Cognitive and behavioral therapy approaches were combined during the 1970s, resulting in Cognitive behavioral therapy. Being oriented towards symptom-relief, collaborative empiricism and modifying peoples core beliefs, the approach gained widespread acceptance as a primary treatment for numerous disorders. A “third wave” of cognitive and behavioral therapies developed, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical behavior therapy, which expanded the concepts to other disorders and/or added novel components.
Counseling methods developed, including solution-focused therapy and systemic coaching. Postmodern psychotherapies such as Narrative Therapy and coherence therapy did not impose definitions of mental health and illness, but rather saw the goal of therapy as something constructed by the client and therapist in a social context. Systems Therapy also developed, which focuses on family and group dynamicsand Transpersonal psychology, which focuses on the spiritual facet of human experience. Other important orientations developed in the last three decades include Feminist therapy, Brief therapy, Somatic Psychology, Expressive therapy, and applied Positive Psychology.
A survey of over 2,500 US therapists in 2006 revealed the most utilized models of therapy and the ten most influential therapists of the previous quarter-century.
Psychotherapy can be seen as an interpersonal invitation offered by (often trained and regulated) psychotherapists to aid clients in reaching their full potential or to cope better with problems of life. Psychotherapists usually receive a benefit or remuneration in some form in return for their time and skills. This is one way in which the relationship can be distinguished from an altruistic offer of assistance.
Psychotherapy often includes techniques to increase awareness for example, or to enable other choices of thought, feeling or action; to increase the sense of well-being and to better manage subjective discomfort or distress. Psychotherapy can be provided on a one to one basis or in group therapy. It can occur face to face, over the telephone or internet. Its time frame may be a matter of weeks or over many years. It can be seen as ultimately about agency and the meaning of life. Psychotherapy can also be seen as a social construct that cannot occur in a power vacuum nor without reference to semiotics (meaning systems and symbols) – irrespective of how practitioners may describe their work or research its effects. Therapy may address specific forms of diagnosable mental illness, or everyday problems in relationships or meeting personal goals.
Treatment of everyday problems is more often referred to as counseling (a distinction originally adopted by Carl Rogers) but the term is sometimes used interchangeably with “psychotherapy”.
Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques to influence or persuade the client to adapt or change in the direction the client has chosen. These can be based on clear thinking about their options; experiential relationship building; dialogue, communication and adoption of behavior change strategies. Each is designed to improve the mental health of a client or patient, or to improve group relationships (such as in a family). Most forms of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation, though some also use various other forms of communication such as the written word, artwork, drama, narrative story, or therapeutic touch. Psychotherapy occurs within a structured encounter between a trained therapist and client(s). Because sensitive topics are often discussed during psychotherapy, therapists are expected, and usually legally bound, to respect client or patient confidentiality.
Psychotherapists are often trained, certified, and licensed, with a range of different certifications and licensing requirements in every jurisdiction. Psychotherapy may be undertaken by clinical psychologists, social workers, marriage – family therapists, expressive therapists, trained nurses, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, mental health counselors, school counselors, or professionals of other mental health disciplines. Psychiatrists have medical qualifications and may also administer prescription medication. The primary training of a psychiatrist focuses on the biological aspects of mental health conditions, with some training in psychotherapy. Psychologists have more training in psychological assessment and research and, in addition, a great deal of training in psychotherapy. Social workers have specialized training in linking patients to community and institutional resources, in addition to elements of psychological assessment and psychotherapy. Marriage-Family Therapists have training similar to the social worker, and also have specific training and experience working with relationships and family issues. Licensed professional counselors (LPC) generally have special training in career, mental health, school, or rehabilitation counseling.
Many of the wide variety of training programs are multi-professional, that is, psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, and social workers may be found in the same training group. Consequently, specialized psychotherapeutic training in most countries requires a program of continuing education after the basic degree, or multiple certifications attached to one specific degree.