Psychotherapy: What is the basic concept?

  • Psychotherapy can be defined as a voluntary relationship between the individual seeking treatment or the client and the individual who treats or the therapist.
  • The sole purpose of the relationship is to help the client in solving the psychological problems being faced by him/her. Psychotherapy is based on regular personal interaction.
  • The relationship is favorable for building the trust of the client so that the issues may be discussed with freedom. When the therapist gains trust of the client, the client feels free to open-up and there is no hesitation on the part of the client.

Aims of Psychotherapy:

  • The main goal of psychotherapy is to change the maladaptive behaviors, decrease the sense of personal distress and help the client to adjust in a much better manner to his/her environment.
  • Reinforcing the client’s intention for betterment and reducing emotional pressure.
  • Revealing the potential for positive growth and development. Changing unhelpful habits of the client.
  • Modifying the thinking patterns and increment of self-awareness.
  • Improving interpersonal relationships and communication. Self-awareness regarding choices in life.
  • Promoting decision-making and relating to one’s social environment in a creative and self-aware manner.

Characteristics of Psychotherapy:

  • Systematic application of the principles intrinsic of the various theories of psychotherapy.
  • Individuals who have received practical training under expert supervision can practice psychotherapy. An untrained individual may inadvertently cause more harm than good to the client.
  • The therapeutic relationship includes the therapist and the client who seeks and receives help for the psychological problems faced by him/her. The client is the focal point of attention in the therapeutic procedure.
  • The interaction taking place between the therapist and the client results in the establishment of the therapeutic relationship.
  • The therapeutic relationship is a confidential, interpersonal and dynamic relationship.

Therapeutic Relationship

Therapeutic Relationship or Alliance is the special and voluntary relationship between the client and the therapist. It is neither a passing acquaintance nor a permanent relationship.

Components of Therapeutic Alliance or Relationship:

  • Contractual nature of the relationship- Two willing individuals i.e. the client and the therapist enter into a partnership. The main goal is to help or assist the client solve the psychological problem faced by him/her.
  • Limited duration of the relationship- The alliance lasts only as long as the client becomes capable of managing and dealing his/her problems and take control of his/her life.
  • Strict confidentiality is maintained- The therapist must keep strict secrecy of the experiences, thoughts, feelings and events revealed by the client.  The therapist must not exploit the client’s trust and confidence in any manner.
  • Lastly, the therapeutic alliance is a professional relationship and must remain so.

Unique properties of Therapeutic Alliance:

  • Trusting and confiding relationship- The alliance involves high level of trust on the part of the client which in turn enables the client to unburden his/her problems to the therapist and confide his/her psychological and personal issues to the therapist.
  • Unconditional Positive Regard- The therapist conveys through his/her words and behaviours that he/she is not judging the client and will continue to show the same positive feelings towards the client even if the client is rude or reveals the incorrect things that he/she may have said or thought about. The therapist helps in building the trust of the client by being accepting, emphatic, genuine and warm towards the client.
  • Empathy- The therapist has empathy towards the client. Empathy is very different from Sympathy and Intellectual Understanding of the other person’s problems. Empathy enriches the therapeutic alliance and thus transforms it into a healing relationship which provides a remedy to the client’s problems.
  1. When a person shows sympathy, he/she has compassion and pity towards the suffering of the other person but is not capable of feeling like the other person.
  2. Intellectual understanding is unresponsive in the sense that the individual is not able to feel like the other person and does not feel sympathy either.
  3. Empathy is existent when an individual is capable of understanding the plight or problems of the other person and also can feel like the other person. In other words, it means to put oneself in the other person’s shoes and understanding things from the perspectives of the other person.

All therapeutic approaches aim at assisting the client to overcome his/her debilitating conditions and providing effective solutions to the psychological problems faced by him/her. Psychotherapy is corrective and helping in nature and it helps an individual to change maladaptive behavior and overcome the issues in a desired manner.