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The Basics of Psychotherapy

There are a number of issues or concerns for both therapists and clients. When selecting a therapist, consider whether you feel comfortable divulging personal information to the therapist. You should also assess the therapist’s qualifications, including the type of degree he or she holds and years of experience.

People who provide psychotherapy can hold a number of different titles or degrees. Some titles such as “psychologist” or “psychiatrist” are protected and carry specific educational and licensing requirements. Some of the individuals who are qualified to perform psychotherapy include psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, licensed social workers, and advanced psychiatric nurses.

When providing services to clients, psychotherapists need to consider issues such as informed consent, patient confidentiality, and duty to warn. Informed consent involves notifying a client of all of the potential risks and benefits associated with treatment. This includes explaining the exact nature of the treatment, any possible risks, costs, and the available alternatives.

Because clients frequently discuss issues that are highly personal and sensitive in nature, psychotherapists have a legal obligation to protect a patient’s right to confidentiality. However, one instance where psychotherapists have a right to breach patient confidentiality is if clients pose an imminent threat to either themselves or others. Duty to warn gives counselors and therapists the right to breach confidentiality if a client poses a risk to another person.

How Effective Is Psychotherapy?

One of the major criticisms leveled against psychotherapy is one that calls into question its effectiveness. In one early and frequently mentioned study, psychologist Hans Eysenck found that two-thirds of participants either improved or recovered on their own within two years, regardless of whether they had received psychotherapy.

However, in a meta-analysis that looked at 475 different studies, researchers found that psychotherapy was effective at enhancing the psychological wellbeing of clients. In his book The Great Psychotherapy Debate, statistician and psychologist Bruce Wampold reported that factors such as the therapist’s personality as well as his or her belief in the effectiveness of the treatment played a role in the outcome of psychotherapy. Surprisingly, Wampold suggested that the type of therapy and the theoretical basis of the treatment do not have an effect on the outcome.