How does Insight-Oriented Psychotherapy Work?

Insight-oriented psychotherapy works out of the assumption that the better you know yourself, the better you will function. "Better functioning" includes symptom improvement and alleviation, along with improvement in your work, academic, social, romantic, and even athletic life. Insight-oriented psychotherapy strives to teach you how and why you function in the ways you do, and to clarify your motivations. It shows you that you have an internal world, and it interprets how that internal world operates. It gives you self-knowledge. Most of all, it gives you freedom.

When you have freedom, you have power. You have a greater range of choices available to you in any given situation. Insight allows you to break free from old habits and patterns of behavior. It lets you choose new ones as you see fit. The goal of insight-oriented therapy is freedom at the deepest level.

Unconscious mental life is a core assumption in insight-oriented therapy. This means that there is a belief that your problems, symptoms, and general discomforts are rooted in, or caused by, something that is occurring inside you, but about which you do not yet know. The primary method of therapy becomes making the unconscious conscious. In this manner you become free of the heretofore unknown blockages that prevent you from your best level of functioning.

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of unconscious mental life. The initial primary task of the therapy, however, is to illustrate that unconscious mental life exists inside of you, examine the evidence of it, and find ways to use your increased conscious knowledge of it for the betterment of your life. While the methods and techniques of the therapy can become quite complicated, it is mostly (but not solely) the therapist's job to worry about and handle these complications. Everything that happens in the therapy springs directly from the concepts discussed here.

The therapy we offer is hardly ever purely insight-oriented. This means that methods of treatment from other schools of therapy are sometimes sprinkled in. Mostly, this is done to help you use the conscious insights you have gained from the treatment. For example, once you have identified some of the previously unconscious reasons why your romantic relationships have not been as gratifying as you might have hoped, some cognitive-behavioral suggestions might be mixed in with the psychodynamic interpretations you are receiving: i.e., communication tips, ways to meet new people, behavioral changes you might make to improve your spouse's happiness, etc. Sometimes you may need extra guidance in how to use the insight you have gained; in other cases, it may be more appropriate for you to take ownership of your newfound knowledge and decide the best courses of action for yourself. These sprinklings of behavioral suggestions are usually negotiated as the therapy progresses.

The bulk of the therapeutic work, however, is in gaining the necessary insight. As that battle is increasingly won over time, many of the details of "what do I do next?" tend to sort themselves out relatively easily. It's a newly-informed state of mind to which you can look forward.


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