For many individuals who face difficult adjustments or significant changes in their lives, it can be rather challenging to try to manage these crises or stressors on their own. Often times, the psychological distress caused by these changes will affect our emotional health and the functioning of our relationships with others. As humans, we are naturally relational and, as such, our psychological and emotional needs require relational attention, which psychotherapy is able to provide in a substantial way.
Therapy provides us with a relational experience with a skilled clinician who is trained in helping us gain more insight and understanding about ourselves, the feelings we experience, the patterns of our behaviors, and the motivations that drive our relationships with others. In couples counseling or family therapy, we are able to gain a clearer sense of how we communicate with others, what motivates our behavior, and how our own personalities influence the way we develop relationships with others.
As a clinical practice, psychotherapy is skilled in treating and managing the various emotional and psychological symptoms in our life that might also be affecting the health of our relationships with others. In fact, as our understanding of the human mind and psyche continues to grow through the expansion of scientific study, research has demonstrated that the effects of therapy help to promote healthy brain functioning. Therapy assists in stimulating neuronal activation and growth, which enables our neurobiological system to adapt and grow in stride with our emotional system, and vice versa. In light of this, psychotherapy is an efficacious compliment to utilizing psychiatric medication, both of which are focused on helping us manage psychological symptoms.
Psychotherapy also assists us in gaining a better sense of direction, purpose and meaning in our lives. As such, there is a spiritual and existential component to therapy that is not only focused on alleviating uncomfortable symptoms or behaviors, but is also able to address a deeper sense of meaningfulness that we all search for as humans. The history of psychotherapy actually shares a similar heritage with the ancient practices and healing rituals of various spiritual traditions. As such, psychotherapy can be considered to be a type of "soul work" as well as a form of treatment for emotional, relational, and psychological needs.
Please see the following references for more research information about the benefits of psychotherapy:
- Constantino, M.J., Ametrano, R.M., & Greenberg, R.P. (2012). Clinical interventions and participant characteristics that foster adaptive patient expectations for psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic change. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 557-569.
- Fishbane, M.D. (2007). Wired to connect: Neuroscience, relationships, and therapy. Family Process, 46(3), 395-412.
- Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65(2), 98-109.
- Siegel, D. (2009). Mindful awareness, mindsight, and neural integration. The Humanist Psychologist, 37(2), 137-158.
- Siegel, D. (2012). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
- Verheul, R. & Herbrink, M. (2007). The efficacy of various modalities of psychotherapy for personality disorders: A systematic review of the evidence and clinical recommendations. International Review of Psychiatry, 19(1), 25-38.
Who are LMFTs?
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) are psychotherapists licensed by the State of California who specialize in treating people with interpersonal relationship difficulties. LMFTs are trained to assess, diagnose and treat individuals, couples, families and groups to achieve more adequate, satisfying and productive emotional health and relationship adjustment. The therapy practice of LMFTs also includes marital and family counseling, child counseling, divorce or separation counseling and other forms of therapy focused on addressing relational issues. Requirements for MFT licensure include a related doctoral or master's degree, passage of two comprehensive written examinations with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience with psychotherapeutic training.
For further information about the clinical practice of LMFTs in California, please visit the California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists at: www.camft.org.