Psychotherapy works to help those who feel stuck or anxious, or who are experiencing an underlying sense of sadness about their lives.
Some of the common issues psychotherapy and counselling can help with are:
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Low self-esteem, often a consequence of other symptoms or life problems, is something that most people experience at some points in their lives. Feeling insecure or suffering from a chronic lack of confidence may be a passing phase; however it can also be experienced as a life-long condition. Low self-esteem can manifest in social or personal withdrawal, feelings of anxiety and depression, the excessive need to be liked, comparing oneself negatively to others or to imaginary ideals and being overly influenced by others.
The role of other people is obviously crucial, then, for someone lacking in self-esteem. The negative self-image is only ever presented in comparison with a perceived ideal. That is to say, either by comparing oneself with an idealised version of themselves, or by citing an ideal that others achieve but which is beyond the person him or herself.
The work of therapy here is to engage with the client on the history of these ideals and to disengage the feelings of low self-esteem from contingent factors. These may have come about from childhood dynamics, a punitive parent or rivalrous sibling, or it may be that the course of a relationship has exacerbated the problem, and undermined confidence. This latter can become a vicious circle for the individual. Fearing rejection or even criticism, a need to please others develops, and the person becomes self-sacrificing and self-damaging in the process. This results in an increased polarization between a lowering of confidence and, paradoxically, a growing inner anger or even narcissism. These are compensatory factors and will lead the individual down dangerous paths. The individual in therapy is encouraged to reflect critically on the imaginary ideals that have been internalised, to develop an awareness of the contingency nature of many external and apparently immovable factors and to allow the individual to access more of his or her own inner resources and qualities in an autonomous and independent way.