Psychotherapy: Women’s Emotional and Mental Well-being

Psychotherapy: The psychological approach:

Because of the complicated situation that now exists in modern psychology. People have become uncertain as to exactly what the different branches of the profession do when they come into action. And whether they provide a form of medicine for the sick.

A popular therapeutic pastime for wealthy neurotics or a path to personal growth and self-awareness that anyone may choose to follow. Some definitions:


Psychology is the science of the nature, functions, and phenomena of the human mind. Therefore a psychologist may have nothing to do with the medical profession but maybe a teacher or student of the science.

Clinical psychologists have a degree in psychology and sometimes sociology as well, and have then undergone further training in counseling skills. This has become a recognized profession.


Psychiatry is the medical treatment of ‘disease of the mind’ and all psychiatrists undergo medical training. As doctors, however, their training gives them a tendency to rely heavily on drugs and (though increasingly less) on medical technology such as electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).


Psychoanalysis began with Freud, who analyzed the origins of pathological, mental or nervous disorders through talking to his patients and exploring with them their past, their relationships, their likes, and dislikes, their avoidances and obsessions, as a means of treating the deep causes of their disorders.

Psychoanalysis has developed a great deal since Freud through the work of such eminent figures as Jung, Adler, and others. Although traditional psychoanalysis is practiced today in much the same way as in Freud’s time, mostly in the private sector.

It can be a costly and lengthy business involving hourly sessions two, three, or even five times a week, sometimes for several years. All psychoanalysts have to go through lengthy analysis themselves and be trained at one of the recognized institutes in this country before they can set up a practice.


Psychotherapy is a much broader term and includes any therapy of a psychological nature. It is often used in referring to the newer humanistic psychotherapies which developed from the 1930s onwards out of a sense of the limitations of traditional psychoanalysis in the Freudian or Jungian mold.

The essential difference between analysis and psychotherapy is that the latter approaches each patient as an individual rather than based on a set methodology.

Psychotherapy encompasses a wide range of diverse techniques including counseling, bioenergetics, Rogerian therapy, Gestalt, psychodrama, group work, and self-discovery through painting and writing. On a one-to-one basis, a session is directed by the client according to his or her wishes and needs and the particular training of the therapist.

The length of time a person may see a therapist can vary from a couple of diagnostic meetings to a weekly session for several years. This will depend on the individual.

A group workshop may be determined by a theme or common aim, at which the therapist may act as a facilitator or direct the group’s use of the time available. In fact, the ‘growth group’ is a common feature of the approach of psychotherapy. Individuals meet, usually weekly, and explore together personal issues, usually therapist to act as guide.

The emphasis in psychotherapy is less on the relationship between the healer, and the patient, more about individuals engaged in helping the client gain insight into his or her problems through self-awareness.

Today, many different agencies and individuals practice psychotherapeutic techniques, from the doctor who behaves in a caring way towards his patients, helping them through crises in their lives, to social workers, marriage-guidance counselors, clinical theologists, and trained psychologists.

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Psychotherapy: How to find a psychotherapist?

Some general practices include either a clinical psychologist or a psychotherapist, or both, but most do not. If you decide you need counseling or psychotherapy, discuss this with your doctor.

If no advice or help is forthcoming, you should then decide whether you need individual psychotherapy or group psychotherapy, or whether to join one of the many self-help groups instead.

There are self-help groups for practically every problem, from those suffering from muscular dystrophy to compulsive eating. Many psychotherapists also practice group work or can put you in touch with someone who does.

It is far better, in almost all cases, to try the human approach rather than to take drugs. Whether they are prescribed by your doctor or by a psychiatrist. In many ways, the psychotherapist today fills a role that used to be filled by a close friend, a relative, or the parish priest. Some women actually prefer to confide in someone outside their close circle. They feel they can no longer go on burdening friends.

As is evident in the next section of stress, many of our problems are self-generated and more to do with our perception of pressures than with the actual pressures themselves. There are simple self-help techniques to deal with stress and to help you avoid the breakdown of your coping mechanisms.

Coping with Stress:

Our modern world presents all women with more challenges, demands, opportunities, and choices than we have ever had before. Life moves faster than it did, with a multiplicity of claims on our time, attention, involvement, commitment, and energy. Our choice of work is greater, with positions of responsibility and creativity open to us where once they were not.

We are offered a wider range of stimuli to attract and distract us: films, television, videos, books, and a range of activities from women’s groups and politics to evening classes in car maintenance or flower arranging. We rarely rest, there is always so much to do… to the point where we find it hard to know where to turn.

Add to this the invasion even of the home – a woman’s traditional nest and retreat – by the telephone and the demands of young children, and we can see that the fabled peace of the household (if it ever truly existed) is certainly something of a myth. Home may be neither a place of respite and recuperation for a woman after work nor a guarantee of an un-stressful life for women who are there all day.

Our lives have become so full of noise and activity that we have lost sight of the need for silence and stillness, the vital balance for a fulfilled life. The lack of this balance can so easily turn what should be exciting challenges and possibilities into sources of stress. Each of us responds differently; we may feel overwhelmed, exhausted, depressed, and weary.

We become ill or irritable, feel angry, trapped, frightened, anxious, or permanently tense. Our bodies, too, respond with backaches and muscle tension in the neck, stomach, throat, and elsewhere. We become emotional in inappropriate situations or snap at loved ones, over-react to demands at home and work.

Women are particularly vulnerable to stress today because for the first time we are not bound by tradition; we are making choices as to how we want to live our lives and having to balance several roles.

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It is not so much the choice in itself which is stressful, but rather that we are being expected, and expect ourselves, to make intelligent, positive, and appropriate decisions which will radically and permanently affect the shape of our lives, without having been taught how to choose.

We have had our expectations raised by the women’s movement, the press, and media – and these do not always coincide with the reality of our capacities and our situation.

Making sensible, constructive choices involves balancing pros and cons, facing reality rather than how one would wish things to be, assessing several factors from finances to personality and close relationships. It also involves taking risks, having the courage to go with a vision or an idea rather than being side-tracked by ‘advice’, by comparing ourselves to others, by social conventions or stereotypes.

All this is a skill, and a difficult one, which must be learned. Women have had only a few decades to pick up the skill of life management and yet we find ourselves having to cope in a social world still in a state of transition which demands clear-sightedness from all of us.

All this sets up a lot of stress, confusion, and feelings of inadequacy and anxiety – concern, for instance, that if we choose to work our children will suffer, or that if we choose to stay at home people will think we are ‘just a housewife’. Research studies confirm that women are liable to suffer more stress today for all these reasons.

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