PSYCHOTHERAPY works on 3 different, broad, levels (depending on what we need or what we may be going through at any point in our lives):
SUPPORT - Sometimes life gets difficult or complicated, for whatever reason, and we may feel we need help with bearing up with it... SUPPORT from a professional, who will work to understand and who respects our circumstances, provides much needed respite on a regular basis. Knowing that we can open up and unburden to somebody who is not likely to judge us (or others we care about), or get tangled up in the ins and outs of the situation (with family, partner, friends, at work, etc.) can make us feel we have a 'Safe Space' (the regular session time in the therapist's consulting room) which is just for us, where it is all right to feel and say whatever it is we feel and want to say. Friends and family may care about us deeply, but may get anxious about seeing us in distress and be quick to provide (well-intentioned) 'solutions' for our problems. Therapists generally understand how important it is to opt out of the 'advice mode', and choose to 'stay with' our difficulties instead, as this tends to make it possible for individuals to find their own ways forward.
PROCESSING - At times, we feel we need to think through things - these may be external (what may be happening in our lives 'out there') or internal (things we have been feeling or thinking or observing in ourselves, either as a response to what's happening 'out there', or that we do not fully understand or feel comfortable with). Talking things through - with somebody who is trained, skilled, and experienced in facilitating these processes, and making sense (gradually) of things we see and experience is a hugely important part of finding meaning in our lives and experiences. We may be puzzled by our dreams, fantasies, desires, behaviours, we may feel unhappy with ourselves or the way we handle things, guilty or ashamed for whatever we feel we may have failed at or wish for, we may feel puzzled and angry - with others or ourselves... All this needs attention – time and space to reflect (which is a lot more than 'thinking'!...)
GROWTH - At other times, it is a process of change (internal and external) we may be struggling with: events, circumstances, situations, relationships, etc are challenging us... The way we have dealt with things before no longer works, we find ourselves 'not coping', or feel overwhelmed... We 'can't see the wood for the trees' or start thinking that there are things we have been unwittingly repeating in our lives (stuck in patterns) despite ourselves... Something needs to change (even when we do not know what or how...). The desire may be for things to change externally, but very often they only do once we are able to find ways of changing internally. This could be called GROWTH - and it is 'easier said than done'... Working with somebody else, who is professionally and personally equipped to facilitate GROWTH can be of great benefit.
Psychotherapy will work on all 3 levels - sometimes simultaneously, but more often wherever the need is stronger. Generally speaking, the shorter the 'intervention' the more it will tend to stay at the level of SUPPORT (and sometimes PROCESSING). GROWTH usually takes longer (although sometimes, depending on our internal readiness for it - which is not necessarily controllable) it can happen faster than we expect. As in life, at any stage in any therapeutic experience any of these 3 levels may predominate.