What Does a Psychotherapist Do?

Louis Laves-Webb

September 5, 2019

What is a Psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist is a trained professional who assists those who are suffering with stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, negative behavior patterns, debilitating feelings, and various other mental conditions.

There are many different licenses held by those professionals who practice psychotherapy, including: Licensed Professional Counselors, Social Workers, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners. Although, each discipline may have subtle differences in approach or style they all utilize “the talking cure” as their primary means of treating psychological difficulties.

In general, therapists act as a guide towards helping their clients find out how they genuinely feel. Some clients feel better and find their solutions in a couple of sessions, while for others therapy may entail be a longer journey. However, for those clients who are courageous enough to be honest, curious, and vulnerable in treatment, the results can be rewarding and ultimately life-enhancing.

Psychotherapists or “therapists” are there to listen to you in a nonjudgmental and compassionate way. They are specifically trained to not only listen to the content of what is being said, but to also hear subtle nuances, defense mechanisms, emotional responses, and psychological needs of their clients. Because of their ability to listen in this way, the client can discuss matters of the heart in a way that allows them to find their own solutions, receive valuable emotional insights, and experience emotional repair.

Let's go over the main types of therapy and what a psychotherapist does in each.

Types of Therapy

Individual Therapy

This type of therapy is what most people think of when they think about therapy. The idea of “talk therapy” came to be in the mid to late 1800’s and was established by Sigmund Freud. Therapy has had many incarnations, styles, and theoretical leanings since this time. However, at its core, therapy still includes a therapist sitting down with a person and discussing that person’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with the intention of bringing them healing and growth.

What do Psychotherapists do in Individual Therapy?

Counselings purpose is to provide help to those who need it. It embraces the adage that ‘an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure’. Individual Counseling creates an environment where emotional pain, deficits, or vulnerabilities can be addressed before they negatively impact one’s life, or disrupt one’s life further. Individual counseling is counseling focused on the individual's immediate or near future concerns; often times individual counseling includes emotional work that is “intrapsychic” in nature and can include the exploration of beliefs, thoughts, identity, nurturing, barriers, and meaning.

An individual session may consist of different theoretical approaches, including: cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, Psychodynamic therapy, logo therapy, or narrative therapy to name a few. In CBT work, the therapist asks the client to focus on the thoughts and patterns that may be a concern in their daily lives. The therapist may then explore with the client how their thoughts relate to their current attitudes or how they are behaving. The client may then be asked to start creating correlations and actions based on what they want to change about their actions in life. The ultimate goal is to help people change patterns that the clients declare as harmful.

Group Therapy

The focus of group counseling is twofold: it serves as a venue to bring together multiple clients with similar experiences and secondly, it provides an opportunity for exploration of “interpersonal” dynamics in an experiential way. This two-fold approach allows for growth in one’s individual identity and as a member of something larger. Interestingly, the other members of the group often serve as a source of insight and support while reinforcing the idea that each individual is not alone in their environment.

What Does a Psychotherapist Do in Group Therapy?

A psychotherapist's purpose in group therapy is to facilitate each meeting. Group therapy can offer a warmth and sense of community that may not be easily found in other types of counseling. Additionally, this therapy offers the same confidentiality and affirmation that individual counseling offers, but it’s in a larger forum and with other people who may be sharing a similar experience.

Couples Therapy

Couples counseling is a type of psychotherapy for married couples or established partners. It aims to resolve problems in the relationship, enhance levels of intimacy, or help both parties cultivate better ways of relating.

What do Psychotherapists do in Couples Therapy?

In group therapy, the psychotherapists job is to act a a mediator. A couples counselor listens to both parties equally, working to provide a healthy relationship. The therapist is not on any one person's side: instead, they are acting as an arbiter for your relationship and to help you, as a couple get where you aim to go.

Couples counseling is founded on a base of research that shows how individuals should function within a relationship to get the most out of their own personal desires as well as the desires mandated by a relationship. Psychotherapists can be trained as couples counselors and help people to unlock their own potential by identifying any specific symptoms that may be affecting all parties involved.

Pre-marriage counseling allows for couples to understand how to handle issues and get conversations going before they commit to marriage. Another form of counseling for couples is post-marital therapy, where couples going through a life transition or separation may want to get assistance in working out any differences. Those who seek couples therapy at this point can find a common ground while they discuss arrangements for co-parenting and any issues between each other.

Family Therapy

Family counseling stems from the theory that families operate in a “system”. Family counseling aims at helping your family system function more effectively, allowing each member of the system to have the most opportunities within the family system.

What Does a Psychotherapist do in Family Therapy?

Being a family can be a challenging dynamic. A therapist can provide commentary on your specific family dynamics, allowing the family to self-determine what changes or shifts can be implemented to enhance the overall functioning. Each family is its own culture, with its own mores, codes, and rituals. Effective family therapy takes your family’s specific culture into consideration and utilizes this knowledge as a part of the appropriate course of treatment.


Psychotherapists can help you to cope with mental anguish caused by anxiety, depression, PTSD, and much more. The license a professional who practives psychotherapy can have varies, including LPC, PhD, MD, LSCW, and LPA. While you should should keep which license a psychotherapist has in mind when selecting one, it is not the end all be all.

Therapy also comes in many forms, including individual, group, couples, and family therapy. If you're interested in scheduling your first therapy session, we're here to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a psychotherapist?

Depending on the degree or specialty of a psychotherapist, they can be psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and even social workers. 

What do psychotherapists do?

Psychotherapists utilize what’s known as “talk therapy” to help treat individuals suffering from emotional problems or mental illnesses. Everything from being overwhelmed by day-to-day life to dealing with grief can be treated with psychotherapy. Psychotherapists can work with individuals, couples, families, and groups alike. 

What is talk therapy? 

Talk therapy treats emotional, mental, personality, or behavioral disorders using techniques like discussion, counseling, and listening. Psychotherapy and talk therapy can be used interchangeably. 

How do I find a psychotherapist?

At Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LCP-S and Associates, we can help those living in the Austin area find the right psychotherapist for their needs. Give us a call today, or use our online Therapist Finder tool to help you find the right psychotherapist to help you overcome your emotional or mental issues.

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