OVERVIEW OF CLINICAL INTERVENTIONS
Here we begin to define psychotherapy, first by way of a formal definition and then by way of popular portrayals, which are usually less than accurate. We organize the hundreds of psychotherapy approaches into a handful based on shared assumptions and practices.
Clinical interventions occur when clinicians, acting in a professional capacity, attempt to change a client's behavior, thoughts, emotions, or social circumstances in a desirable direction. Intervention can take many forms, including individual and group psychotherapy, psychosocial rehabilitation, and prevention, but psychotherapy is the intervention activity by which clinical psychologists are best known.
What Is Psychotherapy?
In a nutshell, psychotherapy is treatment offered by trained mental health professionals and administered within the confines of a professional relationship to help clients overcome psychological problems. While no definition of psychotherapy satisfies everyone, this one identifies psychotherapy's participants (clients and therapists), the basic framework (professional relationship), and the treatment's main goal (reduction of suffering). The definition is, however, rather formal and probably not what comes to mind for most people when they hear the word psychotherapy.
PUBLIC (MIS)PERCEPTION OF PSYCHOTHERAPY For many, the ready mental image for psycho therapy goes something like this:
Two people are in a private office, sitting on comfortable chairs, and talking. Sometimes one of them, the client, is lying on a couch. The client talks about troubling events while the therapist asks probing questions or offers encouragement for the client to say more (e.g., “uh huh,” “I see,” “Tell me more about that,” “And how did that make you feel?”). Over time, the therapist gradually directs the client to focus on emotionally painful events from childhood, events that had been buried in the unconscious. Once the client has fully remembered and discussed these issues, the client improves.
Unfortunately, the popular images of psychologists and other mental health professionals in movies and on television are often inaccurate. Although they may contain elements of truth, the portrayals are often caricatures or stereotypes (much like the popular images of police detectives, medical personnel, attorneys, and judges). In movies and on television, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are frequently shown as professionals who fail to maintain appropriate professional boundaries, violate ethical codes, or shoot from the hip in treatment rather than conduct evidencebased interventions (Cannon, 2008; Orchowski, Spickard, & McNamara, 2006).