psycho- comb. form + therapy n., probably after French psychothérapie
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, psychotherapy first meant "hypnotherapy" instead of "psychotherapy". The original meaning, "the treatment of disease by ‘psychic’ [i.e., hypnotic] methods", was first recorded in 1853 as "Psychotherapeia, or the remedial influence of mind". The modern meaning, "the treatment of disorders of the mind or personality by psychological or psychophysiological methods", was first used in 1892 by Frederik van Eeden translating "Suggestive Psycho-therapy" for his French "Psychothérapie Suggestive". Van Eeden credited borrowing this term from Daniel Hack Tuke and noted, "Psycho-therapy ... had the misfortune to be taken in tow by hypnotism."
It aims to increase the individual's sense of their own well-being. Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building, dialogue, communication and behavior change that are designed to improve the mental health of a client or patient, or to improve group relationships (such as in a family).
Psychotherapy may also be performed by practitioners with a number of different qualifications, including psychiatry, clinical psychology, clinical social work, counseling psychology, mental health counseling, clinical or psychiatric social work, marriage and family therapy, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, play therapy, music therapy, art therapy, drama therapy, dance/movement therapy, occupational therapy, psychiatric nursing, psychoanalysis and those from other psychotherapies. It may be legally regulated, voluntarily regulated or unregulated, depending on the jurisdiction. Requirements of these professions vary, but often require graduate school and supervised clinical experience. Psychotherapy in Europe is increasingly being seen as an independent profession, rather than being restricted to being practiced only by psychologists and psychiatrists as is stipulated in some countries.
There are several main broad systems of psychotherapy:
- Psychoanalytic - it was the first practice to be called a psychotherapy. It encourages the verbalization of all the patient's thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst formulates the nature of the unconscious conflicts which are causing the patient's symptoms and character problems.
- Behavior Therapy/applied behavior analysis focuses on changing maladaptive patterns of behavior to improve emotional responses, cognitions, and interactions with others.
- Cognitive behavioral - generally seeks to identify maladaptive cognition, appraisal, beliefs and reactions with the aim of influencing destructive negative emotions and problematic dysfunctional behaviors.
- Psychodynamic - is a form of depth psychology, whose primary focus is to reveal the unconscious content of a client's psyche in an effort to alleviate psychic tension. Although its roots are in psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy tends to be briefer and less intensive than traditional psychoanalysis.
- Existential - is based on the existential belief that human beings are alone in the world. This isolation leads to feelings of meaninglessness, which can be overcome only by creating one's own values and meanings. Existential therapy is philosophically associated with phenomenology.
- Humanistic - emerged in reaction to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis and is therefore known as the Third Force in the development of psychology. It is explicitly concerned with the human context of the development of the individual with an emphasis on subjective meaning, a rejection of determinism, and a concern for positive growth rather than pathology. It posits an inherent human capacity to maximize potential, 'the self-actualizing tendency'. The task of Humanistic therapy is to create a relational environment where this tendency might flourish. Humanistic psychology is philosophically rooted in existentialism.
- Brief - "Brief therapy" is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches to psychotherapy. It differs from other schools of therapy in that it emphasizes (1) a focus on a specific problem and (2) direct intervention. It is solution-based rather than problem-oriented. It is less concerned with how a problem arose than with the current factors sustaining it and preventing change.
- Systemic - seeks to address people not at an individual level, as is often the focus of other forms of therapy, but as people in relationship, dealing with the interactions of groups, their patterns and dynamics (includes family therapy & marriage counseling). Community psychology is a type of systemic psychology.
- Transpersonal - Addresses the client in the context of a spiritual understanding of consciousness.
- Body Psychotherapy - Addresses problems of the mind as being closely correlated with bodily phenomena, including a person's sexuality, musculature, breathing habits, physiology etc. This therapy may involve massage and other body exercises as well as talking.
There are hundreds of psychotherapeutic approaches or schools of thought. By 1980 there were more than 250; by 1996 there were more than 450. The development of new and hybrid approaches continues around the wide variety of theoretical backgrounds. Many practitioners use several approaches in their work and alter their approach based on client need.