BeWell Health Clinic

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What is a Psychotherapist and How Can They Help You?

A psychotherapist is a certified mental health professional with specialized training. They treat mental health and psychological disorders through talk therapy and other psychological techniques instead of medication, which would be prescribed by a psychiatrist.  A psychotherapist helps you to address general or focused issues such as a source of stress or a specific mental illness. They help you to overcome troublesome habits and emotional or relationship problems. A psychotherapist helps you manage problems such as anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviour, and eating disorders.


Becoming a Psychotherapist


To qualify as a psychotherapist, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. After the bachelor’s, you can take either of two paths:

·       Masters in Social Work (MSW)


After you earn your Bachelor degree, you apply for a MSW program.  You can get your Master’s level license without post-degree experience. However, you cannot 

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work independently until you achieve clinical level licensing. Social work regulatory bodies require that your MSW is from a program accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) or Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). A Master's degree that you complete outside Canada or the U.S must be equated to the Canadian or U.S. programs.

You must have two years of post-MSW experience to earn an advanced generalist and clinical license. The experience must specifically be clinical social work if you want a clinical license. With this certification, you can practice psychotherapy in schools, hospitals, clinics, private practice or residential and day treatment programs.   


  • Masters in Psychotherapy


After your bachelor’s, you enrol for your Master’s degree in psychotherapy. As you earn your degree, you build the necessary clinical experience for licensing. You will need a 1000 - 1500 hours of pre-degree experience and 2000-4000 hours of post-degree supervised residency or internship experience. 


After you finish your supervised hours, your regional licensing board will approve you to take a standardized licensing examination. Before licensing, you can practice with a conditional “intern’ or ‘associate’ license. After licensing, you must obtain the mandatory annual education to keep your license.


Therapeutic Modalities


Therapy approaches vary. Your psychotherapist will discuss with you and decide the best approach depending on the contributing factors to your condition.


The different therapy approaches include:


  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT)


CBT helps you identify and change ineffective or harmful thought and behaviour pattern. You replace the patterns with functional behaviour and accurate thoughts. It helps you focus on present problems and possible solutions as well as practicing new skills for the real-world application.


CBT helps treat various disorders including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and trauma-related disorders. It helps you to recognize and change flawed perceptions that you may have about yourself and your environment. The psychotherapist helps you establish new thinking patterns by directing your attention to the assumptions you make about yourself and others.


Your therapist may recommend CBT if: 

  • Your thoughts and behavior trigger and prolong mental illness

  • You suffer from anxiety disorders or depression. 

  • You are unable or refuse to take antidepressants

  • You have a mental disorder that causes interpersonal problems, disability or suffering


  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)


This is a particular category of CBT that therapists use for high-risk or treatment resistant patients. It combines acceptance and change to help you become personally accountable to change disruptive and unhealthy behaviour. It is especially beneficial if you suffer from a mental illness that threatens your relationships, safety, emotional wellbeing or work. Such conditions include chronic suicidal thoughts, borderline personality disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. 


DBT enhances life skills in four main ways:

  1. Distress tolerance: Managing intense emotions without impulsive reactions such as substance abuse or self-injury

  2. Emotion regulation: Identifying, labeling and accommodating emotions

  3. Mindfulness: Becoming aware of yourself and others, and alert to the present.

  4. Interpersonal effectiveness: Interacting decisively and negotiating conflict


  • Motivational Interviewing


This type of therapy helps you resolve insecurities and conflicting feelings. It is a short-term, practical and empathetic process that considers the challenges of making life changes. It can benefit you if you are unprepared or unmotivated to change, especially in addressing addiction, hostility, and anger. The intervention helps you to find your motivation to change.  


Motivational interviewing empowers you through the following principles.


  1. Expressing and showing empathy toward clients: Your therapist demonstrates empathy and active listening while discussing your thoughts and behaviours. You then build trust, which helps you express your concerns and struggles more openly.


  1. Supporting and developing discrepancy: Instead of viewing your therapist as an authority figure with the right solutions, you give reasons for your behaviour change. If your behaviour or choices deviate from your goals, your therapist points out the gap.


  1. Dealing with resistance: When you resist behaviour change, your psychotherapist avoids confronting your resistance or pressuring you to see their perspective. As your discussions continue, they work with you to examine different viewpoints and allow you to choose the one you want to maintain. 


  1. Developing autonomy: Your counsellor demonstrates to you that the power to change is within you. This emphasizes that there is no specific way to achieve what you want and that you are responsible for your behaviour change. You also develop an action plan for yourself.


  1. Supporting self-efficacy: Your therapist points out your previous life and behavioural successes to make you feel capable of achieving what you want. You discuss your current or previous skills and strengths to increase your belief that you can change.


  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)


Unlike traditional types of therapy, SFBT focuses on solving problems in the present and exploring your hope for quicker problem-solving in the future. This method assumes that you are self-motivated and aware of how to improve your life, and with coaching and the right questions, you can find the best solutions. 


Your therapist uses empathy, compliments, and particular questioning techniques to help you recognize your virtues. You focus only on what you can do. You also recognize and celebrate success. SFBT is effective in treating relationship problems, child behavioural problems, addictions, domestic abuse, and family dysfunction.


  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) 


This is a form of short-term therapy with a focus on adult relationships. EFT will be useful to you if you are in distress as a couple or a family, or dealing with fear, anger, mistrust or betrayal in your relationship. It can also be useful in reducing symptoms of trauma or depression.


EFT concentrates on the present and uses the following steps to immediately make changes.

  1. De-escalating your negative cycle of associations to help you understand your relationships. You get to see that your problems arise from insecurities. 

  2. Restructuring interactions: Your therapist helps you discuss your fears in your relationship in ways that do not push others away. You discuss your needs more openly and responsively.

  3. Consolidation: Your therapist helps you see how you developed negative patterns, how you changed the pattern and how you can continue the positive pattern into the future. 


EFT has proven to be beneficial as a form of family therapy. It increases a sense of attachment and closeness among family members. A psychotherapist coaches your family members to identify and express emotions and accept other people’s feelings with compassion. You also learn healthy and positive ways to express your individual needs and desires.


The Therapeutic Process


Your first treatment session will involve an assessment. Your therapist will gather information about your past and current emotional and physical health. You can also use this first session to ask questions and interview the therapist to determine whether their personality and approach will work for you. 


Ensure that you understand:

  • The type of therapy

  • Your treatment goals

  • Duration of each session

  • Number of sessions you need


Typically, psychotherapy involves weekly 45 to 60-minute sessions in your therapist’s clinic or office. Carrying a notebook can help you note down ideas and suggestions and also keep you engaged. Be ready to provide information that can make your therapy better. You can provide notes from previous psychological tests, notes from the referring physician and medications that you are using. 


During psychotherapy, your counsellor will ask questions about you and your family’s mental health history, what you are struggling with and your social support. It may take several sessions for you to openly discuss your feelings. The therapist will help you gain confidence and cope with the intense emotions that you may experience. The sessions will help enhance your mood, change your thoughts and feelings about yourself and develop problem-solving skills.  


Psychotherapy may be short-term for immediate issues or long-term for complex problems. The duration of treatment depends on your specific situation, the severity of symptoms, your social support, and your progress during treatment.




Maintaining your privacy is part of your therapist's professional code of ethics. Your conversations are confidential, but you can permit your therapist in writing to share the full or sections of your discussion with whoever you wish. Your therapist may only break confidentiality in situations where the law requires them to do so or when you are a threat to yourself or others.


The Therapeutic Relationship


The quality of your therapeutic relationship is critical to your treatment success. Your perception of that relationship strongly predicts your treatment outcome. Essential qualities for a good therapeutic relationship are:

  • Mutual respect, trust and caring

  • A consensus on the tasks and goals of the therapy

  • Mutual participation in treatment activities

  • Shared decision-making

  • The ability to discuss the present aspects of the relationship 

  • Freedom to express negative emotional responses with one another


Way Forward


Psychotherapy may not eliminate unpleasant situations or cure your condition. However, it provides you with healthy coping mechanisms to help you develop a positive self-image and feel better about life. If you or a loved one needs psychotherapy, consult our experienced therapists, and steer your life in a positive direction. You will learn positive thought and behaviour patterns that add quality to your life. 

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