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Published on July 31, 2018

What is Psychotherapy? How It Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams

What is Psychotherapy? How It Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams

No doubt you’ve had this thought before, and maybe you’ve even voiced it in a conversation with a close friend, a family member, or yourself.

The thought goes like this: What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong?

You expect and want life to go a certain way, you want to fulfill your dreams and you want success, but it’s not happening. You feel stuck in a cycle of desperation, alienation and futility.

Your life circumstances are such that you’re having trouble coping and returning to normal. The good news is there’s a kind of counseling called psychotherapy; you can use it to make a real difference in your life. According to Bradley University, 82 percent1 of people who have undergone psychotherapy found it beneficial.[1]

What is psychotherapy and how can it help you achieve your dreams? Continue reading to find out.

What Is psychotherapy?

Before we go further, let’s define psychotherapy. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychotherapy is “talk therapy.”[2]

Generally speaking, psychotherapy is a series of sessions with a therapist who helps you “identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior.”

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Psychotherapy isn’t just for people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Anyone can benefit from it.

How psychotherapy helps you take control of your life

Here’s the truth about psychotherapy: it’s all about you — your desires, goals, relationships, perspective, skills and agency.

You’re stuck in a pattern. You feel you’re in a bad place and you can’t get out. Through psychotherapy, you’ll pin down actionable steps to move forward.

Your counselor will help you understand the following:

  1. You are the one who can make changes to your pattern because you have the power to recognize negative tendencies and act positively. You have agency.
  2. You can figure out what brought you to this place in your life. You’ll identify past experiences, actions and behaviors that contribute to your pattern.
  3. You can get help from other people. You’ll identify a support network and if you don’t have one, you’ll develop one.
  4. You have strengths; you’ll identify them and ways to use them for positive improvement.
  5. There are certain things that trigger your problematic behaviors. You’ll identify your triggers.
  6. You can use specific techniques every day when you are triggered. These techniques are called coping skills. With cognitive-behavioral therapy, you’ll identify which coping skills are best for you.
  7. There are measurable and realistic goals you can achieve within a certain period of time. You’ll identify your goals and the steps toward achieving them.

Ultimately, taking the small steps every day and filling your self-confidence bucket will enable you to fulfill your dreams.

A dream remains a dream when it’s distant, hazy and unattainable. A dream becomes reality when you take realistic steps to achievement.

There are different types of psychotherapy. Let’s take a deeper dive into the practice.

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How cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you take action

Quickly, think of an issue that pretty much everyone must deal with. No clues! You have five seconds to identify this issue. It’s something you may be feeling right now. If you can’t figure it out now, you fail.

Did that make you feel a little stressed out? There you have it.

Stress is an issue pretty much everyone has to deal with, and it can affect your physical and emotional health: about 77 percent of people experience physical symptoms caused by stress, while 73 percent report emotional problems.[3]

To cope with stress, Dr. Lisa Herbert, who is a physician and life coach, recommends deep breathing, a gratitude journal, and counting to 10 before doing something you know will be stressful.

Herbert’s recommendations are very much in line with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Basically, CBT involves the following:

  • Identify symptoms that indicate the psychological basis of a problem: if you’re overly stressed, you may experience racing thoughts, aches and pains, muscle spasms and digestive issues, among other symptoms.
  • Identify triggers of symptoms: what is it that stresses you out? Is there a recurring scenario causing you to become overly stressed?
  • Identify coping skills that can help you deal with symptoms: coping skills can include deep breathing, positive self-talk, redirection, exercise, art, and mindfulness.
  • Identify ways to implement coping skills in the community and at home.
  • Practice coping skills regularly.
  • Discuss results and next steps with your therapist.

A key component of CBT is the identification of thoughts that lead to undesirable behaviors. You learn to recognize negative and unreasonable thoughts and to counter them through specific actions (coping skills).

Your therapist works with you to tailor coping skills to your specific needs. If needed, you’ll also identify pro-social skills, communication skills and vocational/educational skills.

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How psychoanalysis helps you unearth the root of your problems

Do you remember when you were 8 and you got in a fight with your sibling and it got physical? How many other fights do you remember? Did you ever begin to talk about your anger with your brother or sister and figure out what was causing it, or did your parents just ground you and ignore the cause of the fights?

Psychoanalysis helps you delve deep into the cause of whatever is troubling you. Somewhere along the line, you unconsciously began to develop a harmful pattern. You’ll discover the thinking processes that lead to patterns, and you’ll pinpoint what made you start thinking and acting this way to begin with.

During therapy sessions, you’ll discuss your dreams, thoughts, memories and feelings with your therapist until you understand the root of your problem. Once you recognize and understand harmful thoughts and patterns, you can begin taking the steps to change. Therapists oftentimes combine this approach with CBT and other psychotherapies.

A study published by the World Psychiatric Association revealed that patients who suffered from depression benefitted from psychoanalysis in the long term. After 42 weeks, observers and the patients themselves reported significant declines in depression levels.[4]

Through psychoanalysis, you’ll benefit from gaining a clear and objective view of yourself, like a person who is able to navigate a maze by looking at it from above. You’ll also be able to understand what certain dreams mean and why you continue to associate with certain people.

Over time, understanding and empowerment will help you heal yourself.

Psychotherapy encompasses a variety of treatment options

There are multiple kinds of psychotherapy besides psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy. You’ll determine what is best for you when you first consult with your therapist.

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The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights the difference between CBT and psychoanalysis.[5]

The APA calls psychoanalysis a “humanistic” approach. CBT and its adjuncts, such as dialectical behavior therapy, furnish a practical approach to therapy, while psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy are all about in-depth conversation.

Many therapists combine practical and talk-based therapies based on your needs.

Achieve your dreams with psychotherapy

As mentioned, psychoanalysis includes careful consideration not only of your thoughts and feelings, but of your dream content and what it means about your desires.

Analyzing your dreams helps you understand your innermost unconscious tendencies. According to Freud, Carl Jung and other pioneers of psychoanalysis, dream analysis helps you understand your most fundamental needs and wishes.

Meanwhile, CBT helps you develop a practical, achievable plan for fulfilling your dreams. Answering the question, “What do you want?” is a primary component of all psychotherapies. CBT is the step-by-step approach to healing wounds, filling your confidence bucket, and grasping your goals.

To find out more about psychoanalysis, CBT, and other psychotherapies, consult with a licensed therapist.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

If I ask you “what is happiness?”, then what would your answer be? It’s probably difficult to come up with a simple answer. Yet, here you are, looking for a key to happiness and how to lead a fulfilling life.

The truth is that a universal key to happiness is a myth.

That doesn’t mean that you should stop looking for yours right now, it only means that you need to be careful when reading articles about “a key to happiness”. The universal key to happiness is non-existent because happiness is one of the most difficult things in life to define.

How Do You Define Happiness?

Now, let’s go back to that difficult question: “what is happiness?”

Have you thought about it already? Let me give you an example of how hard it is to define happiness.

Right now, I’m drinking a cup of coffee while writing the outline of this article about how to define happiness. Am I happy right now? Yes, I’m feeling pretty happy:

  • I’ve got nothing to worry about.
  • All my basic needs are met.
  • My family, friends, and girlfriend are all happy as well.
  • The weather is nice.
  • I’m going outside in a couple of minutes to go for a walk.

These things are all making me feel pretty happy right now.

By that logic, let’s define my happiness as follows:

“Happiness is when I’m in a worry-free state, the weather is nice, everybody I know is alright and I can enjoy a hot cup of coffee.”

Voila. There it is. My definition of happiness.

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The keys to my happiness are obvious now, and I know enough in order to lead the happiest life I can. I just need to focus on the things I listed above.

Your Definition of Happiness Changes over Time

Wait a second… If it were this simple, then why have I ever been unhappy?

You might have guessed it already, but I made a very simple error. I assumed that what makes me happy today will make me happy for the rest of my life. And that’s just wrong.

Happiness is something that not only changes from person to person, but it’s also constantly evolving from day to day. This is why happiness is such a difficult concept, and why there’s not a single “key to happiness”.

Whoever tells you otherwise is likely not aware that people change, and that people don’t always share the same values, goals, and purposes.

How to Find the Key to Happiness

Define What Happiness Means to You!

For a minute, I want you to do consider your own happiness. I want you to think back of last week, and consider what things you did that had a positive effect on your happiness.

What things had a significant influence on your mood? What comes to your mind?

Was it spending time with your friends? Was it a great movie you watched? Did you attend an exciting sports event? Or did you enjoy sipping hot coffee on a sunny Wednesday morning? It could obviously be just about anything!

It’s important to realize that all these things were part of your “key to happiness”. Your happiness was defined by these things, and you just measured a small part of that.

Does that mean you now know all the answers? Do you now know how to live the rest of your life? No. But you do know what things made you happy last week, and that’s very useful information when determining your own definition of happiness to build on.

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If you consciously keep track of what factors determine your happiness, then you are more likely to find out just how much your definition of happiness can vary from time to time. This knowledge can help you find your key to happiness.

A Personal Example

You see, even though happiness is claimed to be the factor of life that’s the most difficult to measure, you can still measure how you define your own happiness each day. It’s simple.

For me personally, when I think back of last weekend, I remember that I really enjoyed spending time with my girlfriend, walking through the woods on a sunny day and just relaxing (a.k.a. doing nothing!)

These are happiness factors that were a vital part of my happiness definition this weekend. I had just survived a long and busy week at work, so I was really trying to find some easy enjoyment. The things that I did this weekend were perfect for the occasion, as it was a very happy day for me.

If you were to ask me what the key to my happiness was that weekend, I’d give you the following answer:

To spend quality time with my girlfriend, being able to enjoy the good weather while being carefree and relaxed.

While this is unlikely to be the key to your happiness for the rest of your life, it is a pretty good start.

You can do exactly the same. All you need to do is to define your own happiness from day to day.

Find Your Purpose in Life

The next step to determining your key to happiness is to determine the things that give you purpose. You will live a fulfilling life when you’re happily tracking towards a purpose. Something that you’re passionate about.

Let’s use the previous example of my key to happiness. Will I be happy for the rest of my life when I focus exclusively on a relaxed and carefree feeling? Probably not, because it will not lead to a very fulfilling life. Not for me, at least.

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There are some things that drive my actions in a much bigger sense than only my daily, short-term happiness. For some people, that purpose could be:

  • To take care of a loving family
  • To build a successful company
  • To climb the highest mountains
  • To be rich and famous

You have to find out what your purpose in life is in order to truly determine your key to happiness. Only then will you be able to define a sustainable plan that will make you both happy and fulfilled.

It’s important to know that you can find your purpose only when trying out new things. This is a crucial part of finding your key to happiness. You can’t read an article online (like this one) and suddenly learn about what your key to happiness is!

The same thing goes for finding your purpose. You can’t expect to find your purpose without trying new things. People stumble upon their purpose in life in lots of different ways.[1]

Combine Your Purpose in Life with the Keys to Your Happiness in Order to Lead a Fulfilling Life

Now, this might sound like a mouthful.

A purpose in life x keys to your happiness = fulfilling life?

It’s actually really simple. Let’s take the following example:

I’ve found that my purpose in life is to become the CEO of a great and powerful charity (I know, I know…)

I feel a purpose and sense of accomplishment when working towards these goals. However, should I therefore sacrifice everything in my life in order to reach that purpose? Should I work 100 hours a week, disregard any relationships and use sleep medication just to fall asleep under the stress?

Nope. If I do that, I might reach my purpose, but I won’t still be happy.

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However, if I spend the rest of my life similar to how I spent my last weekend (enjoying the sun and walking through the forest) I will also miss long-term happiness. That’s because I won’t feel like my life has a purpose.

Your key to happiness and the purpose of your life need to compliment each other. They need to be in balance.

Destination = Happiness = Journey

You’ve probably heard the saying:

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination”.

Think of the destination as your purpose, and think of the journey as the things you do that make you happy (the keys to your happiness).

You can’t spend your life running (or sprinting) towards your destination, because you’ll forget to enjoy the journey.

At the same time, you can’t head out on your journey without having a destination in mind.

That’s why I believe your happiness is a product of both the journey and the destination.

Or in other words, you need to combine your purpose in life with the keys to your happiness in order to lead a fulfilling life. This will allow you to create a road map – a specific and concise plan – that will help you determine how to best lead your life. If you’ve done that, you’re ready to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember when trying to define your keys to a happy and fulfilling life is simple:

There is no universal key that leads to your happiness. That’s because your happiness is unique in each and every single way. What you can do is:

  • Realize that you can define the factors that make you happy.
  • Know that your happiness – and the factors that influence it – change over time, and so will your “key to happiness”.
  • Find out what your purpose in life is. You can only do this by trying out many things. You can’t learn this from simple reading an article!
  • Combine your purpose and the things that make you happy in order to get the best idea of how to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Featured photo credit: Sam Manns via unsplash.com

Reference

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