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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Psychotherapy: Selected full-text books and articles

Introduction to Psychotherapy: An Outline of Psychodynamic Principles and Practice By Anthony Bateman; Dennis Brown; Jonathan Pedder Routledge, 2010 (4th edition)
Introduction to the Practice of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy By Alessandra Lemma John Wiley and Sons, 2016 (2nd edition)
Essential Psychotherapies: Theory and Practice By Alan S. Gurman; Stanley B. Messer Guilford Press, 2003 (2nd edition)
What Works for Whom? A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research By Anthony Roth; Peter Fonagy Guilford Press, 2005 (2nd edition)
Constructive Psychotherapy: A Practical Guide By Michael J. Mahoney Guilford Press, 2003
Theoretical Models of Counseling and Psychotherapy By Kevin A. Fall; Janice Miner Holder; Andre Marquis Brunner-Routledge, 2004
Researching Psychotherapy and Counselling By Rudi Dallos; Arlene Vetere Open University Press, 2005
Psychotherapy with Women: Exploring Diverse Contexts and Identities By Marsha Pravder Mirkin; Karen L. Suyemoto; Barbara F. Okun Guilford Press, 2005
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