What is Psychotherapy?

16th October 2023


Any form of treatment for a psychological or emotional disorder, in which a trained person establishes a relationship with one or several patients for the purpose of modifying or removing existing symptoms and promoting personality growth. Psychotherapy evolved from its origins in spiritual healing.

Drugs may be used as adjuncts, but the healing influence is exerted primarily by words and actions that are believed by sufferer, therapist, and the group to which they both belong to have healing powers that create an emotionally charged relationship between or among them.

Modern individual and group psychotherapeutic methods are used to treat all forms of suffering in which emotional factors play a part. These include behaviour disorder of children and adults, emotional reactions of the ordinary hardships or crises of life, psychoses, characterized by derangements of thinking and behaviour usually so severe as to require hospitalization.

Early psychotherapeutic theories and methods were based on either a religion-magical or a naturalistic view of mental illness. In the 18th century, Franz Anton Mesmer, showed that many symptoms could be made to disappear by putting a patient unto a trance. Mesmerism was the precursor of hypnotism, which became a widely used psychotherapeutic method.[Hypnotism is still used today in modern psychological practice by some psychologists].

Through it, Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud together made the epochal observations on the relationship to later mental illness of emotionally charged damaging experiences in childhood.

Modern psychotherapeutic methods for influencing patients directly include giving advice, persuasion, suggestion, and training in specific curative activities.
From Encyclopedia Britannica Vol.9, (1988). Chicago: University of Chicago. p. 768, 761