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Maybe You’re Wondering, 'What Is a Psychotherapist?'


What’s a psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist is a person who treats individuals living with mental illnesses or mental disorders. You may see a psychotherapist if you’re struggling with a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or a personality disorder, such as borderline personality disorder. Psychotherapists have specific training. They’re trained in abnormal psychology and require a graduate degree, which is typically a doctorate in clinical psychology. To become a psychotherapist, you’ll go to graduate school, and many people will earn a Ph.D.  

What does a psychotherapist do?

Many therapists will have private practices or work in hospitals with clients. They can use their education in a variety of ways, but a psychotherapist is dedicated to helping people who are struggling with their mental health, and the majority of therapists are dedicated to this practice. When you see a psychotherapist, expect them to be a good listener and prioritize your mental health concerns. 

Why would you see a psychotherapist?

You can choose to see a psychotherapist if you’re having challenges with your mental health and you want to work through specific behavioral problems. Alternatively, you might be going through a life transition, such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Therapy can help with many different issues, but let’s focus now on how therapy can help you manage mental illnesses. But there are many other reasons to go to therapy other than these. You might find relief in having an objective person to work out your problems with, rather than venting only to your friends and family. A therapist has your mental health at the forefront of their mind. You are their priority, which makes you feel like you matter, and you do!

How therapy can help people who have a mental illness

If you struggle with a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, OCD, and more, seeing a psychotherapist regularly can be a game-changer for your mental health. You have a point person to talk to when the symptoms of your mental health condition are creeping up and possibly impairing your functioning. It’s not easy to live with a mental illness. More than not easy, it can be downright difficult, but a psychotherapist is trained in these issues and can help you form a game plan to manage these symptoms. You’re there not only to vent about how your mental illness affects you but also to practice strategies that you develop in therapy.

What you learn in therapy 

In therapy, you can learn a variety of skills. It’s helpful to go into the process of mental health treatment with some goals. Maybe you want to learn to manage your anxiety, or you’re looking to gain skills for anger management. Perhaps you want to learn how to make and maintain friendships. These are all things that a psychotherapist can help you with, and it’s helpful to express your concerns in therapy. That way your therapist is aware and knows what your goals are, and how to help best you reach them. Remember that your therapist isn’t doing the work for you. They’re guiding you along in the process, but they’re not going to wave a magic wand and fix your problems. Unfortunately, that’s not how therapy works. The heavy emotional lifting, so to speak, is up to you. But your therapist is there every step of the way supporting your efforts toward growth and change

Seeking help

The most important thing when it comes to mental health is getting help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist when you’re struggling. Whether you choose to work with an online therapist or a psychotherapist in your local area, the ultimate goal is the same: get better. You want to find a place where you can address your mental health concerns and take actions to feel better. It’s your life, and you have the right to live it well. 

Getty photo by Wavebreakmedia