Psychotherapy is another term for “talk therapy,” or counseling. This type of mental health treatment involves meeting with a licensed therapist to get help with issues that may be negatively affecting your life. Therapists are there to provide you with a safe place to express your thoughts and feelings, work out painful memories, and improve your life.
Therapy is more than coming in each week to vent about your feelings. A therapist has special training in psychotherapy theory, interventions, techniques, and evidence-based (EB) practices. Your therapist is not there to give you advice, but rather to apply EB principles that will effectively address your challenges.
At Pacific Pain & Wellness Group, our compassionate therapist team is here to help you become the best version of yourself. We will work with you to establish a trusting and safe relationship, and help you find solutions that align with your personal values.
Types of Therapists
There are several different types of mental health professionals who are qualified to conduct therapy sessions.
- Clinical Psychologist: A clinical psychologist is a professional who has either completed their Master’s or Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology or a related psychology field. Psychologists must also complete the hours required by the Behavioral Board of Sciences (BBS), pass the California Law & Ethics Exam, and pass the CA licensing exam. Psychologists are highly skilled in counseling as well as conducting standardized tests and formal assessments to diagnose and treat a variety of mental health disorders.
- Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist can conduct therapy sessions with clients, but most psychiatrists choose to focus on prescribing, managing, and maintaining medications for patients who need them. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.
- Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT): A licensed MFT has completed either a Master’s or a Doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field. They must fulfill the required 3000 hours to be eligible for the California Law & Ethics Exam as well as the CA licensing exam for MFTs. An MFT is highly skilled at approaching treatment from a “wellness & recovery model.” This involves a holistic approach to helping clients improve their lives.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): A licensed clinical social worker has completed either a Master’s or Doctoral degree in clinical social work. They must also complete the required amount of hours for licensure in CA, take the Law & Ethics Exam, and pass CA state licensure exam for LCSWs. These professionals are unique in that they learn about the client from not only a counseling perspective, but also from a societal perspective. They are highly skilled in navigating the policies of organizations and institutions as well as gathering community resources to meet their clients’ needs.
- Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC): This mental health professional has earned either a Master’s or Doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field. They must accumulate 3000 hours (post-degree), take the CA Law & Ethics Exam, and pass the CA LPCC exam for licensure. LPCC’s are very similar to LMFT’s in that they specialize in mental health treatments that address many different facets of a client’s life.
How Psychotherapy is Delivered
Psychotherapy can be conducted in individual sessions, as a couple, with one or more family members, or in a group setting. Each of these modalities has its own benefits, and each type addresses different aspects of the presenting problem.
Individual Psychotherapy: This is the most common way that psychotherapy is delivered. Individual sessions involve attending therapy to address your presenting concerns. Sessions revolve around the thoughts, feelings, behaviors, experiences, and relationships that may be causing you distress.
Before any work can be done, your therapist will build a warm and trusting relationship with you. Some therapists may help you focus on staying in the present moment so you can gain insight into how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors may be negatively influencing your happiness, self-concept, and relationships.
Other therapists may want to discuss your childhood experiences to help you understand how your personality, perceptions, and self-image were shaped. Childhood attachments to caregivers can have a lasting impact on how we view ourselves, what we look for in a partner, and our conflict resolution style.
Individual therapy sessions last 45-50 minutes and usually meet on a weekly basis. Some clients who need more frequent visits may come in twice a week until they are stabilized. It is not uncommon for our clients to meet their therapist for a dozen or more sessions. For other clients, brief counseling (8-10 sessions) may be more appropriate.
One of the main benefits of individual psychotherapy is the ability to have an hour each week dedicated to working on self-improvement. Rarely do we have time in our busy lives for self-reflection and growth, and therapy is the ideal place to do both. Many of our clients are able to successfully work through their issues and go on to live better quality lives.
Couples Psychotherapy: Just like the name says, couples therapy is for a couple in a committed relationship. Relationship dynamics can uncover a host of issues such as unmet needs from childhood, communication problems, difficulty resolving conflict, and more.
A psychotherapist will treat the couple as the “client,” meaning that both partners in the relationship are seen as a single client by the therapist. Some therapists have a “no secrets” policy between partners so that the therapeutic process is as open and truthful as possible.
If individual therapy is recommended for each of the partners, it is advisable for the partners to each find their own therapist. This reduces conflict of interest between the therapist and the couple.
Because couples have unique relationship dynamics, your therapist will approach treatment in a different way than he or she does with individuals. For example, rules of conduct may be implemented with couples such as:
- No interrupting
- Learning how to make “I” statements
- Avoiding blaming the other person
- Actively listening before responding
- Each partner having equal “space” to talk
As with all types of clients, culture should always be taken into consideration. Some couples have cultural beliefs that may be different from how Western (American culture) relationships are conducted.
As part of the “getting to know you” process, your therapist will ask about your cultural, ethnic, and religious background to get a better understanding of what is important to you and your partner.
The goal of psychotherapy for couples is to help you both find what works best for your relationship. For some couples, ending their relationship feels like the best decision. For others, they may want to stay together and do some hard work in therapy together.
Whatever your decision is, know that we are here to help you find the strength, coping skills, and endurance to get you through the difficult time. Couples sessions can last a bit longer to accommodate two people being in session. Usually couples come in weekly or bi-weekly for 90 minutes per session.
Family Psychotherapy: Family psychotherapy is for a family unit that is having difficulty. For some families, issues can center on communication problems. For others it may be a new stage of development such as the oldest child becoming a teenager. There are a variety of reasons why families come in for therapy, but the main goal is to help balance the family system to achieve greater harmony.
Family systems theory states that a family is used to doing things in a certain way, so when one thing changes in the system, the entire system is offset. This theory also asserts that the system will try to get back to “homeostasis,” or where it once was.
Humans are creatures of habit, and a family system is no different. What feels comfortable to us is usually what we stick with. Family psychotherapy can upset this comfortable balance. To combat this, your therapist will help you learn coping skills, new ways of communicating, and how to engage in bonding activities to build cohesion.
Some interesting techniques may involve family therapy games, art projects, and activities. These can help families get the most out of their sessions. Some therapists utilize a variety of therapeutic interventions such as:
- Board games
- Story activities
- Sand tray
- Drama therapy
- Music therapy
These serve to help family members stay engaged during therapy. Family sessions can sometimes last a bit longer to accommodate multiple people in the room. They might come in once a week for 60-90 minutes per session.
Group Psychotherapy: Group therapy often lasts for a certain number of weeks so that the group stays focused on the topics that are going to be covered. The therapist will guide the group toward positive discussions regarding relevant topics that will help group members with their challenges.
Group therapy usually has a limited number of members so that each person has the space to share during their weekly sessions. People who are experiencing similar challenges will be matched together for group therapy.
Groups can focus on:
- Overcoming addiction behaviors and cravings
- Learning about living with a mental health or medical condition
- Applying coping skills to address specific challenges
- Getting social support for an issue shared by group members
- Improving communication skills
One of the most important aspects of group therapy is the screening process that the therapist conducts ahead of time. This process involves evaluating potential group members to see if they have certain personality qualities that would help them fit into a group therapy setting. Members are also screened for inclusion based on the particular challenges they are facing.
Group therapy is very effective for people who:
- Are experiencing grief or loss
- Are chronically ill or have an ill family member
- Want psychoeducation about their mental health disorder
- Are comfortable sharing in front of others
- Are experiencing depression or anxiety
- Are open to learning about new skills and trying them out
Psychotherapy & Medication
One of the most effective ways to treat mental health disorders and mood disorders is through a combination of treatments such as psychotropic medication and psychotherapy.
The medication portion of treatment helps a person feel better by decreasing bothersome symptoms so that they feel more like themselves again. Medication can help a person get back to better functioning day-to-day and having a higher quality of life.
Psychotherapy treatment is more effective when a person’s symptoms are under control. Psychotropic medication can help a person to be more receptive to making positive and lasting changes in the way they think, feel, or behave. Once these new ways of being are established, a person can affect their sense of self worth, relationships with others, and their views about life.
Psychotherapy in Torrance – Pacific Pain & Wellness Group
If you are ready to make positive changes that can help you feel better, think better, and live better, then call our team of licensed mental health providers. We are ready to schedule your first session and walk alongside you every step of the way.
At Pacific Pain & Wellness Group, we care about you as much as you do. Our goal is to help you feel better so you can live better. Get in touch today by calling (310) 437-7399.