What Is Therapy?
Psychotherapy -- also called "talk therapy" or just plain therapy -- is a process whereby psychological problems are treated through communication and relationship factors between an individual and a trained mental health professional. Modern psychotherapy is time-limited, focused, and usually occurs once a week for 45-50 minutes per session.
How do we know what we know about mental health and mental health treatment? Media portrayals of therapy and the people who seek it aren't usually accurate. As a result, making the decision to work with a therapist, and choosing which therapist to work with, can be confusing.
The Therapeutic Relationship
Modern psychotherapy includes dozens of therapeutic approaches and techniques that you and your therapist can use to help you make positive changes (you can find brief descriptions of some of the most common treatment approaches under this site's "Treatment Approaches" tab). Individual, Couples and Family therapy are usually practiced in 45 to 60 minute sessions. You and your therapist will discuss how often it would be helpful for you to come in, depending on the severity of your symptoms and what you want to accomplish--usually once a week, once every other week or once a month.
Every therapeutic approach has one thing in common: the most important factor in whether therapy will work for you is the relationship with your therapist. Also called the Therapeutic Alliance, this relationship is the framework on which every therapy is based. The therapeutic relationship is unique in a number of ways:
- The therapeutic relationship is strictly professional, and exists only to help you. The only benefit a therapist will expect to get out of their relationship with you is payment for their services.
- It's free of judgment. A therapist won't judge you or push their own morals and values during a session. The direction your treatment takes is always up to you, and the therapist's role is to help you reach your own goals.
- It's scientifically sound. Therapeutic techniques are studied by social scientists to ensure that they are based in established psychological theory, and evaluated to make sure they produce results in a safe, lasting and cost-effective way.
- It's confidential. What you discuss in therapy, and even the fact that you are seeing your therapist at all, is legally protected information that stays between you and your therapist. You can choose to give written consent for your therapist to discuss your information with a third party. There are a few exceptions to this rule, the most important of which are:
- Therapists are mandated reporters. They are legally obligated to report any suspected abuse of a child, disabled adult or elder to the appropriate government agencies.
- Disclosure of intent to harm yourself or others to appropriate emergency services.
- Please click this link for a complete list of exceptions to confidentiality for social workers in the state of Massachusetts.