What is Psychotherapy: Part 4

An authentic emotional connection.
Purely intellectual understanding is very limited. There has to be an authentic emotional connection in connection to our understanding of past events in order to effect meaningful change. A therapist will help you to hone in on, rather than gloss over aspects of your life which seem to be potentially loaded with emotional meaning. A good therapist will convey understanding and empathy for what you are going through. To a great degree, the connection you have with your therapist is what determines the success of your therapy.

Change takes time and collaboration.
Meaningful change does not happen overnight. Many of these patterns of behavior have been honed over years and years, and take time to examine, untangle, and reintegrate into our current lives. Since this type of therapy is more likely to focus on meaning rather than symptoms, it takes time.

It has been written that psychotherapy could conceivably occur between two people without one of them being a therapist. Yet this is quite unlikely. The way that therapists listen, without generally offering advice or solutions, is not the usual mode of casual conversation. A conversation dedicated, on a weekly basis, solely to the concerns of one person is not likely to occur outside of psychotherapy.

Listening in an informed, sustained way.
A therapist will listen knowing what types of life events are likely to have an impact on one’s style of relating to self and others. A therapist will listen knowing that each stage of life (e.g., adolescence, young adulthood, parenthood, middle age, retirement) brings its own unique set of problems, and what are the usual hurdles during these stages. Finally, a therapist will listen with an understanding of the pathologies that can develop in responses to certain problems and have experience in working with those pathologies (e.g., depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior).

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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