Psychotherapy and its Uses

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This article is for Medical Professionals

Professional Reference articles are designed for health professionals to use. They are written by UK doctors and based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. You may find the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) article more useful, or one of our other health articles.


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Psychotherapy can be defined as the treatment of mental and emotional disorders by trained psychotherapists using psychological methods. The Royal College of Psychiatrists describes psychotherapy as "... helping people overcome stress, emotional problems, relationship problems or troublesome habits ... they are all treatments based on talking to another person ..."[1]

In 2005 the Government made a commitment to improving the availability of psychological therapies (the preferred method being cognitive behavioural therapy) for patients as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.[2]

Various techniques can be are used in psychotherapy, eg modification of behavioural patterns that will persist in the long-term. Patients can be seen on an individual basis or within a group setting and they can be seen by one or more therapists. Psychotherapy can take usually take weeks, or even years, and regular sessions are usually necessary.

There are various types of psychotherapies, including the following:

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