How Does Psychotherapy Work, and Is it all the Same?


Many people experience concerns that lead them to taking the brave step of seeking support through psychotherapy. According to the 2020 CDC National Health Interview Survey, about 20% of Americans are now receiving mental health treatment.

While the reasons that people seek therapy are diverse, they can include:

  • Coping difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Insomnia/sleep problems
  • Eating concerns
  • Body image issues
  • Difficulty managing strong emotions
  • Relationship problems and conflicts
  • Divorce
  • Chronic illness
  • Grief
  • Parenting concerns
  • Aging concerns
  • Trouble at school or work
  • Burnout/stress
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Phobias
  • Sexual orientation exploration and acceptance
  • Gender identity exploration and acceptance
  • Trauma
  • History of abuse or neglect
  • History of oppression (racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and other marginalized identities)
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or lost in life
  • Anything that is blocking someone’s ability to lead a fulfilled, satisfying life


What Makes Therapy Helpful?

One of the most common questions about therapy is “How will this actually help? Is it different from simply seeking out support and advice from family, friends, or elders?”

Family, friends, and others in your community are incredibly important, but sometimes these supports alone aren’t enough when you are struggling. Family and friends are not always objective. They may tell you what you want to hear in order to avoid hurting your feelings, or their advice may not be relevant for your life circumstances. They may simply not know what might be helpful for you.

Therapy is different. Your therapist will also be warm, personable, and empathic to your concerns, like many family members or friends. But because your therapist is a trained professional, they will be objective and offer you a neutral perspective. They also are different from family and friends because they undergo years of education and training so that they can help you learn coping skills, communication techniques, and ways to regulate strong emotions that are backed by strong evidence.


Evidence-Based Therapy

Many people are surprised to learn that there is solid research evidence behind the techniques and skills used in therapy. Therapy is more than just talking!

Of course, having an open-minded, accepting, compassionate, and objective person to share concerns and issues with is absolutely essential. Successful therapy relies upon a strong, trusting working relationship between the therapist and the client. All the skills and techniques in the world will likely not be helpful if you don’t have a safe, trusted therapist to practice them with. Skilled therapists leave plenty of time during sessions for you to share what feels most important to you.

However, your therapist will also work together with you on tools, techniques, and skills that can bring more ease and calm to your life and relationships. These tools are backed by research studies showing that they work for clients with concerns and symptoms similar to yours.


Different Types of Therapy

Many clients are also surprised to know that there are different types of evidence-based therapy approaches. Different therapists may be trained in different approaches, and it is always okay to ask what type of approach your therapist plans to take.

Some common types of evidence-based therapy approaches used here at the Rollins Counseling Center are:

  • Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP): A relational-based therapy that relies on the safe, accepting, non-judgmental stance of the therapist. The therapist creates a safe space for you to explore issues and will journey alongside you so that you are not alone. Feeling seen, heard, and understood by your therapist allows you to safely process difficult emotions and situations. This results in more ease, peace, and calm, allowing you to take charge of your circumstances and to make the changes you desire to transform your life.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Helps you to stay focused on the present moment and to accept thoughts and feelings without judging them or changing them. You will learn coping mechanisms specifically designed for your situation so you can handle challenging experiences while staying true to your core values, no matter what life throws at you.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Helps you become aware of how inaccurate or negative thoughts can cause negative emotions and behaviors. This allows you to see situations more objectively and respond to them more effectively.
  • Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT): Helps you learn new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease relationship conflict. These skills include mindfulness (accepting what is happening in the current moment), distress tolerance (the ability to sit with painful emotions instead of numbing them), emotion regulation (strategies to manage intense emotions), and interpersonal effectiveness skills.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): An integrative treatment approach that helps clients process memories or experiences that may be associated with current symptoms or problems in their life, such as self esteem issues, PTSD symptoms, phobic reactions, anxiety and more. EMDR utilizes bilateral stimulation, such as lateral eye movements, to help
  • stimulate the brain’s memory networks and information processing system resulting in decreased emotional distress, new insights and learning.
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS): IFS posits that one’s mind and personality are made up of “parts”, much like a family system. Although these parts of your personality function to try to help you in some way, they may hold painful emotions, shame, and other wounds that result in strong feelings or behaviors that are counterproductive in your life. IFS affirms that each person has a core Self that is calm, confident, compassionate, courageous, curious and connected. IFS focuses on shifting the mental system so that the Self takes leadership and works with the parts” to promote healing and achieve greater well-being.
  • Narrative Therapy: Empowers you to be the expert in your own life story. As you tell the story of events and interactions that have caused you pain, your therapist can help you see places where you may have gotten “stuck” or where you may have taken the blame for things that are not your fault. Together, you will work to give new meaning and values to your story, improving your sense of self-worth and empowerment and allowing you to take charge of your life circumstances.
  • Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT): A short-term, goal-focused approach that helps you make life changes by focusing on solutions rather than problems. In SFT, you will look for times in your past when things have gone better and will build upon what has worked for you before to help solve current problems.


Please feel free to reach out to the Rollins Counseling Center today to learn more about how our therapists can work with you using these and other evidence-based psychotherapy approaches. We can help you reduce painful symptoms, learn new skills, and reach your goals!