Psychobabble: 10 Words, Defined.

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There are some words that are so common place and entrenched in mental health lingo, that therapists use them everyday.  Though they are quickly and easily understood in the field, they can often leave clients and non-therapists scratching their heads.


I value transparency in therapy.  I want you to know what is happening, and why.  And I certainly want you to know what the heck I’m talking about!  So, to lift the veil on psychobabble, and share a little more about the therapy process, I’ve defined 10 common words that you’re likely hear me (or your therapist) say at some point in time.

Attachment:  Attachment is  both a general term, and a specific theory.  The general term refers to how we feel and experience connection with people.  Attachment theory focuses on studying that connection in a scientific way, and is the basis for several therapeutic methods and interventions.

Attunement:  Attunement is the feeling of engagement and connection that happens when one person really listens, pays attention, and has empathy and compassion for another person.  Therapists want to be attuned to their clients.

Coping Skill:  Coping skills are things that we can do to help us manage a challenging or difficult situation, instead of engaging in behaviors that might be destructive, harmful, or that keep us stuck.

Existential:  Existential means “relating to existence.”  In the context of therapy it usually refers to thoughts, feelings, or struggles related to the “whys and hows” of life, death, humanity, the universe, and existence.

Intake:  Intake typically refers to the first appointment (or sometimes the first few appointments) that you have with a therapist or provider.  It usually involves completing paperwork (often called an “intake packet”), talking to your therapist about your history, what brought you in, and planning how you and your therapist will work together.

Intervention:  An intervention, in the context of general mental health therapy, is anything a therapist does to help clients see or think about things differently, engage in different behaviors, or practice new skills.  (In alcohol and drug counseling, intervention can also refer to a structured process for helping someone choose to engage in addiction treatment.)

Outcomes:  This term is used a lot in relation to research and insurance, which are both things that like to have measurable data.  “Outcomes” in the context of therapy is usually referring to the results of therapy (like whether or not therapy goals were met, or whether or not an intervention was helpful).

Resilience:  Resilience is the ability to go on despite difficulties, challenges, hardships, stress, and trauma.  People are naturally resilient.

Self-Compassion:  Self-compassion is how you show yourself the same kindness, gentleness, understanding, and empathy that you are likely quick to show other people.

Solution-Focused:  Instead of focusing a lot of energy on the problem, and all of the ways the problem keeps you stuck, solution-focused means that we are looking at solutions that are practical and doable in your real life.  It is a specific model of therapy, and the phrase is also sometimes used as a general idea or concept.

Are you struggling with issues related to words on this list?  Want to learn more about therapy, and start your path toward a better tomorrow?  Reach out to schedule with me today.

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