Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is a form of treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems. Provided by any of a variety of trained professionals—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or licensed counselors—it involves talking about, examining, and gaining insight into difficulties faced by individuals, couples, or families.
There is a wide array of modalities that therapists employ, including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, systems-based therapy, and more. Many therapists use a combination of approaches, all of which have as their goal relief of suffering and achievement of healthy functioning in the present and the future.
Each modality utilizes specific techniques and identifies specific outcomes. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, involves identifying and challenging distortions in thinking and irrational thought patterns that create emotional distress, while psychodynamic therapy aims to identify unconscious processes that influence behavior and contribute to real-world challenges. Some modes of therapy were originally developed to treat specific conditions—dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), for example, for borderline personality disorder—but have since been found helpful for an array of other conditions.
Most therapies in wide use have been well-tested and found effective. As with all trained professionals, individual therapists may add their own flourishes to established treatment protocols. Though therapy can sometimes be difficult to seek out—especially for those of low-income or with inadequate insurance—many who have found a supportive therapist report that the experience has been beneficial for their mental health and overall well-being.