What is Psychotherapy & How It Helps with Anxiety, Depression & Other Issues

There are many things that can knock us off balance or off track in our lives.  It might be a major illness, stress at work, a family problem, loss of a job, a problem in our marriage, or a major life transition. Sometimes the cause is not a new one. It's an issue that happened earlier in our lives or a situation or personal challenge we've been dealing with for many years. 

Whatever and whenever the cause, stressful experiences like these can sometimes disrupt the actual biochemistry of our brains which makes getting our balance back tougher than we expect. The result can often be an ugly mix of anxiety, depression, negativity, pain and fuzzy thinking that is a signal of our need to change to adapt to and heal from this trauma, but that also makes change particularly tough. Fortunately, you don't have to stay stuck and suffering. 

Many people get significant benefit from individual psychotherapy which consists of one-on-one sessions, usually 50 minutes in length, with a trained therapist. Psychotherapy is sometimes called "talk therapy"” because the core of therapy involves a series of confidential discussions between you and your therapist. 

Why does talking to a skilled psychotherapist help more than just talking to a close friend or family member? One reason is similar to why we rely on skilled professionals like lawyers, surgeons, and others to help us in other complex areas of our lives - they have become experts through their training and years of experience. A good psychotherapist has extensive training and experience in how our brains work (and sometimes don't work) in managing the complex interactions between our experiences, thoughts, emotions, actions and relationships. 

Psychotherapy helps by providing you greater insight and awareness of these relationships and providing you new options and new strategies in managing them. Your discussions and interactions with your therapist provide you a safe and confidential environment that can help accelerate your own ability to get back on track - especially in your ability to reduce recurring cycles of negative emotions, negative ways of thinking or unconscious negative behaviors and replace them with other more positive ones that you yourself choose.   

For many years, the actual mechanism that explained how therapy helps us make changes in the way our brains work was a significant mystery. Many scientists, including Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a psychiatrist at the UCLA School of Medicine, are starting to unravel these mysteries. They have found that when patients practice techniques and methods of thinking that they learn in therapy, they make a positive change in their own brain chemistry and rewire their brain to work better.

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