What is Psychotherapy?


The Psychotherapy Act of 2007 defines “psychotherapy” as follows:

“The practice of psychotherapy is the assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disorders through psychotherapy methods applied in a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication.”

In Ontario, the term “psychotherapist” is authorized only for certain regulated professions, including psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, and occupational therapists. The term “therapist” is then used.

Psychotherapy is a collaborative intervention that therefore involves the individual and the therapist. Research (Wampold 2015; McCoy, 2012) shows that there are several factors that allow for the effectiveness of psychotherapy, including, tangible exercises and skill learning, therapist consistency, and more sessions. However, the most important factor to consider is the alliance formed, that is, the level at which the individual feels comfortable and “connected” with the therapist. Following the initial meetings, it is important that the individual be able to reflect on how he/she feels with the therapist. Conversely, there are certain factors that can lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of psychotherapy, including, missed appointments and failure to meet at the agreed upon frequency, lack of honesty during meetings and openness to interventions, and failure to complete home practice exercises between sessions.

In psychotherapy, therapists apply research-based approaches (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotion-focused therapy, etc.) to support the individual with various problems (e.g., feeling overwhelmed or sad, significant worries, relationship difficulties, etc.). Throughout the process, the therapist’s role is to be open, accepting and to guide the individual to the best of his or her ability, while the individual’s role is to put into action the elements discussed during the sessions. Change can take time and it usually takes a few sessions to see an improvement in symptoms, if any.

Psychological follow-up ends when the set objectives are reached, when the therapist judges that he or she is no longer able to help the individual or when the individual decides to do so.


– It provides an opportunity to discuss challenges related to functioning and to receive personalized support.

– It can increase self-awareness, for example, by developing the ability to recognize emotions and needs.

– It can help to better understand what is being experienced.

– It can lead to a reduction in the symptoms or frequency of behaviours that are considered “problematic”.

– It can lead to significant changes in emotional, cognitive, or behavioral functioning as well as positive changes in interpersonal relationships, personality, or health.

– It can increase satisfaction in relationships.


– It requires a commitment to attend each session and to make an honest effort to complete the suggested home exercises between sessions.

– It can generate discomfort as well as unpleasant, painful, or difficult emotions. These are part of the therapeutic process (they are natural and important to the therapeutic process) and it is important to discuss them.

– Although psychotherapy should in principle decrease suffering, distress and psychological symptoms, there is no guarantee of improvement.

– For parents: In the short term, it is possible that the child, adolescent, or you as a parent may temporarily experience an increase in some of the symptoms associated with the reason for consultation; this may be a normal reaction to change and to exposure in psychotherapy to difficult and disturbing elements of a situation.