What Do Psychotherapists Do?

A psychotherapist helps patients work through emotional or mental problems by employing various techniques. Read on to find out more about what a psychotherapist does. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Often referred to as 'talk therapy,' psychotherapy uses communication techniques and discussion as the main means of helping clients work through mental or emotional issues. Psychotherapists might work with patients for a couple of months to help them process a short-term goal or for a longer period to cope with severe mental illness. They usually work with individual patients. However, some work is done in a group setting. Psychotherapists help patients gain insight into his or her feeling, thoughts, and behaviors.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2019) $55,243*
Job Growth (2016-2026) 11% (for psychologists, all other)**
Required Education Graduate Degree
Licensure Required, varies by state
Similar Occupations Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC); Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Source: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Clientele

Patients with severe mental illness or individuals dealing with common life stresses can benefit from psychotherapy. Reasons for participating in psychotherapy include grief, eating disorders, physical or mental abuse, marital issues, medical illnesses, sleep disorders, substance abuse, or depression. More severe reasons might include bipolar, anxiety, or personality disorders.

Techniques Used

Different psychotherapy techniques are appropriate for different situations. Art therapy uses the creative process to help patients work though thoughts and emotions. Play therapy is appropriate for small children and allows them to express thoughts without words. Family therapy brings together all members of the family and provides skills meant to improve communication and conflict resolution. Group therapy offers an opportunity for individuals with common issues to share thoughts and experiences. Behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and exposure therapy are other common techniques.

Sessions

According to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com), psychotherapy sessions usually start with the psychotherapists encouraging the patients to talk about the thoughts and feelings that are troubling them.

The psychotherapist might ask questions or make comments to try to encourage the patient to talk freely and openly. The psychotherapist may also have the patients participate in activities or exercises designed to help the patient think through what was said at the session. The psychotherapists will usually continue to schedule sessions with the patient until he or she has worked through the issue.

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