Psychotherapy is designed to help people enhance their sense of well-being. This improvement in the quality of life is achieved through resolving emotional, behavioral, or interpersonal problems and/or expanding existing positive attributes. An effective therapist can help you in a number of ways.
- Social Support
Many experiencers feel very much alone; they feel that they are unable to share what has happened to them because they fear ridicule, or they fear what they might evoke in people who might believe them. At the same time, it is very difficult for some experiencers to feel mentally and emotionally alone with their experiences. In general, it is useful to have someone to talk to. For many people, having a caring, supportive listener available on a regular basis is calming and stabilizing.
- Problem Solving
A therapist can help you work through difficulties you are having in every aspect of your daily life. Sometimes experiencers are so overwhelmed by extraordinary material that they may feel they do not have the energy to deal with more mundane problems. This is common and natural, under the circumstances. However, thinking through everyday problems with someone who understands the greater context of your life can greatly reduce your overall stress level and leave you with a better sense of control. This will make your more extraordinary experiences easier to handle.
- Coping Skills
Most therapists can help by teaching you specific coping skills to deal with upsetting thoughts and feelings that can intrude in your daily life. Relaxation techniques, recognition of self-defeating thinking and behavior patterns, mindfulness and meditation exercises, and even forms of self-hypnosis are taught to help people develop a variety of valuable coping skills. These are the means by which people calm the body and put intrusive thoughts aside until the time is right for dealing with them.
- Hypnosis and "memory recovery"
Some individuals feel that many aspects of their lives are stable, but that they carry unconscious material that needs attention. They may feel some anxiety and urgency in relation to this material. They often believe that this material is memory of past experience held out of consciousness due to its traumatic or unusual nature, and that knowing the "truth" will alleviate their distress. Hypnosis and similar relaxation methods are simple tools that people use to enter a relaxed, nonordinary psychological state where they can have access to internal information that is not usually available to them.
Hypnosis is the subject of a great deal of research and debate, and, in scientific circles, information recovered under hypnosis is generally judged to be less reliable than conscious memories. For example, information retrieved under hypnosis is not admissible in many courts of law. People who obtain images under hypnosis that seem to be memories often have doubts about the objective reality of these memories afterwards. Most health professionals believe that some of the images recovered under hypnosis are memories of past experience, while others are symbolic representations of important personal matters, and that it may be quite difficult to distinguish between the two. Thus, hypnosis as a means to recover the "real truth" may prove to be quite disappointing.
However, hypnosis or another relaxation method can be effective in helping individuals come to terms with traumatic or extraordinary experiences. Hypnosis can help people gain control over their pain and their anxiety because, in hypnosis, people can gain insight through imagining and practicing new behaviors. Many people who remain unsure as to the "reality" of their experiences can use hypnosis to feel more resolved in their day-to-day living.
When it comes to changing long-term, problematic patterns of behavior in your personal or professional life, a therapist can help you examine and change various deep-seated assumptions you have about yourself, your intimate relationships, and your life by looking at the formative relationships and events that you have experienced. It is thought that by understanding the past, people can make more conscious choices about the present. Unwanted, unconscious patterns of behavior often show up in the therapeutic relationship itself, and these patterns may be recognized and become part of a therapeutic discussion, especially in "depth" approaches to psychotherapy, which are further discussed below.