Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
Po-Chang Hsu, M.D.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University. Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel.
February 18, 2021
Psychotherapy refers to a specific form of therapy consisting of addressing the underlying causes of one’s symptoms of anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness.
Therapy, or traditional therapy, usually focuses on treating issues a patient is dealing with currently and figuring out immediate coping methods.
In simple terms, psychotherapy tends to dig into the underlying root of psychological issues further than traditional therapy does.
There are several different medical terms, names, and phrases for your mental and physical health. While many of these mental health treatments are doing the same thing, the small differences between them make a huge difference–one might work better for the issues you’re dealing with, and it’s important to figure out which one!
Traditional therapy, also known as counseling, is likely what you think of when you imagine going to a therapist. They are trained to help with a variety of different issues. Whether the client is finding themselves struggling with anger issues or have a major depressive disorder, a counselor can help.
Therapy is known for focusing on the patient’s present issues instead of past traumas. A therapist or counselor’s goal is to help their client overcome whatever they’re facing using different therapy methods, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT.
A therapist will give the patient advice and ideas on how to navigate their situation. They may specialize in specific areas, including marriage counseling. If more work needs to be done, a therapist might help their client find a psychotherapist.
Traditional therapy and counseling are for anyone, ranging from the person struggling with an eating disorder to a CEO that needs to vent about work stressors. Comparing psychotherapy vs. therapy, you might find that therapy is better for you if you’re looking for coping mechanisms and support for everyday issues and frustrations in your relationships or your own life.
Traditional therapy is an especially great option for someone wanting to learn coping skills for their specific situation.
Therapy and counseling are good fits for someone trying to adjust to a change in his or her life, such as:
First, you’ll find a therapist that works with your needs. If you want to get rid of stress, you won’t want to work with a therapist that specializes in grief. If you’re experiencing grief, you won’t seek a marriage counselor’s help. Therapy works by building a relationship between the client and the therapist, so pick someone you see yourself trusting enough to open up to.
Talk therapy is commonly used to work through the issues at hand. Traditional therapists listen closely as their patient talks about their troubles and then provide them feedback, suggestions, and counsel in return.
“Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties,” according to the American Psychiatric Association.
A psychotherapist generally has more education, or at least more training, than a counselor. By definition, they have been trained to become a medical doctor, as you would see in a clinic, and then specialized in mental health. Psychotherapy might also be practiced by a healthcare practitioner who received a Ph.D. in psychology.
Unlike traditional therapy, psychotherapy dives deeper into past issues. It’s a long-term option for those dealing with traumatic events like sexual abuse or dealing with a serious mental health issue.
Instead of just offering advice, which they certainly do, psychotherapists also focus on:
Because psychotherapy is focused on deeper issues, it works by getting to the root of the issue at hand. A psychotherapist will find out why their client is depressed, anxious, or struggling with derealization. Once they know what’s causing the condition they’re facing, they can then work to help their client.
For those struggling with mental health issues, especially ones triggered by trauma or past experiences, you might not even know that these events in your history are affecting how you live your day-to-day life.
A psychotherapist digs deep, using a variety of different psychotherapies. Just like traditional therapy, a relationship is established between the therapist and the patient. Over several weeks, months, or even years, an open and honest dialogue between the two can create lasting changes in the patient’s life.
Think of psychotherapists as a therapist who can help with specific battles. If you’ve been diagnosed and are struggling with the following, a psychotherapist may be a good option for you.
That said, plenty of therapists are well equipped and have extensive experience treating these conditions.
No, when considering psychotherapy vs. therapy, you should understand they are different practices with different intentions, and what is “better” depends on your specific needs.
For someone who has noticed they’ve become burnt out due to a busy schedule, traditional therapy might be the better choice. If someone finds themselves constantly dissociating, trauma is likely the cause, and they’ll find more help seeing a psychotherapist.
Another thing to consider is the length of care needed. When you’re dealing with stress at work or too many arguments at home, you may not need to see a therapist for years.
Traditional therapy is perfect for those who notice an issue and want to improve on it over time, with a possible end-date in the future.
Finding therapists online has never been easier. Online doctors and therapists are great alternatives to in-person appointments, especially in an increasingly contactless world.
If you are looking to speak to a therapist before seeing a specialist, you can make a therapy appointment on our affiliated site, PlushCare. PlushCare is a telehealth company that offers reliable and convenient access to therapists available for appointments online. Please note that PlushCare does not currently offer psychotherapy.
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