How to select a therapist who will help and not hurt. A project of Metanoia Communications


3 - What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapists are not just people who give you advice. Psychotherapy is not simple problem-solving. Therapy produces change in your life, but not primarily because of advice you get from the therapist.

In reality, therapy is a much, much richer experience. Psychotherapy is a specialized technique which is effective in helping you cope with a wide range of difficulties. It can produce lasting change in your life.

Specialized techniques of caring have been developed which have the potential to produce change in human life, even when there are deep and persistent problems.

Psychotherapy helps individuals explore and resolve more enduring and deeply felt sources of conflict and dissatisfaction in their lives, so that they will gain confidence and inner wholeness.

Building an alliance of trust with the therapist leads to a reshaping of significant emotional experiences, and builds confidence and wholeness in new and enduring relationships. It provides the presence of personhood, not just technique. --Gary Hellman

The foundation of psychotherapy is the relationship you establish with the therapist. Research has shown that the technique the therapist uses is not as important as the relationship you build together. As therapy progresses and trust is established, you will actually use the relationship between you and your therapist as a workspace, to resolve problems in your life.

Because the relationship with the therapist is so essential to the process, it is important to find a therapist to whom you feel connected, with whom you feel safe. In psychotherapy, you intentionally make yourself deeply vulnerable to another human being. That is a very frightening assignment indeed. But you must realize it is this very process of self revealing and trust building that can be the means of your healing. At the end of this frightening and difficult path lies the inner wholeness you long for.

Obviously, if you are to make yourself so vulnerable, you must feel safe. I will show you how a good therapist builds that sense of trust and safety with you.

Next: The secret that you already know >>

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Table of Contents


  1. Why I wrote this article
  2. How to tell if a therapist is competent, or not
  3. What psychotherapy isand why you need to know
  4. The secret that you already know
  5. How a good therapist makes you feel safe
  6. The perfect therapist
  7. Privacy: the essential ingredient
  8. Non-judgmental acceptance: you deserve it
  9. How to choose a therapist to call
  10. How you find out about the therapist
  11. Therapist credentials: the truth revealed
  12. First contact. Watch out for these red flags!
  13. Your first session: what should happen
  14. Safety is in the details
  15. Now what?

Copyright 1991,1996, 1999 Martha Ainsworth. All rights reserved. Please refer to reprint information before reprinting or distributing all or any part of this text.


This resource is hosted by mental health information at Psych Central.