Not really. I must say that this is a rather difficult question, because there are two traditions of using the word “psychotherapist”. Some believe that psychotherapists can only be called psychiatrists who have mastered the methods of non-drug treatment developed within the framework of medicine (for example, medical hypnosis). Such specialists refer, in particular, to the laws of the country, which allows only people with the education of psychiatrists to work as psychotherapists. Others believe that psychotherapeutic assistance can be provided by clinical psychologists trained in one of the areas of psychotherapy that have historically developed in psychology, not medicine, and work with psychological rather than medical needs of clients. The activities of such specialists are regulated, for example, by the law of the city of NY. In these cards, we proceed from the ideas of the second, “psychological” school.

So what is the difference between a psychotherapist and a psychologist? A psychotherapist should have a psychological education, but not all psychologists are trained to work as a psychotherapist. A psychologist can do research: for example, study how thinking and memory work, the psychology of large and small groups, or solve practical problems: diagnose individual and personal characteristics of a person, recruit personnel, organize the correct workplace, and the like.

Amendment. This chapter was substantially revised after publication. The first version did not mention the existence of two different approaches to the educational base required for work as a psychotherapist.

Why Visit A Psychotherapist?

There can be different reasons and goals. It is worth going to a consultation with a psychotherapist if something does not suit you, this continues for some time, and the situation does not change. For example, you are worried about how long you are offended by an accidental remark from a coworker; how your relationship with your husband or wife is developing; how you break off and yell at the child; like every time you open your computer, you hang on Facebook for hours or how you panic every time you fly.

What Is Psychotherapy?

Literally “soul cure”. Modern psychotherapy is a conversation between a psychotherapist and a person or several people (for example, members of the same family). The therapist constructs the conversation in such a way as to help you cope with your problem or solve the problem that you set yourself. During the conversation, the psychotherapist is aware of his professional tasks and adheres to a certain logic and style of communication with the client. This is how psychotherapy differs from friendly communication and sincere conversation with a fellow traveler on the train. The choice of logic and style of communication depends on the type of psychotherapy – the principles and methods of the psychotherapeutic school to which the specialist belongs.

Can I Have An Example?

Yes. Let’s say a child does not study well. Both he and his parents suffer from this. If parents cannot cope with this difficulty, they turn to a psychotherapist for help. For example, a cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist, using his methods, will help a child learn to react to difficult situations other than to panic or respond “just what”, if only everyone is left behind. He will communicate with his client as a teaching expert.

A psychotherapist working in the logic of humanistic psychotherapy will try to build a conversation with a child so that he can gradually express, name all his fears, resentments, aspirations, accept himself and thereby gain self-confidence. It is often a slow process of supportive conversations that develop in an environment of “acceptance” and empathy with no specific goals.

A systemic family therapist may find that a child’s poor grades are part of a chain of relationships in the family. And, imperceptibly for everyone, the child’s problems somehow regulate the relationship between the parents – for example, they serve as one of the few reasons for spouses to communicate with each other. And then it will be possible to get rid of difficulties by restructuring interaction in the family.

So, The Therapist Only Talks And That’s It?

No, not all. In addition to talking, psychotherapists use special exercises, create play situations, joke, and even give homework. For example, a therapist may ask you to imagine that someone close to you is sitting in an empty chair and ask you to talk to him; write down all the thoughts that come to your mind when you are experiencing a condition from which you want to get rid of; discuss a conflict topic with a husband or wife, acting according to certain rules; notice only all household chores successfully completed (and not vice versa) by your child. The main thing is that the psychotherapist knows exactly why all this is needed and is able to explain the logic of his prescriptions – otherwise he is not a professional.

Okay, Is Psychotherapy Effective?

Yes, quantitative research shows the effectiveness of psychotherapy, for example, in getting rid of clinically reported symptoms.

It is experimentally proved that the effect of psychotherapeutic treatment of depression and anxiety disorders is observed in people of all ages and social strata, it is comparable to the drug one and lasts longer.

Studies are being conducted trying to reveal even an increase in the number of neural connections as a result of the psychotherapeutic process (however, as with any quantitative measurement in such a complex system, there are many questions, for example, about the controllability of all influencing factors).

The question of comparing the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic approaches with each other is regularly raised (here behavioral methods are in the lead, but opponents point out that this may be due to the clear structuredness and focus of these methods on a specific result).

It is important to keep in mind that different psychotherapy methods are aimed at different results. For example, behavioral therapies should help overcome a symptom, phobia, or help change behaviors. Systemic psychotherapy works for functional changes: there was soil for intra-family violence and disappeared, there were marital conflicts – they are gone. But in some approaches there is a focus on changes that are not so easy to record quantitatively or they are not universal, but their effect is no less valuable for a particular client.

How To Choose A Psychotherapist? Is There Any Criterion?

There is no single criterion. It is best to use the recommendation of a person with whom the therapist has worked successfully. You should also ask about the education and training of the specialist. For all the conventions and ambiguities, good Russian universities and programs are more or less well-known.

You can ask what direction of psychotherapy the specialist considers “his”, and then learn more about this direction itself. Another important sign of professional training is the specialist’s membership in professional organizations.

Finally, it is important whether the psychotherapist is able to clearly explain something to you, to answer the questions you may have, including about his specialization.

And one more thing: you cannot ignore your own feelings, your well-being after consultations. You – with all the reservations – should be better after them, not worse.

Who Shouldn’t You Contact?

The first rule is to beware of impostors. Unfortunately, they are dating. The warning should be inadequately high prices for consultation and inadequate promises (for example, about fast – “in one, maximum two sessions” – terms of solving the problem). Free helpers should also be suspected, with the exception of employees of state mental health centers. The helping specialist must have a clear professional motivation – to get paid for the work. Otherwise, he can solve with the help of clients some of his own psychological problems (this is called rental motivation) or implement “fateful ideas”. You should also beware of those who immediately begin to lecture you, intimidate with something, or too actively involve you.

In addition, there are concepts of professional ethics in psychotherapy, although they may differ slightly among specialists from different disciplines. Nevertheless, a professional, as a rule, does not begin to be friends with his clients, does not seek meetings with them in an informal setting, and only in special cases can he come to their home. An intimate relationship with a client is a direct violation of professional ethics. It is best to report such cases to professional organizations so that such a person does not harm others.