People often come to psychotherapy to relieve pain from sources such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or substance abuse. They may be struggling in their relationships. Some people are interested in psychotherapy primarily for personal growth: to learn about themselves, to improve their relationships, or to progress further in their occupations.
In brief, individual psychotherapy succeeds in addressing these problems insofar as it increases awareness of the self and others. Borrowing the words of an ancient Greek philosopher, its goal is to help us “become who we are.”
How does this process of discovery relieve emotional suffering or interpersonal conflict? Such problems often result from distorted images of self and other. A large part of our human subjectivity consists of unconscious dramas — internal “scripts” that can become distorted as a result of traumatic experiences. These personal dramas are also affected by cultural, sociological, and biological factors. Competent psychotherapy uses the therapeutic relationship to elucidate these images of self and other with the ultimate aim of bringing about helpful emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal transformation.