What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a way to help individuals with a broad variety of mental health challenges and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms, thoughts, feelings, or behaviours so a person can function better and increase well-being.

Problems helped by psychotherapy include:

  • the impact of trauma
  • medical illness
  • loss, like the death of a loved one
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • suicidal ideation
  • self-harm
  • substance challenges
  • psychotic disorders
  • personality disorders (BPD, NPD, etc.)
  • ADHD
  • PTSD

In Ontario, OHIP covers these services if referred from a Medical Doctor or Psychiatrist. Please speak with your Physician about this possibility if interested.

Why do we need Psychotherapy?

Research shows that most people who receive psychotherapy experience symptom relief and are better able to function in their lives. About 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it. Psychotherapy has been shown to improve thoughts, emotions, and behaviours and to be linked with positive changes in the brain and body. The benefits also include fewer sick days, less disability, fewer medical problems, and increased work satisfaction.

With the use of brain imaging techniques researchers have been able to see changes in the brain after a person has undergone psychotherapy. Numerous studies have identified brain changes in people with mental illness (including depression, panic disorder, PTSD and other conditions) as a result of undergoing psychotherapy. In most cases the brain changes resulting from psychotherapy were similar to changes resulting from medication.

Therapy Sessions

Therapy may be conducted in an individual, family, couple, or group setting, and can help children, youth, and adults. Sessions are typically held once a week for 50 minutes for various costs. The trust and relationship between a person and their therapist are essential to working together effectively and benefiting from psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy can be short-term (8-12 sessions), dealing with immediate issues, or long-term (months or years), dealing with longstanding and complex issues. The goals of treatment and arrangements for how often and how long to meet are planned jointly by the client and therapist.

Confidentiality is a basic requirement of psychotherapy. All sessions are currently being offered online.

Psychotherapy and Medication

Psychotherapy is often used in combination with medication to treat mental health conditions. In some circumstances medication may be clearly useful and in others psychotherapy may be the best option. For many people combined medication and psychotherapy treatment is better than either alone. Healthy lifestyle improvements, such as good nutrition, regular exercise and adequate sleep, can be important in supporting recovery and overall wellness. Options for medication must be discussed with a family doctor and/or psychiatrist.

Types of Psychotherapy

The choice of therapy type depends on the client’s particular illness and circumstances and their preference. Therapists may combine elements from different approaches to best meet the needs of the person receiving treatment.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps people identify and change thinking and behavior patterns that are harmful or ineffective, replacing them with more accurate thoughts and functional behaviors. It can help a person focus on current problems and how to solve them. It often involves practicing new skills in the “real world.”

CBT can be helpful in treating a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, trauma related disorders, and eating disorders. For example, CBT can help a person with depression recognize and change negative thought patterns or behaviors that are contributing to the depression.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a short-term form of treatment. It helps patients understand underlying interpersonal issues that are troublesome, like unresolved grief, changes in social or work roles, conflicts with significant others, and problems relating to others. It can help people learn healthy ways to express emotions and ways to improve communication and how they relate to others. It is most often used to treat depression.

Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is therapy given to individuals, couples, or families based on a deeper look at one’s home growing up, and extended family. Patterns in the generational history are observed to look at how the rules, roles of members, hierarchical approaches, boundaries in relationships, and historical trends impact the development of an individual and their understanding of self.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a specific type of CBT that helps regulate emotions. It is often used to treat people with chronic suicidal thoughts and people with borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and PTSD. It teaches new skills to help people take personal responsibility to change unhealthy or disruptive behaviour. It involves both individual and group therapy.

Psychodynamic Therapy is based on the idea that behaviour and mental well-being are influenced by childhood experiences and inappropriate repetitive thoughts or feelings that are unconscious (outside of the person’s awareness). A person works with the therapist to improve self-awareness and to change old patterns so he/she can more fully take charge of his/her life.

Supportive Therapy uses guidance and encouragement to help patients develop their own resources. It helps build self-esteem, reduce anxiety, strengthen coping mechanisms, and improve social and community functioning. Supportive psychotherapy helps patients deal with issues related to their mental health conditions which in turn affect the rest of their lives.

Walk and Talk Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that incorporates walking outdoors while talking about issues and problem-solving with your therapist.

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