What is psychotherapy?

So what is psychotherapy, and what role does it play on the warrior’s journey towards wholeness? In the course of life, everyone faces challenges and obstacles to growth and happiness. Physical injury, for instance, is one such example that many of us are familiar with. If you break your arm and don’t get help in caring for it, the aftereffects of the injury can be worse than the injury itself. But if you go to a doctor with the right training, you can receive the care you need to heal from your injury, and you can become stronger as a result of it. Though physical injury may receive more attention because of how visible and tangible it is, the truth is that all of us also suffer multiple psychological injuries throughout life.

With physical injuries and psychological injuries alike, severity ranges widely. None of us ever went to a doctor to treat a scraped knee, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we didn’t receive care. Many of us, in such a situation, probably went to a trusted adult caregiver for help. They may have helped us clean the wound and patch it up, and even given us a kiss or some kind words of encouragement. In the same way, as children we all experienced feeling sad or mad or scared when faced with overwhelming life circumstances. If we were lucky, that same trusted adult was there to give us empathy and help us understand the world and our reactions to it. This is the ideal situation, when injuries are small, and first aid is readily available.

But life isn’t always ideal. Just as certain physical injuries demand a greater amount of care than most parents can provide, there are also psychological wounds that require the attention of someone specially trained in their treatment. And sometimes even when the wounds are minor, for whatever reason, care is not provided, and small wounds build up overtime into bigger wounds. The purpose of psychotherapy is to provide relief in these less-than-ideal circumstances.

Psychotherapy achieves this end primarily through the healing power of relationship. A relationship is formed between client and psychotherapist in which the client can feel safe to explore thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are causing distress. The psychotherapist allows trust to build by showing empathy and understanding. Clients who have learned not to trust themselves can learn to do so again by first trusting the safe figure of the therapist. When self-trust returns, so can self-love. When self-love returns, the healing is just a matter of time.