Psychotherapy: Definition And Applications For Yourself And Your Relationship

By Michael Puskar

Updated November 18, 2019

Reviewer Nicole Gaines, LPC

Psychotherapy is a broad group of techniques that can be used to help people who are struggling with a variety of issues. If you have ever heard of this term and never knew exactly what it entails, this article will cover everything you need to know about this form of treatment and how it can benefit you.


What Is Psychotherapy?

As mentioned before, psychotherapy is a group of many different psychological techniques that can address numerous mental health concerns.

While there may be different variations of the psychotherapy definition, psychology and mental health authorities like the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Institute of Mental Health, all more or less state that psychotherapy is a term for treatment techniques that can help people overcome emotional difficulties, including very severe ones [1]

Here are a few things that psychotherapy can address: [2]

  • Coping with life's daily challenges
  • The impact of trauma
  • Medical illness and coming to terms with a diagnosis
  • Dealing with loss, like the death of a loved one (bereavement)
  • Specific mental disorders, like depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, etc.

Psychotherapy is all about understanding your thoughts and feelings, and while support from family and friends can help you during your time of need; however, a psychotherapist with years of education, training, and experience can offer so much more and can treat complicated issues with their professional skills. [3]

What Is a Psychotherapist?

Psychotherapy is also sometimes called "talk therapy," and because of this, psychotherapy involves treating its patients through psychological means, rather than through medicine.

The most basic psychotherapist definition is that they are someone who uses these techniques to help others.

In contrast to this, the act of treating mental disorders through medicine belongs to the field of psychiatry and psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication, whereas psychologists are not. If you have been looking for a way to define psychotherapist, this is the distinction between both professions. However, some individuals are licensed in both disciplines.

Although a psychotherapist cannot prescribe medication like a psychiatrist or an ordinary doctor, they often collaborate with psychiatrists if medication is an option that would like to be explored. Both medicine and psychotherapy can be used side-by-side, and people have seen significant progress when both are used concurrently.


While talking is involved in psychotherapy, it is often much more involved than merely sharing your thoughts and feelings. This can be an effective method, and many people want someone to talk to, but other psychotherapists will actively engage patients to change their negative thinking patterns through very specific techniques.

There is not a single one-size-fits-all approach to psychotherapy, and certain techniques will be better than others, and there may be some trial and error. [2] In the next section, you will learn about some of the psychotherapy techniques that are widely used today, as well as some of the histories of the practice.

What Kinds of Psychotherapy Are There?

The beginnings of psychotherapy can be traced back to Sigmund Freud and his development of psychoanalysis, which believes that our personalities are divided into two separate parts - the conscious and the unconscious. Within these two areas, it can be divided into three additional components: the Id, Ego, and the Superego, and mental conditions begin because of conflict between them.

Nowadays, Freud's work has been criticized and debunked in some ways; however, some therapists still practice it, and it still paved the way for popularizing the practice of talk therapy and innovations within it.


Another early form of psychotherapy is psychodynamic therapy, and the techniques created by Alfred Adler are still quite relevant. The psychodynamic theory states that our behavior and how we feel are unconscious and are largely based on early childhood experiences. Therapists who use psychodynamic techniques will do things to improve a person's self-awareness and work on addressing old patterns so that they can feel more in control. [2]

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy, or IPT, is a short-term form of treatment that primarily involves addressing concerns with other people. This can include conflicts in the workplace, in intimate relationships, or between family members. Interpersonal therapy can also help people struggling with unresolved grief. An interpersonal therapist can help clients improve their communication skills and learn how to express themselves more healthily. [2]

Supportive Therapy

Supportive therapy involves the use of reassurance, encouragement, and guidance to help patients overcome their problems. [2] The therapist will listen carefully to the individual and facilitate progress, but ultimately, your problem-solving skills will help you improve self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and create coping skills.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy


One of the most popular and diverse forms of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). With this technique, a therapist can help identify negative, ineffective, and problematic thinking and behavior patterns and turn them into ones that are positive, productive, and functional. [2] This form of therapy applies to several mental health conditions, and this, along with its success rate, contributes to its popularity.

Within each of these fields, there will often be even more specific individual methods and different specialists that can be used depending on the context. For example, Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are different forms of CBT. Meanwhile, a workplace therapist or a couples& marriage counselor may opt for using interpersonal therapy in their areas of expertise.

Which Form of Psychotherapy Is Right for Me or My Relationship?

It is important to try not to get too hung up on the different psychotherapies too much; instead, try to spend time focusing and researching for the right therapist for whichever issue(s) you may be experiencing.

It is recommended that you do a thorough search of what kinds of therapists are in the area that can help you out which your specific problem. For example, if you need a counselor to help with your relationship or depression and anxiety specialist, you should be able to find some results very quickly. However, try to learn more about them to see if they have experiencing helping others with similar concerns. You can also try to find some reviews from other patients like yourself.

If you have found a therapist that appears to be what you are looking for, try to contact them and ask them some questions, if possible. A consultation can help you gain the confidence that you will be in good hands or that you should look for a therapist that is more suitable for your needs.

In addition to all of the different types of therapy that are available to you, you also have the option to participate in group therapy or individual sessions. If you are having relationship issues, a therapist will be able to sit down with both of you and listen to both of your stories without taking any sides.

Will Psychotherapy Solve My Problem?

Many people considering therapy make the mistake of trying to solve their issues on their own rather than seeking professional help. Asking for help is not admitting a failure; in reality, doing so is the first step to getting better and start becoming the best person and partner that you can be, which is a success, not a loss. [3] When we have a problem with a part of our bodies, we seek professional help from a specialist. Psychotherapy is no different. If you are experiencing a mental health problem, it is important to seek help to treat it properly.


  1. In fact, some issues may be entirely out of your control. Some mental disorders have biological components to them, and while medication will help, using psychotherapy will give you long term skills to be able to handle your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

    According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 75 people who use some form of psychotherapy will benefit from it, such as having symptom relief and better functioning in their daily lives. [2]

    While it is not guaranteed that it will work, the odds are heavily in your favor that it will. Additionally, if one method does not work, it is also possible to try out something else, or even a different therapist entirely.

    Aside from having success and results from psychotherapy, people who have used it have enjoyed and were glad to have decided to try it. As mentioned earlier in this article, psychotherapy is not just about talking - it is an engaging and interactive way to learn useful new skills that you can put into practice in between sessions and during your daily routine. [3]


    There are a few final aspects of psychotherapy that you should know before jumping into it, but will greatly provide you with comfort, reassurance, and better outcomes.

    The first thing is that psychotherapy is confidential, and there are strict rules in place to protect. Any information released will require your written approval beforehand, and in most situations that will only be needed when sharing data between physicians or towards your family members. [3]

    Secondly, psychotherapy does not last indefinitely. The therapist does not want to keep you as a client forever, no matter the rapport you develop. Instead, they would rather see you learn, grow, and succeed on your own with the skills that you have learned.

    Thirdly, always be open with your therapist about your problems. It might be uncomfortable talking about traumatic issues from the past, but the goal of the therapist is to make your thoughts less problematic by addressing them. By being transparent, you help your therapist help you.

    Finally, in addition to traditional in-person sessions, online therapy is always an option as well. At Regain, licensed professionals are available to listen and help you with any issue you may be having. Online counseling is also convenient and affordable, and many people cite it as being less stressful because it does not require traveling, and scheduling is flexible.

    From learning about the psychotherapy definition, what a psychotherapist does, and what techniques they can use, hopefully, this article has been informative and has answered any questions you have regarding psychotherapy, and has encouraged you to try it. Improving yourself and your relationship is just one step away, and you can start today!


    1. National Institute of Mental Health. (2016, November). Psychotherapies. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from
    2. American Psychiatric Association. (2019, January). What Is Psychotherapy? Retrieved August 8, 2019, from
    3. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Get the facts about Psychotherapy. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from

Previous Article

Yoga Therapy: The Answer To Anger In Your Relationship?

Next Article

5 Types Of Therapy That Can Help Heal Your Relationship
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Counselor Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.