by Saul McLeod published 2012
Psychotherapy is used to treat neurotic conditions (i.e. anxiety / emotional disorders) rather than psychotic illnessed such as schizophrenia whereby an individual has a disorted percpetion of reality.
Conditions such as eating disorder, obessive complusive disorders, phobias and depression could theoretically be treated using psychotherapy. Depending on the type of psychotherpay, treatment could vary in duration from weeks (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy) to years (e.g. psychoanalysis).
There are three main traditions within psychotherapy:
The word 'psychoanalysis' refers to a theoretical viewpoint concerning personality structure and function, in the application of this theory to other branches of knowledge and also to specific psycho-therapeutic technique.
Although much developed since his time this body of work is based upon the discoveries of Sigmund Freud
(British Psycho-analytic Society, 1990: 37). The aim of psychoanalysis is to make the undconscious conscious through techniques such as free associationa and dream analysis. For Freud (1915) the goal of psychoanalysis was for a patient develop a greater understanding of their psyche, rather than changing a specific behavior.
Originating with the work of Ivan Pavlov behavior therapies are based on the idea that all behavior is learned from the enviroment, and as such, can be unlearned. Patients with phobias are often treated with behavior therapies such as systemaitc desensitization.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) also belongs to this tradition and aims to change the way a 'client' thinks about an object or situation. There are different types of CBT such as rational emotive therapy (Albert Ellis, 1962) and Cognitive Therapy, developed by Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. The goal of all behavioral therapies is to eliminate a specific behavior (such as a phobia or an obessive thought).
The humanistic approach is thus often called the “third force” in psychology after psychoanalysis and behaviorism and developed as a rebellion against what some psychologists saw as limitations of the behaviorist and psychoanalytic psychology.
Within this tradition the 'client' is encouraged to focus on their current subjective understanding rather than a trained expert's interpretation of the situation. If there are any techniques they are listening, accepting, understanding and sharing, which seem more attitude-orientated than skills-orientated. The goals humanistic therapies are for the client to reach as state of self-responsibility and to increase their self awareness. Carl Rogers' person centered therapy is the most common form of psychotherapy within this tradition.
The therapeutic effectiveness of psychotherapy has been questioned by academics. Eysenck (1952) reviewed six controlled studies and concluded that psychotherapy was not effective as a treatment, claiming that 75% of neurotics got better regardless of whether or not they were in therapy.
British Psycho-Analytical Society (1990). UKSCP Member Organisations' General Information and Training Courses (Sept.). London: UKCP.
Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press.
Eysenck, H. J. (1952). The effects of psychotherapy: An evaluation. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 319- 324.
Freud, S. (1915). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis, in A. Richards (ed.), J. Strachey (trans.). The Pelican Freud Library, vol 1. Harmondsworth Pelican.
How to cite this article:
McLeod, S. A. (2012). . Retrieved from
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