Individual psychotherapy is a method of bringing about change in a person by exploring his or her feelings, atti-tudes, thinking, and behavior. It involves a one-to-one relationship between the therapist and the client. People generally seek this kind of therapy based on their desire to understand themselves and their behavior, to make per-sonal changes, to improve interpersonal relationships, or to get relief from emotional pain or unhappiness. The relationship between the client and the therapist proceeds through stages similar to those of the nurse–client relationship: introduction, working, and termination. Cost-containment measures mandated by health mainte-nance organizations and other insurers may necessitate moving into the working phase rapidly so the client can get the maximum benefit possible from therapy.
The therapist–client relationship is key to the success of this type of therapy. The client and the therapist must be compatible for therapy to be effective. Therapists vary in their formal credentials, experience, and model of prac-tice. Selecting a therapist is extremely important in terms of successful outcomes for the client. The client must select a therapist whose theoretical beliefs and style of therapy are congruent with the client’s needs and expecta-tions of therapy. The client also may have to try different therapists to find a good match.
A therapist’s theoretical beliefs strongly influence his or her style of therapy. For example, a therapist grounded in interpersonal theory emphasizes relationships, whereas an existential therapist focuses on the client’s self-responsibility.
The nurse or other health-care provider who is familiar with the client may be in a position to recommend a thera-pist or a choice of therapists. He or she also may help the client understand what different therapists have to offer.
The client should select a therapist carefully and should ask about the therapist’s treatment approach and area of specialization. State laws regulate the practice and licens-ing of therapists; thus, from state to state, the qualifica-tions to practice psychotherapy, the requirements for licensure, or even the need for a license can vary. A few therapists have little or no formal education, credentials, or experience but still practice entirely within the legal limits of their states. A client can verify a therapist’s legalcredentials with the state licensing board; state govern-ment listings are in the local phone book. The Better Busi-ness Bureau can inform consumers if a particular therapist has been reported to them for investigation. Calling the local mental health services agency or contacting the pri-mary care provider is another way for a client to check a therapist’s credentials and ethical practices.