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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 August 19, 2019

9 Ways to Prepare for Change and Live Your Dream Life

9 Ways to Prepare for Change and Live Your Dream Life

Every year, many of us may have launched initiatives for change in the form of resolutions. We often feel inspired to reflect, look back, and take stock of our lives, deciding what is working for us, and what isn’t.

The changes we seek may be relatively small or short-term, such as losing those holiday love handles or decluttering the garage. We may also feel a strong desire or need for more profound, long-term transformation in the form of a career change, quitting long-term habit, or moving to a new town.

Whether we deliberately pursue personal transformation and growth or have it thrust upon us, we can greatly improve our chances of achieving success by preparing for the changes we seek.

In this article, we will look into 9 ways to prepare for change. These tips will help you navigate transitions both small and large, and set you firmly on the path toward the life of your dreams.[1]

1. Understand the Logical Levels of Change

It’s important to understand how change actually works so you know what to expect during the process.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), we use the Five Logical Levels to understand what’s involved in making personal change. This is a simple model that gives five useful windows through which to view any issue.[2]

Here’s a quick breakdown of the five Logical Levels:

  1. Identity – Who are you? What roles do you play in your life?
  2. Beliefs – Why do you do what you do? What are your values and beliefs?
  3. Capabilities – How do you do things? What are your skills and strategies?
  4. Behaviors – What are you doing? What are your current behaviors?
  5. Environment – Where, when and with whom are you displaying your behaviors?

Changes and factors at each level impact those above and below it to a greater or lesser degree. For example, changing your environment may affect the levels above it, but altering a belief you hold will most certainly influence the levels below it.

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To shift a behavior, which is the level we typically target when we resolve to ‘make a change’ in our lives, we often need to become aware of and adjust our underlying beliefs and sense of self, build our capabilities to include new skills, and possibly support the shift by changing our environment.

Let’s use an example to walk through each level; you’re unhappy in your current career as a Chartered Accountant, and have decided to go back to school to retrain as a Registered Massage Therapist.

  • Identity – is your purpose to be happy and fulfilled, or to be the successful bread-winner of your family?
  • Beliefs – do you value helping others? How much do you value income and status vs. happiness and satisfaction? Do you believe you are capable of making the necessary changes?
  • Capabilities – how will you gain the skills you need to become a massage therapist? What training will you need? What soft skills will you need that you don’t currently have (i.e. communication, making people feel at ease)? Are you willing to do what it takes to obtain these new capabilities?
  • Behaviors – aside from physically leaving your current job, what other behaviors might need to change? Will you need to cut down on luxuries to afford the transition? Are your beliefs in line with the changes you will need to make?
  • Environment – does your current environment support the necessary changes (i.e. your spouse, boss)? Will you be able to study and work in your current situation, or will you need to move? When is the best time to make the transition?

2. Get Clear on Your Desired Outcome

Take the time to clearly define exactly what it is you want to accomplish with the change in terms of what it will look like, when you want it to happen, how long you want it to take, and a basic outline of how you will accomplish it.

This is particularly important for those who like to jump right in once they’ve made a decision; enthusiasm is wonderful and will serve you well, but you also need a clear path and solid understanding of what it is you want.

3. Create a Pros and Cons List

It’s inevitable that with big change comes fear and doubt. Even when we know a particular decision is right for us and will benefit us in the long-term, we may feel a pull back to the familiar and comforting behaviors, habits, jobs and situations we are attempting to leave behind.

Make a list of the reasons you want to change. What are the deeper desires behind your decision? What specific positive outcomes will you experience as a result of your change? And finally, what are the negative consequences of NOT changing?

Create a detailed list of your answers to these questions, and post them where you will be able to review them often. When doubt creeps in, or when your motivation lags, your list will serve as an encouraging reminder of why you’re doing all this in the first place.

4. Imagine the Outcome

In NLP, we refer to this important step in accomplishing any chosen goal or outcome as Future Pacing. Simply put, you imagine and visualize the end result of the change you are making.

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This step accomplishes two important things:

One, you now have a richly imagined successful future outcome as positive motivation on your journey; and two, from your imagined place of success, you can then ask yourself how you got there, creatively envisioning overcoming any obstacles and challenges from a place of guaranteed achievement.

Richly visualizing the life you will experience after you have accomplished your goals as a daily exercise is also a great way to practice manifesting your reality. Here’s how: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

5. Ecology Check

Another NLP term, an ecology check is simply holding your envisioned end result up to the microscope of inquiry:

  • What possible obstacles or conflicts may arise?
  • What mindsets, habits or behaviors might sabotage your efforts?
  • How will achieving your desired change affect others in your life (family, friends)?
  • Are there any sacrifices you will need to make? Are you ready to make them?
  • How will your life need to change in order for you to achieve your end result?
  • Is the end result aligned with your core values and beliefs?

Asking yourself these important questions before you embark on a significant life change can save you time, effort and heartache, and allow you to make any necessary adjustments ahead of time.

6. Build Your Assets

Make a list of any assets you currently have, such as money and other resources, skills, training, talents and supportive individuals.

Now make a list of those assets, you still need to acquire in order to successfully accomplish the change before you, including things like adopting new mindsets and behaviors, training and education, mentorship, and physical assets such as living and working spaces, loans or transportation.

Make a plan for how you will obtain any skill or resources that are currently lacking.

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7. Create Contingency Plans for Possible Obstacles

Once you’ve envisioned your desired future outcome, and scrutinized it for possible challenges and obstacles, you can come up with plans for those possibilities.

You don’t have to go into too much detail; just decide ahead of time how you might handle the bumps in the road should they arise.

For instance, if you anticipate resistance to your life decision from those around you, you might prepare a short and punchy answer to the question of why you’re doing it.

8. Create an Action Plan

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we are facing big life changes, even those we choose and want. Any worthwhile life change involves letting go of familiarity and stepping outside our comfort zones, and this can be a frightening experience.

Having a clearly defined action plan will not only help you stay on track with your progress, but also provide you with reassuring structure in the midst of what may at times feel like chaos.

When you formulate your plan, be sure to chunk it down into manageable, preferably daily tasks and action items, and set several achievable milestones along the way towards your end goal.

Start creating your action plan: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

9. Keep Calm and Carry On

Remember to be compassionate with yourself. Making significant personal and life changes can be challenging, and as with any journey, there will be bumps as well as milestones along the way.

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You will make mistakes, and there will be unforeseen setbacks. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Stay present as best you can, stick with your action plan, and review that Pros and Cons list you created to remind yourself of why it’s all worthwhile.

Take time each day to visualize your desired outcome, and don’t forget to celebrate those little milestones and victories along the way.

The Bottom Line

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.  — Barack Obama

And therefore, you’re the only one who is responsible to change yourself for a better life.

Before you decide to make changes, be clear about what you want and what you need. And identify the skills you need and find the environment that supports you to make the change you desire.

Keep calm and carry on, and you will be the change you’ve always wanted!

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Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

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