by Preda A
(Counseling; Emotion-Based Psychotherapy; Individual Therapy; Psychosocial Therapy; Talk Therapy)


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the use of therapy methods to help people with mental illness or emotional problems. Some methods are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to change how a person thinks and feels about problems they are having
  • Interpersonal therapy to improve how a person relates to the people in their life
  • Psychodynamic therapy to look at past problems, conflicts, and thought patterns
Managing Mental Health Concerns
Brain Man Face
Psychotherapy can help patients cope by decreasing the effects of emotional triggers.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Therapy

Psychotherapy is used for many mental health problems such as:

Possible Complications

Therapy sessions may cause a person to feel upset or uncomfortable. It is hard to talk about difficult feelings and events. People with phobias may slowly be exposed to their fear. This can cause worry.

What to Expect

Prior to Therapy

The therapist may meet with you to talk about:

  • The problems that are causing you to seek therapy
  • The therapy methods that may work best for you
  • How long and how often you may need therapy sessions

Description of Therapy

You will be asked questions about your background, family, mental health, and the problems you are having. It may take many sessions to find the best method to treat you.

You will be asked about your thoughts and feelings. You will talk about how you react when things happen to you. At first, you may not want to talk so much about yourself. Over time, you will see the benefits.

During your session, you may feel emotional. This is normal. After the session, you may feel tired.

What you talk about is private. There are only a few cases where the therapist must share information with the police such as:

  • You are going to harm yourself or someone else
  • You harmed another person such as a child, an elder adult, or someone with a disability

Psychotherapy can also be for you and:

  • A spouse or partner
  • Your family
  • A group

How Long Will It Take?

You may have 1 session a week for about an hour. The number of sessions depends on the reason you are there. Short-term therapy may take a month. Some people may need to go for a year or longer.

It takes time and hard work before you start to feel better. Results differ for each person. Most people will see good changes after a few sessions.

Post-therapy Care

You will have homework. This is a way for you to work on the skills that you learned during the sessions.

Call Your Therapist

Call your therapist if the thoughts, feelings, or other problems that led you to seek therapy are coming back or getting worse.

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call your therapist or emergency medical services right away.


American Psychiatric Association 

Mental Health America 


Canadian Mental Health Association 

Canadian Psychiatric Association 


Coffey SF, Banducci AN, Vinci C. Common questions about cognitive behavior therapy for psychiatric disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(9)807-812.

Individual therapy (psychotherapy). Good Therapy website. Available at: Accessed November 23, 2020.

Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 23, 2020.

Psychotherapy for children and adolescents: Definition. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: Accessed November 23, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 04/16/2021