What is therapy?

We may define therapy as a search for value”

~ Abraham Maslow

Therapy can be defined many different ways and it is not as simple a definition as you might imagine. A variety of words may be utilized interchangeably with therapy for example counseling and therapy tend to be interchangeable. Other words that might be utilized interchangeably include psychoanalysis, and increasingly the term life coaching.

 Technically the term “therapy” for our purpose, is shortened from the word “psychotherapy”. Psychotherapy is a therapeutic process related to the mind (psyche) and is unique as compared to say physical therapy. In this book, when the term “therapy” is used we are referring to psychotherapy.

 Below is a simple definition of therapy that will be utilized for our purposes:

The process of improving a psychological, emotional, or behavioral element in an individual’s life. The process is facilitated by a trained professional in a safe environment”

 It is important for individuals seeking therapy to understand a basic definition of what therapy is. It is important is because participants will benefit from understanding exactly what they are getting into. In the definition above, it is important to note several key points:

  • Therapy is a process. In therapy there is seldom a specific event that makes change happen. Instead therapy tends to be a process where change happens through ups and downs. Humans are very complex, and good therapy recognizes these complexities.

  • Therapy is about making improvements. Beginning therapy does not mean that you are “sick” or that something is “wrong” with you. An individual may seek therapy to improve many areas of their life and it does not necessarily mean that the area of improvement is a “problem”.

  • Therapy requires a trained professional. Later in this book there will be a review of professional credentials that are required for “therapists”. Necessary training and education is essential if therapy is going to be successful. Engaging in therapy with an untrained “therapist” can be quite detrimental.

  • Therapy works best in a safe environment. The process of therapy can be emotionally challenging and leave the participant vulnerable at times. Therapy is most successful when completed in a safe environment where the participant feels safe emotionally and physically.