Perhaps it might be true to say that at its core psychotherapy provides an environment for change through the experience of recognizing that there is help out there. That might be the best synonym for psychotherapy: help on the way. Often people who come to therapy come from histories where that was not the case. They didn’t know that there was help. They didn’t receive it during crucial times in their lives. They felt more on their own, particularly when dealing with painful situations and difficult emotions.
That is where psychotherapy comes in. Although it is not an overnight experience, recognizing help and being open to it takes time, psychotherapy provides experiential learning. One is helped by being able to discuss things, clarify and express emotions. I’m not a big believer in advice giving; I don’t believe my advice is any more useful or insightful than anyone else’s. I am a believer, however, in two people putting their minds and hearts together to think and feel for the purpose of better understanding one another and one self. Yes, as a therapist I learn a great deal about myself from each person I work with.
Putting aside the tenets of Existential philosophy (which I’m quite fond of) that focus on our aloneness, we are social beings, we thrive and grow through interactions, relationships of all kinds. Psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis with its emphasis on making more time for that relationship, is one relationship, odd in some respects, that provides an experience that affirms “you are not alone.” And that might be the essential learning.