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What is Psychotherapy?

Happy and Healthy

There is no absolute agreement on this broad term. The word literally means a 'cure for the soul'.

Psychotherapy is an interactive process that includes many methods and techniques to help people deal with issues that are preventing them from living fully.

Psychotherapy assumes we are capable of a greater degree of conscious control of our lives. Rather than relying on medications or on rules, it helps people grow and improve their lives using various other techniques and approaches.

These include an exploratory analytic and psychodynamic dialogue during individual private meetings, group-work, along with dream work, psychodrama, movement exercises, trance, reflection, meditation, and various kinds of bodywork, all according to the specific needs of the client.

If you are looking for a therapist and want to find a therapist, please read all of this page and use the search box or any of the sidebar links.

What training do psychotherapists have?

People go to trained therapists in order to do a particular kind of work, which some call 'life lessons', that provide fresh learning about how to have more real choice and freedom in all parts of their life.

Psychotherapists tend to take a broad view of life and they tend to offer a range of techniques and sources of help, adapting their approach to the particular needs of each client.

All the therapists on this site have trained either through a training institute program of many years duration, or an academic degree with special training, or through a combination of one-to-one apprenticeship learning (the original formula for therapists) and other academic experiences. Such trainings take about seven to ten years on average.

Do psychotherapists have personal therapy experience?

Our members believe that they have to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk".

All of us undertook long training therapies ourselves in order to understand our own life issues. The value of this personal work is that we are able to understand the difference between our own emotional world and yours.

This means we are able to appreciate the choices you have made, and continue to make, without judging you negatively. We are fully aware of the challenge that life poses to us all.

What is psychodynamic psychotherapy?

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a non-medical approach that borrows from the analytic tradition but is not limited to a single method of creating change.

The common aspects of the psychodynamic approach include several things that many people tend to ignore as meaningless.

Dreams, verbal mistakes, and unexpected errors like forgetting an appointment or arriving too late to deal with very pressing things are often ways in which our inner mind attempts to draw the attention of our full consciousness to the needs we have in our lives. Each of us seems to have patterns of behaviour of which we are only dimly conscious, and we may come into therapy with the feeling that we are not quite in control but simply cannot state why that is so.

All the practitioners on this site have been trained in psychodynamic therapy. Learn more about the psychodynamic modality here.

What is psychology?

Psychology has many branches, and is not primarily a healing profession. According to Professor Stanley Fish (New York Times, 9 November 2008), "To be sure, there are psychologists who provide counseling, therapy and other services to patients; but there are many psychologists who think of themselves as behavioral scientists. It is their task to figure out how the mind processes and responds to stimuli, or how the emotions color and even create reality, or how reasoning and other cognitive activities are affected by changes in the environment. Their product is not mental health, but knowledge; their skills are not diagnostic, but analytic- 'what makes someone do something'."

In terms of human beings, 'psychology' is the study of how, in the mass, they think, act, react and interact. It is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts, feelings and motivation underlying such behaviour. It is a discipline that is primarily concerned with the normal functioning of the mind, exploring areas such as learning, remembering and the normal psychological development of children. It should be noted that such psychology does not deal well with individual subjectivity because its definitions of what is normal have to do with statistical distributions of 'normalcy' among large numbers of people with whom the psychologist has no direct personal relationship, rather than personal uniqueness

Clinical Psychologists in Ontario have earned a doctoral level degree requiring on average nine years after high school. 

Clinical Psychologists may specialize or obtain further training is psychotherapy, but they are not required as part of their training to undergo their own personal psychotherapy process.

Many psychologists deny the healing value of psychotherapy while asserting that they are the only professionals who can provide it. However, their own College of Psychology and Psychological Associates supported the creation of the new College of Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists.

What is psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the study of mental disorders and their diagnosis, management and prevention. Psychiatrists in Ontario have a general medical degree and then train in psychiatry as a speciality. This takes twelve years after high school.

Psychiatrists may specialize in psychotherapy. They are not required as part of their training to undergo their own personal psychotherapy process.

Psychiatry tries to help mostly by using medications and tends to focus on mind biochemistry, usually prescribing medication.

What about licensing?

Psychotherapy has at last become a regulated and licensed profession in Ontario, with the passage of the Psychotherapy Act 2007, which received Royal Assent on June 4 2007.

This new act will limit the use of the title 'psychotherapist' only to trained professionals like the members of this site. It will also define the scope of psychotherapeutic practice, set up training standards for the future, and provide a complaints procedure independent of any professional organization of any professional association or private training institute.

The Toronto Therapy Network supports such legislation as a way of ensuring the public is professionally served by competent therapists, and that harm is avoided thereby.

Even though the new College of Psychotherapy and Registered Mental Health Therapists will in time provide a more uniform standard of competence, you will still need to exercise your common sense when looking for a therapist.

Look for a therapist who is serious about the nature of the work and has proven their interest in this demanding profession by:

  • Taking a formal training that lasts at least two years
  • Taking personal therapy and also preferably group therapy
  • Continues their own therapy as a part of their own professional development even when working with clients
  • Continuing their own formal therapy training after graduation
  • Is a current member of a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of psychotherapy training and practice standards
  • Provides a comfortable and open atmosphere in which you will feel able to speak freely about your issues.

What about licensing or certification?

The regulating and licensing of psychotherapy will be controlled by the new College of Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists. Its Transitional Council has been at work since November 2009 and expects to provide its recommendations in November 2011. It is expected that the new College will be fully operational in the next years. This will lead to minimum training standards, and restrict the use of the terms 'psychotherapist' and 'registered mental health therapist' to those admitted to the new college.

As in all things, some common sense should be used when looking for a therapist. This site has led the way by carefully considering those asking to join our network. We have our own standards in place that may prove to be higher than those of the future College in terms of our requirement for actual personal psychotherapy within therapy trainings.

When you are choosing a therapist, you should be looking for a therapist who is serious about the nature of the work and has undertaken to prepare seriously for this important profession by:

  • Taking a formal training that lasts at least two years
  • Undertaking a significant personal therapy, and also preferably group therapy
  • Continuing their own therapy as a part of their own professional development even when working with clients
  • Continuing their own formal therapeutic experience through different mades (for example, personal therapy, supervision, peer supervision, other similar formal and experiential learnings) after graduation
  • Is a member of a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of psychotherapy training and practice standards

What is CAPT?

CAPT is the Canadian Association for Psychodynamic Therapy. It was founded in 2000 to support the original approach to doing 'talk therapy' and related therapies. It has over 225 individual members across Canada.

Most of the therapists on this site are members of CAPT, or a similar organization, because they support in its core professional principles.

CAPT is an independent not-for-profit organization founded in 2000 to sponsor psychodynamic therapy principles. It has over 225 individual members.

What is the relationship between this site and CAPT?

Stephen van Beek, the founder of the Toronto Therapy Network, was the moving force and creator of CAPT in 2000. He served on the CAPT Board as Vice-President and Webmaster until June 2006. His final contribution was to head up CAPT's advocacy work in the new legislation creating the College of Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists in Ontario.

Many members of this site are CAPT members and lend their active support to its primary goal of furthering the psychodynamic modality.

What is OSP?

OSP is the Ontario Society for Psychotherapists, an association whose members include psychodynamic therapists. Many of our members are members of OSP.

What is OACCPP?

OACCPP is the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists aned Psychotherapists, thus an association representing several loosely allied groups including psychodynamic therapists. Many of our members are members of OACCPP.