What is Psychotherapy?
I believe that psychotherapy can be broken down into three rudimentary components. These are:
Let’s broaden out these components a little more to give a fuller explanation of what I mean. psychotherapy
With respect to barriers, I’m referring to what gets in the way of experiencing, for example, more happiness or connection to others or achieving your goals. Barriers are those elements of our psychology that hinder personal growth and development. These psychological barriers, that are also mirrored physiologically – the body remembers the score type thing – are our defenses that seemingly protect us from perceived threats by trying to keep us safe or wounds and hurts from our past. However, these barriers are mostly unconscious, formed in early childhood and are not necessarily useful in our current circumstances. These early childhood defenses are usually reinforced and exaggerated by repeating patterns of behaviour.
Other barriers include our beliefs, self-images or ideas about ourselves and the world we live in. If, for example, you have a belief that you are useless and rotten to the core, then experiencing a regular sense of personal value and self-worth is going to be challenging.
Another major barrier for many people is the experience of trauma. This can result in even more entrenched defensive patterns that, for some, lock down one’s life to a much narrower band width of life’s possibilities, resulting in some people’s experience being more akin to living in the hell realms.
Exposure is usually where it gets more challenging in counselling as this involves getting to know those parts of ourselves that are hidden or protected by the barriers mentioned above. All effective counselling and therapy needs to have this component to allow growth to take place. Exposure could mean feeling into unwanted feelings and emotions or touching into negative self-images & self-limiting beliefs and opinions about oneself. The aim of exposure is to build our capacity to tolerate difficult feelings and emotions, to be less identified with a troublesome past that allows an alternate relationship to oneself, to others and the world around us to emerge.
Moving into the third component, integration. This occurs when new ways of experiencing and relating to ourselves become the new norm, i.e., the older patterns of behaviour, belief systems, defenses against unprocessed feelings etc. are no longer dominating and determining life’s experience.
Integration can include creating new neural pathways, embed new self-beliefs, increased freedom from challenging mental health experiences, reframing our personal histories with more self-compassion and living these in our day to day to life. For integration to occur the experiences of oneself usually have to be repeated many times for it to become, as they say, actualised. psychotherapy
Wishing you well,