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What does a Psychotherapist do?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Mental health professionals often specialize in certain types of therapeutic services, from personal counseling to behavior modification to supervised drug therapy. A psychotherapist has both psychological and psychiatric training, but tends to concentrate on the counseling and behavior modification aspects when it comes to the treatment of clients. A psychotherapist generally acts as a guide and mentor while the client works through stressful or self-limiting personal issues.

One of the main tools a psychotherapist would use is talk therapy. During a session, a psychotherapist encourages his or her client to express any concerns, fears, traumatic memories or other thoughts without the fear of public exposure or judgment. The psychotherapist may allow the client to talk for the entire session as a cathartic exercise, or he may ask specific questions to help the client explore a specific issue. The point of a "talking cure" is not for the psychotherapist to force a solution on a client, but to provide a safe environment in which the client can examine his or her issues with the help of an objective counselor.

Besides one-on-one talk therapy, a psychotherapist may act as the guide for group therapy sessions. Each member of a group session is free to express his or her thoughts and react to other members, but a trained psychotherapist will try to keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand and make sure individual members are treated fairly.

Behavior modification is another mental health service generally provided by a psychotherapist. Helping clients deal with such major issues as bereavement, anger management and addictive behaviors call for a mental health professional familiar with both counseling and drug therapy approaches. While a psychotherapist generally favors personal counseling and talk sessions over drug regimens, he or she is familiar enough with medical psychiatry to make recommendations or referrals for clients who need additional help.

A psychotherapist may work in a private practice and see clients through appointment only, or he may work in a clinical setting and remain on-call for consultations and emergency interventions. Many psychotherapists specialize in certain age groups, such as adolescents or the elderly. Others specialize in services such as marital counseling, sexual disorders and addictive behaviors.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to Practical Adult Insights, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon327303 — On Mar 27, 2013

Since a psychotherapist does not prescribe medication, he/she does not need a medical board certification to practice. To practice as a psychotherapist, you do need the psychotherapist board certification to practice.

By pollick — On Sep 22, 2009

Many psychotherapists do hold advanced degrees in psychology, plus years of supervised training in the field. Since a psychotherapist does not prescribe drug treatments like a psychiatrist, however, he or she would not necessarily need special board certification in order to practice. A clergyman can also offer counseling services without becoming a board-certified psychologist or psychiatrist.

By anon44060 — On Sep 04, 2009

why is it a pyschotherapist does not need a recognized qualification to practice?

By anon25345 — On Jan 27, 2009

what is the difference of a regular therapist and a psychotherapist?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to Practical Adult Insights, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to...
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