What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a practice that involves the use of a professional relationship to address issues in depth.

Practically anyone can find at some point in their life that they suffer depression or anxiety, existential despair, futility, or struggle to come to terms with loss.  Anyone can lose their way.  Even the most high-functioning and accomplished people can find themselves in mental anguish or emotional agony.  This is part of living.  We work equally with people who are suffering from the worst of what life can throw at us or those who are suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder. Such suffering benefits from addressing it over a period of time.

Regular sessions involving reflection, discussion, interpretation and a professional focus on the underlying reasons for distress, disorder or dysfunction make a positive difference.

Many people ask the question:

“How can talking about things help?  Why does talking make any difference?”

It is difficult to give a full explanation to answer these questions but most people by far who enter into the process and work at it find it beneficial. The way we talk in therapy is not the same as any other context. You may not have talked ‘therapeutically’ before.

Psychotherapy works at different levels at once. Usually, clients consult therapists with an issue or problem that may be pressing at the time. We discuss these or any other related issues. There seems to be something in the inter-personal chemistry of mutual attention to areas of conflict or mental/emotional pain that generates insight into the meaning and underlying reasons behind such issues. We shed light on dark areas, we clarify confusion, and we make sense of complicated situations.

Insight into what things really mean to us often leads to uncovering and experiencing feelings which, in turn, connects us to the issues, joins awareness to embodiment. A sense of inner work and movement follows; it is a mental/emotional stretch. Therapy usually takes us beyond where we can go by ourselves.

We may get caught up in the closed circuit of our own thinking. So, Psychotherapy involves a therapist’s perspective with a view to opening up and expanding the discourse of our issues. Our issues tend to be painful, limiting and disturbing both to ourselves and to others. Such issues often repeat again and again. This is also why it is terribly important to consider other points of view, different ways of looking at your issues, and new ways of understanding them. The psychotherapy process often brings relief and opens up possibilities of seeing things in a new light, moving in a different direction.


It makes a huge difference to consult a therapist who is properly trained and experienced.

If issues were easy to resolve then they wouldn’t require professional attention. You could read it in a book or google it. To get the most out of therapy, we recommend an attitude of total honesty, frankness, directness and candour. This is a situation which is completely private and confidential. It is deliberately split-off and kept away from clients’ personal, social or working lives. It is best not to worry too much about the impression you make or any possible judgements that could be made about you. Psychotherapists do not concern themselves with judging people but rather know that we all make mistakes, get confused, behave badly, think dark thoughts, or act selfishly. Often the harshest judge is that of one’s own conscience. We work to diffuse our own internal critics and make our inner mental/emotional environment conducive to development, to learning from the past and to becoming the best person we can be.


What is the difference between Counselling & Psychotherapy?

Although Psychotherapy and Counselling overlap considerably there are also some differences. The work with clients may be of considerable depth in both modalities; however, the focus of Counselling is more likely to be on specific problems or immediate issues or life situations.

Counselling revolves around the metaphor of repair. There is also the function of de-briefing for critical incidents and traumas. De-briefing involves talking through an experience with a view to releasing the tension, fear, upset or shock that may have been incurred. Like Psychotherapy, Counselling is concerned to help people to move on where necessary, to adjust to life changes, grieve losses and heal emotional wounds.

Psychotherapy is usually a deeper and longer term process, concerned with the restructuring of the personality or self. Psychotherapy revolves around a metaphor of development which involves the search for meaning, discovery of hidden aspects of ourselves and growing into a more balanced self-awareness.

Although both Psychotherapists and Counsellors work with a wide variety of clients, Psychotherapists are more likely to work intensively, and also have the capacity to work with more disturbed individuals. Counsellors are more likely to work in specific areas where specialized knowledge is needed (eg marital and family counseling, bereavement counseling, school counseling, addictions counseling, HIV/AIDS counselling, substance abuse, etc). At advanced levels of training, Counselling has a greater overlap with Psychotherapy than at foundation levels.


What is therapy for?

Psychotherapy is a form of treatment for disorders within oneself, in relationships and other areas such as work, creativity, sexuality and the ability to achieve ones goals.

At the same time therapy is more than treatment. This is because quick fixes or technical solutions rarely work in sufficient depth to last beyond the present mood. While therapy aims to make a positive difference in the short term, therapy also needs to be effective in ways that go beyond the current situation.

Often we notice that the nature of our personal difficulties is repetitive. Similar issues arise time and again in different contexts and relationships. The causes are often complex but may well arise from aspects of our emotional development that are deficient or have become blocked or arrested. When emotional development is appropriate to our age or stage of life we call it maturity. Analytic Psychotherapy simply helps us to grow up in the particular ways that we haven’t yet. Ideally, the therapeutic process promotes areas of development by dismantling the obstacles and conditions which have prevented it from occurring organically.


What is therapy not for?

Therapy does not pretend to have all the answers. The practice is usually non-prescriptive and non-directive.

Psychotherapy can be used to address a crisis but needs to be more than that. For people already having therapy when a crisis befalls them, the therapist is in a good position to assist. It makes a difference to know someone when things go wrong. But in extreme situations therapy should not be considered as a substitute for hospital care, medication or as a type of repair shop for the mind.

Therapy tends to take time and so in cases of acute suicidality, fragmentation or dis-integration or altered states of consciousness from drugs or alcohol and perhaps the more extreme disorders in the psychotic range, Psychotherapy may not be appropriate unless a patient can function in therapy despite their condition. It would be difficult for Psychotherapy to work very well unless a patient can reliably attend sessions on a regular basis, pay fees, and arrive and leave at the appointed time. Alternatively, Psychotherapy may need to be used as one treatment strategy in conjunction with others such as hospitalization, Psychiatry and/or meditation.


Who should I see?

If you have never had an experience of therapy before, the task of choosing the right therapist can be a daunting one. Amygdala Consulting offers a free half hour referral service, with a qualified practitioner, who will attempt to find the right therapist for you, one who is a “good fit” based upon your individual preferences and needs.

In identifying an appropriate therapist, we take into consideration what you are seeking to gain from therapy, what style of therapist would be most suitable for you, whether a male or female therapist is preferred, what fees you can afford, what level of qualifications or experience is appropriate in a therapist and we also try to accommodate you with a convenient location.

Our first choices for referral will be ourselves if either Catherine or Jan feel they are a suitable choice (and the client agrees!) though Cath is focussing mainly on business consulting now. We are also aware of many other qualified therapists in the broader community. A professional referral service puts what is deemed to be in the best interest of the client first and foremost. Jan originated the idea of a free half hour referral service and has been offering this since 1991. He has referred literally hundreds of people to other therapists over that time and many other therapists have taken up the practice of an initial free half-hour.

If you would like to take advantage of this free half hour referral service,

please phone (08) 9383 3132 to arrange an appointment.