Some Frequently Asked Questions:
What kind of therapy is best?
There are literally hundreds of kinds if therapy: The most important kinds of therapy include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Dynamic Psychotherapy, Client Centred Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Research shows that in general no one kind of therapy is necessarily any better than any other kind of therapy.
What is more important is: (1) the therapist's skill and experience, (2) the amount of trust and confidence that the patient has in the therapist, and (3) whether the therapist's approach is a good 'fit' with what the patient needs or is looking for.
How does it work?
I believe that different kinds of psychotherapy all work the same way. Psychotherapy activates and strengthens the 'higher' or 'thinking' parts of the brain which monitor and control the 'lower' or 'action' parts of the brain. The observing, monitoring and controlling parts of the brain are strengthened, and this allows the 'higher' brain areas to have more 'top-down' control over the 'lower' brain functions such as emotions and behaviour.
The way we do this is through words, language, and stories. In psychotherapy you are encouraged to find words for your experiences, and to find ways of explaining things that make sense of your experiences. This will often involve talking about relationships (in the family, or with your partner, or at work or at school - because it is often in relationships that your behaviour and your emotions are a problem. Psychotherapy is a kind of 'physiotherapy of the brain', and a psychotherapy session is a kind of workout for the brain which can be hard work sometimes. You might feel emotions that are uncomfortable, or you might think about things that make you uncomfortable.
Weekly is usually best. If sessions are less frequent then it is harder to keep the continuity between sessions, and you may have to spend more time each session just catching up and finding a sense of direction. But when people have recovered from their crisis and are in a more stable period, then fortnightly or monthly can be enough to keep them going, and can help them get used to managing without therapy. On the other hand if someone is in an emergency situation then they might need to see their therapist more than once a week in the short term.
Brief therapy (up to ten or twelve sessions) or even single-session therapy can be very helpful in many situations, but for people with more complex and chronic problems, the benefits of therapy are more enduring if the person can commit to more long term therapy. In my own work I recommend a minimum of 6 months but up to 18 months or more may be required.