TwitterThe Psychological Therapies Unit


There are many different forms of psychotherapy. Some are more effective than others. However, the perceived function of all therapies is to assist one party in the work to a better understanding of themselves and their behaviour, so enabling that person to be more effective in their own terms or to address a particular issue or behaviour that is troubling the person entering therapy. This does not mean, however, that the therapist is not affected and does not gain or lose from the work two people might do together.

There is a need for clarity around the terminology used in any kind of psychological therapy. Even the word therapy brings to mind something done by one person to another. The words therapist, client, patient or user also have their own baggage and contextual meaning. The very idea that a therapist can do something to another person that will change them is inappropriate and should be dropped. That concept suggests that therapists can brain wash the people they work with. The derivation of the word therapy is based in the Greek therapiea, "to be in attendance". However, today's meaning is more akin to one person doing something to another. For example, someone with a broken leg might attend hospital and be seen by an orthopaedic consultant who would reduce the fracture, then a plaster cast would be placed around the leg to support it. This is clearly a therapy as not even an orthopaedic surgeon can reduce their own fracture effectively. An antibiotic is another good example of a therapy. Someone with an infection might be prescribed an antibiotic to treat the infection. Once swallowed, the drug will fight the infection and, hopefully, resolve the problem without any input from the patient. Therapy on the other hand is entirely dependent upon the recipient accepting, assimilating and putting into practice that which they have learned during the interaction with the therapist. Though even this is fraught with problems as the nature of the learning may not be what the therapist intended simply because of different understandings of the meanings of words or concepts.

The only person who can make any changes to their behaviour is the person who wishes to make that change. That person can make changes to their mental activities, i.e. the way they think which, let's face it, is little more than mental behaviour, or to their observable behaviour and activities. They will only do so if they can see a benefit to that change. The therapist' job is to offer ideas, observations and practical information that the person can choose from that can alter their life, activities and behaviours in a positive manner. It is not for the therapist to make decisions about what are the right behaviours or activities for that person. It is for the person to choose and decide in what way they want to make changes for themselves.