Psychotherapy

psychotherapy, treatment of mental and emotional disorders using psychological methods. Psychotherapy, thus, does not include physiological interventions, such as drug therapy or electroconvulsive therapy, although it may be used in combination with such methods. This type of treatment has been used in one form or another through the ages in many societies, but it was not until the late 19th cent. that it received scientific impetus, primarily under the leadership of Sigmund Freud. Although Freud's theoretical formulations have come sharply into question, his treatment method involving individualized client-psychologist sessions has been used in modified forms for years (see psychoanalysis).

Behavior therapy aims to help the patient eliminate undesirable habits or irrational fears through conditioning. Techniques include systematic desensitization, particularly for the treatment of clients with irrational anxieties or fears, and aversive conditioning, which uses negative stimuli to end bad habits. Humanistic therapy tends to be more optimistic, basing its treatment on the theory that individuals have a natural inclination to strive toward self-fulfillment. Therapists such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow used a highly interactive client-therapist relationship, compelling clients to realize exactly what they are saying or how they are behaving, in order to foster a sense of self-awareness. Cognitive therapies try to show the client that certain, usually negative, thoughts are irrational, with the goal of restructuring such thoughts into positive, constructive ideas. Such methods include Albert Ellis's rational-emotive therapy, where the therapist argues with the client about his negative ideas; and Aaron Beck's cognitive restructuring therapy, in which the therapist works with the client to set attainable goals. Other forms of therapy stress helping patients to examine their own ideas about themselves.

Psychotherapy may be brief, lasting just a few sessions, or it may extend over many years. More than one client may be involved, as in marriage or family counseling, or a number of individuals, as in group psychotherapy.

See S. L. Garfield and A. E. Bergin, ed., Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (4th ed. 1993); A. Roth et al., What Works for Whom?: A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research (1996); W. Gaylin, Talk Is Not Enough: How Psychotherapy Really Works (2000).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Introduction to Psychotherapy: An Outline of Psychodynamic Principles and Practice
Anthony Bateman; Dennis Brown; Jonathan Pedder.
Routledge, 2000 (3rd edition)
Introduction to the Practice of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Alessandra Lemma.
John Wiley & Sons, 2003
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner's Guide
Nancy McWilliams.
Guilford Press, 2004
Essential Psychotherapies: Theory and Practice
Alan S. Gurman; Stanley B. Messer.
Guilford Press, 2003 (2nd edition)
What Works for Whom? A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research
Anthony Roth; Peter Fonagy.
Guilford Press, 2005 (2nd edition)
The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Models, Methods, and Findings
Bruce E. Wampold.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
An Introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy: The Therapeutic Relationship
David Sedgwick.
Brunner-Routledge, 2001
Constructive Psychotherapy: A Practical Guide
Michael J. Mahoney.
Guilford Press, 2003
Theoretical Models of Counseling and Psychotherapy
Kevin A. Fall; Janice Miner Holder; Andre Marquis.
Brunner-Routledge, 2004
Personality and Psychotherapy: Treating the Whole Person
Jefferson A. Singer.
Guilford Press, 2005
Researching Psychotherapy and Counselling
Rudi Dallos; Arlene Vetere.
Open University Press, 2005
Setting Out: The Importance of the Beginning in Psychotherapy and Counselling
Lesley Murdin; Meg Errington.
Brunner-Routledge, 2005
The Politics of Psychotherapy: New Perspectives
Nick Totton.
Open University Press, 2006
Psychotherapy with Women: Exploring Diverse Contexts and Identities
Marsha Pravder Mirkin; Karen L. Suyemoto; Barbara F. Okun.
Guilford Press, 2005
Breaking through to Teens: A New Psychotherapy for the New Adolescence
Ron Taffel.
Guilford Press, 2005
Talking over the Years: A Handbook of Dynamic Psychotherapy with Older Adults
Sandra Evans; Jane Garner.
Brunner-Routledge, 2004
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