The Therapy Dictionary…

Abandonment Fear

Abandonment fear often stems from childhood loss. This loss could be related to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce. It can also come from not getting enough physical or emotional care. These early childhood experiences can lead to a fear of being abandoned by others later in life. 


Abilify (aripiprazole) is part of a class of psychotropic medications called atypical antipsychotics that work by altering the activity of various neurotransmitters—dopamine and serotonin in particular—in the brain. It is a prescription drug and is not available over the counter. People who take this medication may experience adverse side effects, and it is very important to follow the directions of a medical professional when using this medication. Abilify is commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar


is complete and total avoidance of an activity such as drinking, sex, shopping, or gambling. It is commonly used as a strategy for avoiding problematic or dangerous behaviors

Abuse/Survivors of Abuse

Abuse / Survivors of Abuse is a misuse of power intended to harm or control another person. The maltreatment can be physical, verbal, or emotional. All types of abuse can cause pain and psychological distress. Abuse can leave psychological wounds that are harder to heal than bodily injuries. Survivors of abuse may have intense, negative feelings long after the abuse has ended. Anxiety, flashbacks, and trust issues are common in people who have experienced abuse. Abuse can impact a person’s ability to form relationships and find happiness. Yet the effects of abuse do not have to be permanent. A therapist can help abuse survivors overcome challenges and address symptoms. Therapy can also help those who engage in abuse to stop harmful behaviors, though the individual must truly wish to change

Academic and School Concerns

Academic and School Concerns which might include issues such as learning difficulties or disabilities, underachievement, lack of attention from teachers, and bullying, affect a number of students throughout their academic careers, from elementary school to college. Academic concerns may influence a student’s performance in the classroom negatively, but they are also likely to have a significant effect on other areas of life, often placing undue stress on a child and interfering with home, work, and play dimensions. A student who experiences some type of academic concern may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional

Active Listening

Active Listening is the practice of listening to a speaker while providing feedback indicating that the listener both hears and understands what the speaker is saying. Therapists and other mental health professionals regularly practice active listening, but active listening is not exclusive to therapy. Business professionals, medical doctors, and other people who frequently interact with the public may use active listening as a tool to ensure good customer service and stronger communication. Many relationship counselors advocate active listening for couples and spend several therapy sessions encouraging couples to practice active listening skills. Active listening is also an important skill for parents to use with their children


Adderall (a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) is a psychostimulant medication belonging to the phenethylamine class of drugs. Adderall is used in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Unfortunately, Adderall has become popular among students and young professionals seeking to enhance cognitive and physical performance. Like many other stimulants, this medication has a high potential for recreational misuse and abuse

Addictions and Compulsions

Addictions and Compulsions a persistent need to consume a substance or commit an act—is distinct from a compulsion, which is an overwhelming and irresistible impulse to act. Usually, a compulsive act is preceded by obsessive, intrusive thoughts that compel the person to act, whereas an addiction is more of a habit that is not necessarily accompanied by obsessive thinking. An individual experiencing either addiction or compulsions may find it helpful to speak to a mental health professional


ADHD: Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity (ADHD) causes impulsive or hyperactive behavior. People with ADHD might have emotional outbursts or trouble focusing. They may be forgetful. They may also find it difficult to pay attention or stay organized. This can cause problems at school or work. ADHD diagnoses have sparked controversy. This may be because it is often diagnosed in children. It is diagnosed more now than in the past. Stimulant medications may also be prescribed to control symptoms. Still, the condition is real and affects both children and adults. It can become serious if left untreated. Medication can be helpful, especially in the short-term. In the long-term, therapy can be effective at treating ADHD. Therapy may also be helpful when used alongside short-term medication. A therapist or counselor can help if you or someone you know shows signs of ADHD

Adjusting to Change/Life Transitions

Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions can be difficult, as even positive life transitions tend to cause some stress. Over the course of a lifetime, a person can expect to experience a significant amount of change. Some of these changes, such as marriages, births, and new jobs, are generally positive, although they may be accompanied by their own unique stressors. Other major life transitions, such as moving, retirement, or entering the “empty nest” phase of life may cause a significant amount of stress. Those who find themselves experiencing difficulty coping with life transitions may find it helpful to speak to a therapist in order to become better able to adjust to changes they cannot control

Adoption/Foster Care

Adoption / Foster Care Issues can lead to positive outcomes for many children. However, thousands of other children and young adults placed in foster or adoptive homes may experience significant life stress and trauma due to difficulty with the foster care system, problematic placements, and neglectful or abusive foster parents and siblings. Even those children who are adopted into loving homes may experience conflicted feelings about being given up for adoption. Adoptive children may also experience stress or anxiety as a result of not knowing their background. These and other issues can often be explored through therapy

Aggression and Violence

Aggression and Violence are terms often used interchangeably; however, the two differ. Violence can be defined as the use of physical force with the intent to injure another person or destroy property, while aggression is generally defined as angry or violent feelings or behavior. A person who is aggressive does not necessarily act out with violence. Issues with aggression and violence or their effects can be addressed in therapy with the help of a mental health professional

Aging and Geriatric Issues

Aging and Geriatric Issues is a natural process that may present challenges for some individuals and their families. Although many older adults look forward to moving from middle age into their later years, it may be difficult for others to adjust. All adults may experience health issues and stress as they approach and pass middle age, and the support of a therapist or other mental health professional may help ease the transition

Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Alcohol and Drug Addiction or dependence on a particular substance or activity, is one of the most complex areas of mental health. Addiction can often be difficult to treat, and there is a good deal of controversy surrounding the causes of addiction and the best approaches to treatment. Individuals who find themselves experiencing an addiction to drugs or alcohol often find the services of a mental health professional to be helpful in overcoming the addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an addiction-recovery program that utilizes the 12-step model. Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, this original 12-step program has inspired many similarly structured treatment programs. Due to its evangelical roots and low reported success rate, AA is criticized by some, but many participants have found the program to be successful at ending addiction, and 12-step models serve as a supplement to many inpatient rehabilitation treatments


Amygdala is an almond-shaped part of the brain that plays important roles in autonomic, unconscious functions as well as in memory formation, learning, and emotions such as fear

Anger Management

Anger Management refers to a process. It can help people identify stressors. People learn steps to help them stay calm in anger management. They may then handle tense situations in a constructive, positive way. The purpose of anger management is to help a person decrease anger. It reduces the emotional and physical arousal that anger can cause. It is generally impossible to avoid all people and settings that incite anger. But a person may learn to control reactions and respond in a socially appropriate manner. The support of a mental health professional may be helpful in this process

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an extremely restricted caloric intake. Sufferers may rapidly lose weight, or may simply reduce their caloric intake to an unhealthy level in an attempt to lose weight. A severely distorted body image typically goes along with anorexia, and people with anorexia may genuinely view themselves as obese despite having skeletal frames

Anti-Anxiety/Anti-Panic Medication

Anti-Anxiety/Anti-Panic Medications affects as many as 40 million Americans each year. If you are one of the many who is coping with debilitating feelings of anxiety, it is important to evaluate all of the treatment options available to you. In addition to therapy and lifestyle changes, some individuals benefit from taking antianxiety medication prescribed by a healthcare practitioner. Anxiety is often used as a catchall term to describe a state where a person feels discomfort, strong feelings of rejection, apprehension, nervousness, or fear of their surroundings, emotions, or other stimulus. In simple terms, anxiety is our response to any undesirable and problematic situation. Anti-anxiety medications, also known as anxiolytics, cannot cure your anxiety condition. However, they may help ease symptoms of anxiety such as fear, insomnia, panic, and worry when those symptoms prevent you from doing day-to-day activities. These medications are prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist and are not available for purchase over-the-counter


Antidepressants medications are primarily used in the treatment of major depression and anxiety. They work by gradually changing the balance of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Most antidepressants work to increase the amount of neurotransmitters present. The brain naturally removes neurotransmitters through a process called reuptake and some of most popular antidepressant medications block reuptake, thereby raising the concentration of specific neurotransmitters. Typically people who are prescribed antidepressants to treat a mental health condition are also encouraged to use medication in conjunction with other treatment options, such as psychotherapy. Medication alone cannot cure the underlying causes of a mental health issue and instead is used to control symptoms


Antipsychotics medications, sometimes referred to as neuroleptics or major tranquilizers, are prescribed to treat schizophrenia and to reduce the symptoms associated with psychotic conditions such as bipolar, psychotic depression, senile psychoses, various organic psychoses, and drug-induced psychoses. People experiencing psychosis are sometimes, but not always, a danger to themselves and others. Antipsychotic medications have both a short-term sedative effect and the long-term effect of reducing the chances of psychotic episodes. Most drugs are available in oral dosage forms (tablets, dry powder, and capsules), while some can be given in parenteral form (intramuscular and intravenous injections)

Antisocial Personality

Antisocial Personality is a condition characterized by a failure to follow normal moral codes and cultural norms. People with the condition often engage in manipulative, harmful behavior


Anxiety can mean nervousness, worry, or self-doubt. Sometimes, the cause of anxiety is easy to spot, while other times it may not be. Everyone feels some level of anxiety once in a while. But overwhelming, recurring, or “out of nowhere” dread can deeply impact people. When anxiety interferes like this, talking to a therapist can help

Art Therapy

Art Therapy a hybrid field largely influenced by the disciplines of art and psychology, uses the creative process, pieces of art created in therapy, and third-party artwork to help people in treatment develop self-awareness, explore emotions, address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-esteem. Art therapy primarily aims to help individuals experiencing emotional and psychological challenges achieve personal well-being and improved levels of function. Neither previous artistic experience nor natural artistic ability is necessary for successful treatment, and any individuals seeking the help of a mental health professional may find benefit from art therapy


Asexuality is having little or no interest in sexual relationships. There is some debate as to whether asexuality is a sexual orientation–groups advocating for the rights of asexual people emphasize that asexuality is a sexual orientation similar to homosexuality or heterosexuality


Ativan (lorazepam) is a short-acting anxiolytic belonging to a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines. It is usually prescribed to treat anxiety associated with mental health conditions such as depression and insomnia, panic, muscle spasm pain, and seizures. In some cases, it has also been used to manage symptoms associated with the acute phase of schizophrenia

Attachment Issues

Attachment Issues refers to the ability to form emotional bonds and empathic, enjoyable relationships with other people, especially close family members. Insecure attachment early in life may lead to attachment issues and difficulty forming relationships throughout life. Because early intervention often proves most effective, children who shows signs of attachment issues may benefit from speaking to a therapist

Autism and Asperger's

Autism and Asperger’s or ASD, affects about 1% of people worldwide. Its diagnosis can be contentious. This is partly because autism diagnoses have recently increased. Some of the criteria for ASD are still widely debated. Autism affects the nervous system. One sign of autism is impaired social behavior. Other signs include restricted or repetitive behavior. People once saw intensive support as the main way to manage autism. But current treatments often take a different approach. These treatments have improved social behavior in people with autism. When started in childhood, they may have higher chances of success. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th ed.) listed Asperger’s syndrome (AS) as a disorder. AS is not listed by name in the DSM-5. The DSM-5 describes AS as social communication disorder. It is considered to be on the autism spectrum. Criteria for autism now use similar terms to describe Asperger’s. However, some people still refer to their condition as Asperger’s


Avoidant Personality is a condition characterized by social inhibition. Individuals diagnosed with avoidant personality are typically hypersensitive to criticism and fixate on what others think of them. As a result, they withdraw from situations in which they may be judged


BDSM refers to a set of sexual practices or kinks related to bondage, discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. Activities in the realm of BDSM vary greatly and may focus on physical experiences, psychological pleasure or stimulation, or a combination of the two. Though some participants may engage in consensual non-consent, BDSM practices involve consenting adults by definition. Rape, abuse, and assault are not BDSM practices.


Bias is a tendency to favor one explanation, opinion, or understanding over another perspective that is potentially equally valid.

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking is the practice of drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a drinking pattern is considered a binge when an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08, which generally occurs when a man consumes five drinks within about two hours and a woman, four drinks. Binge drinkers might go long periods without drinking or engage in frequent binge sessions, but they typically are not dependent on alcohol.

Binge Eating

Binge Eating is the practice of eating very large quantities of food–much more than is required to sustain life or receive adequate nutrition–in a short period of time.


Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that teaches people in therapy how to better control the body’s involuntary responses to facilitate improved health. When we scratch our nose, jog in a park, or sit on a chair, we are performing voluntary bodily actions which we consciously control. However, other important bodily functions such as the regulation of blood pressure, pain perception, skin temperature, gastrointestinal activity, heart rate, and brain waves are controlled involuntarily—and often unconsciously—by the nervous system. With the use of electric sensors and other equipment, biofeedback therapy helps people in treatment gain greater awareness of what is happening inside their bodies and make subtle changes to their thinking in order to control how their bodies respond to certain health conditions or other stimuli.


Bipolar formerly known as manic depression, is characterized by mood dysregulation resulting in one or more episodes of abnormally increased energy level, mood, and cognition, that alternate with one or more depressive episodes. Bipolar has been subdivided into three main types: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.


Blackout is the loss of memory for a specific period of time, and is usually used in reference to memory loss induced by alcohol or other drugs.

Blended Family Issues

Blended Family Issues or stepfamilies, are now common in the United States. Nearly half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. At least half of children in the U.S. live with a biological parent and a stepparent. This person might also be called a “bonus” parent. Bringing two parents and their children together can be challenging. Children may be used to different parenting styles and family routines. Visitation or conflict between separating parents can cause stress. Conflict between stepparents and parents that live outside the new family can also increase stress. Another point of potential conflict is any new stepsiblings. It can take time for children to adapt to the new family structure. It may help to speak with a therapist about the transition before it begins.

Body Image

Body Image in most modern definitions, involves two key elements: a mental picture of one’s physical body (including size, shape, and appearance), and one’s attitude toward the physical self (such as thoughts, feelings and beliefs about one’s body). Body image may change gradually and can be influenced by a number of social factors, such as culture, the media, and interactions with family and friends. It also often adapts to reflect new information, people, and experiences. A negative or unhealthy body image can contribute to low self-esteem and affect well-being. When the mental image of one’s body or one’s attitude toward this image causes distress or interferes with function, a mental health professional may be able to help explore and address these concerns.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID)

Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) is a rare condition in which one’s ideal body image contrasts sharply with actual physical appearance. Thought to potentially be a neurological condition rather than a psychological one, BIID causes those experiencing it to believe a part of the body does not actually belong to them. This belief often leads to a desire to amputate the offending limb.

Borderline Personality (BPD)

Borderline Personality (BPD) is a condition characterized by chronic instability in relationships, extreme emotional reactions, and chronic fear of abandonment. The diagnosis is controversial: BPD is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) with other personality disorders. However, some mental health professionals argue that borderline personality is not a mental health condition at all, while others believe it may be a response to early childhood trauma rather than an actual mental health issue.


Boundaries are limits people set in order to create a healthy sense of personal space. Boundaries can be physical or emotional in nature, and they help distinguish the desires, needs, and preferences of one person from another.


Breakup is the end of a committed romantic relationship between dating partners. Though divorce, the legal separation of a married couple, is a type of breakup, the term breakup is most often used to refer to the end of a relationship between unmarried people. A mental health professional might be a helpful source of support when working through a difficult breakup.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that causes a person to binge on large quantities of food and then purge using methods such as vomiting or laxatives.


Bullying is an attempt, usually a systematic and ongoing one, to undermine and harm someone based on some perceived weakness. Although commonly associated with children, bullying can occur at any age. Members of minority groups are significantly more likely to be bullied in adulthood. A person who experiences mental or emotional health effects as a result of bullying may find it helpful to seek support from a compassionate therapist or counselor.

Career Counseling

Career Counseling also known as career guidance, is counseling designed to help with choosing, changing, or leaving a career and is available at any stage in life. One’s career is often one of the most important aspects of adulthood, and embarking on a new career, whether for the first time, the second time, or any time thereafter, can be a stressful event, especially when economic difficulties such as recession are a factor. A career counselor can help by outlining and discussing one’s potential career options.

Caregiver Issues / Stress

Caregiver Issues / Stress can affect both professional caregivers who are paid to provide care to individuals in their homes or in a health care setting and unpaid individuals who provide care to a loved one, friend, or family member. These issues may include stress, isolation, and fatigue, to name a few. It can be rewarding to care for a loved one or family member, but it can also be stressful, traumatic, or otherwise difficult. Those who become stressed or anxious or experience other mental health issues as a result of providing long-term care may find the services of a mental health professional to be helpful.

Child and Adolescent Issues Children

Child and Adolescent Issues Children and adolescents, or teens, build social skills and emotional intelligence as they grow. These things often lead to healthy, happy lives. But some kids have emotions or behave in ways that disrupt their well-being. Learning about children’s mental health issues can increase your knowledge of how to help. Certain skills can teach you to interact more effectively with your child. Seeing a therapist can teach you these skills. A therapist or counselor may also benefit children or teens. Therapy can be a safe space for kids to process thoughts and emotions.

Child Protective Services (CPS)

Child Protective Services (CPS) is an umbrella term for government agencies designed to protect children from child abuse, provide family intervention services, recruit foster parents, and assign children to foster care. State agencies may have different names, such as Department of Family and Children Services or Child Services.

Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood Sexual Abuse is any form of sexual violence, including rape, child molestation, incest, and similar forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Most sexual abuse experts agree sexual abuse is never only about sex. Instead, it is often an attempt to gain power over others. Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and even save lives. A person can report sexual assault by calling local police. Survivors may also wish to get a physical exam at a hospital. Therapy can also be helpful for those who experienced sexual abuse in the past. Some therapists specialize in addressing the trauma of sexual assault. Long-term assistance may be beneficial to some survivors of sexual abuse.

Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain is any pain that lasts for longer than six months. It stands in contrast to acute pain, which is short-lived pain that often has a clear medical cause. Muscle aches such as back and neck pain are common sources of chronic pain, but the pain can occur anywhere in the body and can range from a mild irritation to a severely debilitating condition. Because chronic pain can affect one’s mental health, an individual experiencing chronic pain may wish to speak to a therapist, in addition to pursuing other lines of treatment.


Claustrophobia is an extreme, irrational fear of small spaces, particularly of being trapped in small spaces. People with claustrophobia may have panic attacks if trapped in a small space, and may actively avoid situations that could activate claustrophobia.

Client Confidentiality

Client Confidentiality is the requirement that therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and most other mental health professionals protect their client’s privacy by not revealing the contents of therapy.


Coaching refers to guiding and helping a person to achieve future goals. Many situations in life arise where additional support and insight are needed to move toward personal goals or to push a person to a higher level of performance; the coaching profession is built on addressing these needs. Though coaches often receive professional training through various programs and institutions, they are not licensed as therapists, counselors, or mental health professionals.


Codependency involves sacrificing one’s personal needs to try to meet the needs of others. Someone who is codependent has an extreme focus outside themselves. Their thoughts and actions revolve around other people, such as spouses or relatives. Codependency often appears in relationships which are unbalanced and unhealthy. A person with codependency often tries to save others from themselves. They may get hurt trying to “cure” a partner’s addictions or abusive behaviors. Codependency does not qualify as a mental health diagnosis, mostly because the symptoms are so widely applicable. Yet it can still cause severe distress. Codependency may lead a person to develop other mental health concerns such as anxiety. A therapist can help a person reduce codependent behaviors and develop healthier relationships.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term form of behavioral treatment. It helps people problem-solve. CBT also reveals the relationship between beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, and the behaviors that follow. Through CBT, people learn that their perceptions directly influence how they respond to specific situations. In other words, a person’s thought process informs their behaviors and actions. Cognitive behavioral therapy is not a distinct treatment technique. Instead, it is a general term which refers to a group of therapies. These therapies have certain similarities in therapeutic methodology. The group includes rational emotive behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.

Coming Out

Coming Out refers to the process of disclosing one’s identity as a member of the LGBTQIA community. The experience of coming out, which is unique for each individual, may involve various stages. Due to prejudice and stigma often faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, the process of coming out may be difficult and fraught with challenges for many.

Communication Problems

Communication Problems may potentially develop in any circumstance or social relationship. It can be easy for individuals to misunderstand or misinterpret others, and these misunderstandings may lead to arguments or tension in personal, platonic, or professional relationships. In some instances, conflicts may arise, and these conflicts can make communication even more challenging. It may be helpful to have the support of a therapist or other mental health professional when exploring the reasons why communication issues occur or while working through any distress or difficulty that occurs as a result of frequent communication issues.


Compassion is feeling sympathy for another’s pain or distress combined with the desire to soothe that person’s suffering. Born of empathy, feelings of compassion—whether felt for oneself or for others—are likely to improve the quality and depth of relationships and overall life experience. Whether someone acts on his or her compassionate feelings is a choice. Some therapists, researchers, and spiritual traditions advocate that a deeply compassionate life brings true happiness and fulfillment.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue also known as second-hand shock and secondary stress reaction, describes a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatized or under significant emotional duress.


Compulsion is a behavior designed to reduce psychic distress or discomfort due to factors such as depression or anxiety. Individuals engaging in compulsions typically feel an irresistible need to engage in the compulsive behavior. Everyday behaviors such as hand-washing, praying, and counting can become compulsions. Compulsions are commonly associated with substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Individuals with these conditions engage in the compulsive behavior not because they want to, but because they feel that they have to. Compulsions may also be minor and not rise to the level of mental illness. Many people have mild compulsions such as the need to regularly exercise, to engage in a certain amount of work, or to count their steps. Compulsions only become a part of a mental health diagnosis when they create distress, interfere with normal life, and/or endanger a person’s health. People with substance dependencies engage in compulsive use of substances despite health, financial, and emotional consequences. In the case of substance abuse, the compulsion is frequently engaged in to avoid obsessive thoughts of the substance or to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal.

Compulsive Spending / Shopping

Compulsive Spending / Shopping has many names: shopping addiction, oniomania, impulsive buying, shopaholism, and more. Although compulsive spending is not an official diagnosis, it resembles other addictions. People with oniomania often invest excessive time and resources to shop. They may not know what need they are trying to fill, but the compulsion to buy is still strong. A 2004 survey estimates 5.8% of adults in the United States have a shopping addiction. Some studies show higher rates among online shoppers, perhaps due to the internet’s convenience and anonymity. The condition can cause financial concerns, relationship conflict, and personal distress. Oniomania can be as difficult to stop as any other compulsion or addiction. However, compulsive spending is treatable. Therapy can help a person move past addiction and take back control over their life.

Coping Mechanisms

Coping Mechanisms are the strategies people often use in the face of stress and/or trauma to help manage difficult and/or painful emotions. Coping mechanisms can help people adjust to stressful events while maintaining their emotional well-being.

Couples Counseling

Couples Counseling relationship counseling, or couples therapy, is a form of therapy that supports people in intimate relationships. Therapy may be helpful for partners considering separation or seeking improved intimacy and understanding. While the relationship itself is the focus in marital counseling, each partner is expected to pay attention to self-improvement and self-awareness.

Date Rape

Date Rape describes a form of sexual assault that occurs when the perpetrator has an established social or romantic relationship with the victim. Date rape may involve forced or coerced sexual activity or take place when an individual cannot give consent to sexual activity. Like other types of rape, date rape may be motivated by a desire for power or control and/or by an individual’s feeling that sex is owed to them.

Death with Dignity

Death with Dignity also called physician aid-in-dying and medically-assisted suicide, occurs when a medical doctor provides a terminally ill, mentally competent individual with a prescription for a lethal dose of medication that will allow the individual to end their life at a time and place of their choosing. Death with Dignity has been increasingly discussed in recent years and is now legal in some parts of the United States (as well as some other countries of the world), but the topic remains a controversial one.

Defense Mechanisms

Defense Mechanisms the concept of the defense mechanism was originally suggested by Sigmund Freud, who argued that defensive reactions occur when the ego attempts to protect itself from the id. When the id suggests unacceptable motivations or thoughts to the ego, the ego tries to avoid conscious awareness of troubling feelings or unpleasant motivations. However, in contemporary psychology, the term defense mechanism is used more broadly to refer to any behavioral pattern that people use to protect themselves from unpleasant emotions such as shame, anger, and guilt.


Delusion is a false belief that is maintained despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Beliefs associated with religion or with widespread social norms within a particular culture are not considered delusions, and beliefs based upon incomplete or incorrect information also do not qualify as delusions.


Dementia a generalized and chronic loss of brain functioning, is not a disease in itself. Rather, the condition can be described as a variety of symptoms that are linked to a decline in memory and other cognitive functions.

Denial Sigmund Freud

Denial Sigmund Freud originally developed the concept of denial as a defense mechanism. Denial involves the rejection of a fact that is too painful for a person to accept. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross expanded upon Freud’s model and proposed that denial is the first stage in accepting one’s death. Denial is now widely accepted as a common stage or aspect of grief.


Dependency is a need for others to meet one’s psychological, social, physical, or financial needs.

Dependent Personality Individuals

Dependent Personality Individuals diagnosed with dependent personality tend to be reliant on others past the point that is considered typical or healthy. They may act submissive or clingy to convince others to take care of them. People with this condition may be terrified of being alone.


Depression is a serious, but common, condition. It often causes people to feel sad or empty for long periods of time. It can also affect one’s thinking patterns and physical health. In some cases, depression can lead people to consider suicide.


Detoxing is the process of removing toxic chemicals from the body or waiting for them to exit.

Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)

Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) in children and adults, and narcolepsy (loss of the brain’s ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally). Dexedrine has potential for abuse and should only be used as prescribed.


Diagnosis can refer either to the process of classifying symptoms or to the assessment of health or illness that results from the process. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, cancer, and diabetes are examples of the latter, while listing a client’s symptoms and comparing them with symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual is an example of the former.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) commonly abbreviated as the DSM, is a book published by the American Psychiatric Association providing standardized criteria to the diagnosis of mental health conditions. The DSM is used widely by mental health practitioners in the United States to aid in diagnosing clients. For many decades, there was immense concern that psychiatric diagnoses were based upon the whims of psychiatric professionals and were not scientifically valid. Different practitioners might give the same client completely different diagnoses, which in turn would result in different standards and courses of treatment. The DSM is an attempt to correct for this potential problem.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive cognitive behavioral treatment. It aims to treat people who see little or no improvement with other therapy models. This treatment focuses on problem solving and acceptance-based strategies. It operates within a framework of dialectical methods. The term dialectical refers to the processes that bring opposite concepts together such as change and acceptance. Certified practitioners of DBT offer acceptance and support to people in therapy. Many of the people they work with have conditions described as “difficult to treat.” They work to develop techniques for achieving goals, improving well-being, and effecting lasting positive change.

Distance Therapy / Phone Therapy

Distance Therapy / Phone Therapy unlike traditional therapy, does not have in-person interaction during treatment. It has evolved as the practice of therapy enters the digital age. Therapists may offer different forms of distance therapy to reach more people in many locations. Distance therapy is often conducted online or on the phone. Other terms for distance therapy include distance counseling, teletherapy, phone therapy, or internet therapy.

Divorce / Divorce Adjustment

Divorce / Divorce Adjustment occurs when a marriage does not succeed. The end of a marriage can feel like a relief. It can also be extremely stressful. Even the partner who chooses to leave may feel a range of emotions. They may experience grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, shame, and anxiety. If children are involved, the stress of divorce may be more intense.

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence occurs when one partner abuses the other. There are many reasons for the behavior. One motive is to gain control over one’s partner. Domestic violence has different levels of severity. There are also differences in how often it can occur. It may happen in any type of relationship. It can impact family, friends, and others. Domestic violence is also known as intimate partner violence, spousal abuse, and domestic abuse. It is possible to stop domestic violence or recover from it if you are a survivor. Staying in an abusive situation can have negative long-term effects. But recovery is possible.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Drug and Alcohol Addiction or dependence on a particular substance or activity, is one of the most complex areas of mental health. Addiction can often be difficult to treat, and there is a good deal of controversy surrounding the causes of addiction and the best approaches to treatment. Individuals who find themselves experiencing an addiction to drugs or alcohol often find the services of a mental health professional to be helpful in overcoming the addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Experiencing

Dual Diagnosis Experiencing a mental health issue in conjunction with substance abuse is known as dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is sometimes referred to as dual disorder or co-occurring disorders.

Duty to Warn

Duty to Warn is an exception to the normal standards of client confidentiality that mandates that mental health professionals must warn third parties whom they believe their client may harm. This obligation may also be referred to as the duty to protect. The duty to warn laws and ethical requirements can vary from state to state or depending on a mental health professional’s licensing board.


Dysphoria is a state of generalized unhappiness, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or frustration, and it can be a symptom of several mental health conditions.

Dysthymia Persistent

Dysthymia Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, is the state of having a mild to moderate chronic depressed mood. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the symptoms of dysthymia are less severe than those of major depression, but the condition, being chronic, also tends to last longer than a major depressive episode.


Dystonia is a neurological condition that causes involuntary muscular contractions. Tremors may also develop, and the condition can affect muscles throughout the body. This condition can be inherited or acquired, but what actually causes dystonia is not yet known.

Eating and Food Issues Eating

Eating and Food Issues Eating disorders happen when someone’s relationship to food spirals out of control. This could manifest in all sorts of ways. Some people eat too much, some eat too little, and others struggle with the physical act of eating. Eating disorders generally occur because people develop complicated relationships with food or their bodies. They may try to control their bodies through exercise, medicine, or diets. Others may use food to soothe painful feelings. Eating disorders don’t simply cause emotional distress. They can also cause physical health problems. In severe cases, they may even be fatal.


Egomania occasionally referred to as megalomania, is extreme self-involvement and self-interest. It is often accompanied by feelings of greatness and superiority.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is popularly known as electroshock therapy. This treatment induces a seizure by delivering an electrical current directly into a person’s body. It has historically been used to treat a wide variety of mental health conditions, and its use remains extremely controversial.


Emotion is a subjective state that is a reaction to either internal or external stimuli. Emotions last longer than brief feelings—such as momentary seconds of panic—and strongly affect mood. Personality can affect a person’s predisposition to feel certain emotions. For example, a person with an anxious or neurotic personality is more likely to experience emotions of fear.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is a relatively new area of study that focuses on the ability to feel, recognize, communicate, respond to, and understand emotions. Emotional intelligence can be approximated by various types of tests, and those who wish to learn more about their level of emotional intelligence and ways to develop it further might consider speaking to a mental health professional.


Empathy is the ability to recognize and relate to other people’s emotions and thoughts. Empathic thinking is often characterized as the willingness and ability to place oneself in another person’s situation, to feel another person’s feelings, or to recognize that another person might experience feelings in the same way as oneself. Empathy on the part of the therapist for those in therapy is also an important characteristic of therapeutic relationships.

Emptiness Feelings

Emptiness Feelings of emptiness—a lack of meaning or purpose—are experienced by most people at some point in life. However, chronic feelings of emptiness, feelings of emotional numbness or despair, and similar experiences may be symptomatic of other mental health concerns, such as depression, anhedonia, or schizophrenia. Emptiness can also be experienced as an aspect of bereavement following the death of a loved one. An individual who experiences consistent and severe feelings of emptiness may find it helpful to speak to a therapist, especially when it becomes difficult to focus on other aspects of life.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome describes a collection of symptoms including loneliness, grief, and loss of purpose that some parents experience when their kids leave home for college, careers, or relationships. It is not a recognized mental health condition, but it is a well-established phenomenon that can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.


Endorphins are hormones that exist primarily in the brain and that are released when the body is under stress.


Enmeshment is a psychological term that describes a blurring of boundaries between people, typically family members. Enmeshment often contributes to dysfunction in families and may lead to a lack of autonomy and independence that can become problematic.


Envy is an emotion that occurs when one person wants something another person has, whether that thing is a material possession or perceived success or stature. Notable for its status as one of the seven deadly sins, envy has been studied extensively in the fields of philosophy and psychology, among others.

Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary Psychology is the field of psychology dedicated to uncovering the biological, evolutionary roots of human behavior. Evolutionary psychologists believe there was an evolutionary environment of adaptation in early human history that continues to shape human behavior—which cannot evolve as quickly as culture evolves—today.

Exercise Addiction

Exercise Addiction There is no question that regular exercise offers many benefits to a person’s physical and mental health. Studies have shown that even moderate exercise can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and exercise goes a long way toward improving mood and self-esteem. Though it is typically defined as a good and healthy habit, exercise can sometimes become an addiction and have a negative influence on physical and mental well-being.


Exhibitionism is a sexual fetish in which a person feels a compulsive desire to expose his or her genitals, breasts, or buttocks to strangers. It is classified into two sub-classes: Non-Threatening Exhibitionism – Non-threatening exhibitionism occurs when someone exposes him or herself as part of a group or to have fun. A woman flashing her breasts at Mardi Gras is an example of non-threatening exhibitionism. Threatening Exhibitionism – A form of predatory sexual behavior in which a person exposes his or her genitals to shock or horrify people. For example, a man who exposes his penis to a stranger on the subway is exhibiting threatening exhibitionism.

Existential Psychotherapy

Existential Psychotherapy is a style of therapy that places emphasis on the human condition as a whole. Existential psychotherapy uses a positive approach that applauds human capacities and aspirations while simultaneously acknowledging human limitations. Existential psychotherapy shares many similarities with humanistic psychology, experiential psychotherapy, depth psychotherapy, and relational psychotherapy.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, is a research-supported, integrative psychotherapy approach designed to treat symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress. EMDR sessions follow a specific sequence of phases, and practitioners use bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, to help the client process unresolved memories from adverse experiences. EMDR can be used to address any number of concerns, and it is compatible with other types of therapy.

Family Constellations

Family Constellations is a therapeutic approach designed to help reveal the hidden dynamics in a family or relationship in order to address any stressors impacting these relationships and heal them. This alternative approach may help people seeking treatment view their concerns from a different perspective, and therapists may offer the family constellations approach as a treatment for issues proving difficult to treat with traditional therapy.

Family of Origin Issues

Family of Origin Issues the family one grew up in, as opposed to the people one currently lives with—is the place that people typically learn to become who they are. From the family of origin a person learns how to communicate, process emotions, and get needs met. People also learn many of their values and beliefs from their families. Those who experience emotional concerns related to their family of origin may find it helpful to meet with a mental health professional in order to begin working through these issues.

Family Systems Therapy

Family Systems Therapy draws on systems thinking in its view of the family as an emotional unit. When systems thinking—which evaluates the parts of a system in relation to the whole—is applied to families, it suggests behavior is both often informed by and inseparable from the functioning of one’s family of origin. Families experiencing conflict within the unit and seeking professional assistance to address it may find family systems therapy a helpful approach.

Family Therapy

Family Therapy or family counseling is designed to address specific issues that affect the psychological health of the family, such as major life transitions or mental health conditions. It may be used as the primary mode of treatment or as a complementary approach.


Feminism is the movement to end women’s oppression and to help women achieve full social, political, familial, and financial equality with men.


Fetish is an object believed to have unusual powers, and fetishism is the practice of regularly believing in the power of these objects. For example, a person might ascribe supernatural powers to a carving and carry it around in his or her pocket for protection. In psychology, fetishism typically refers to sexual fetishism, in which a person gets sexual gratification solely or primarily through unusual sexual practices or the use or admiration of objects or body parts not typically associated with sex.


Fibromyalgia is a health condition characterized by chronic muscle pain at tender points, incapacitating fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and psychological distress.

Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight is a biochemical reaction in both humans and non-human animals that enables them to rapidly produce sufficient energy to flee or fight in a threatening situation.

First Responder Issues

First Responder Issues are the individuals who respond to emergency situations in order to provide assistance: police officers, paramedics, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, and military health care workers. They frequently face potentially dangerous and even traumatic situations and thus may be susceptible to a wide range of medical and mental health issues. The support of a mental health professional can help first responders address post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as any other challenges they may face.


Flashbacks are sudden, involuntary, and vivid memories of past personal experiences. In many cases, these powerful memories are closely linked with traumatic events.


Focusing, an approach to therapeutic treatment in which the therapist works to help the individual in treatment gain awareness into their bodily felt sense, is meant to help people seeking treatment learn to direct their attention toward things they experience that are difficult to describe in a concrete way. Felt sense, the sensations in a person’s body that provides information about situations, thoughts, and feelings, is a key aspect of focusing therapy, as the goal of the approach is for individuals to learn to “stay” with this felt sense and listen to its messages.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology is the branch of psychology that studies and treats psychological conditions as they relate to the criminal and civil justice systems. The legal system is increasingly interested in the opinions, assessment, and treatment offered by psychologists. Forensic psychologists can serve a number of roles and may offer assessments, expert testimony, or treatment to people involved in the legal system. Common services provided by forensic psychologists include: Providing mental health assessments for defendants who may not be competent to stand trial or who use the insanity defense. They may be employed by the government or contracted by defense attorneys. Providing mental health evaluations to parties involved in civil lawsuits. This is particularly common in divorce and child custody cases. Providing treatment to inmates in correctional institutions. Providing expert testimony in both civil and criminal cases. Developing profiles of people who commit violent crimes.


Forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go of feelings of anger or resentment harbored toward a person who has committed a wrong. It can often help the one who has been wronged release any negative feelings and achieve a sense of peace. An individual who finds it difficult to forgive others for wrongs may be able to explore the benefits of forgiveness in therapy and as a result become able to forgive more easily.

Free Association

Free Association is a practice in psychoanalytic therapy. In this practice, a therapist asks a person in therapy to freely share thoughts, words, and anything else that comes to mind. The thoughts need not be coherent. But it may help if they are authentic.


Friendship is a close association between two people marked by feelings of care, respect, admiration, concern, love, or like.

Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction People who experience gambling addiction may be unable to control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their actions are hurting themselves and others. Individuals with this addiction may feel an urge to gamble in spite of their desire to quit.


Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse. Someone who is gaslighting will try to make a targeted person doubt their perception of reality. The gaslighter may convince the target that their memories are wrong or that they are overreacting to an event. The abuser may then present their own thoughts and feelings as “the real truth.” The term originates with a 1938 play called “Gas Light.” In the play, a woman’s husband tries to convince her that she is mentally unstable. He makes small changes in her environment, such as dimming the gaslights in their house. He then convinces his wife she is simply imagining these changes. His ultimate goal is to have her committed to an asylum so he can steal her inheritance. People experiencing gaslighting may benefit from finding a therapist.


Gender describes the relationship between (typically) three different factors: A sense of personal identity as female, male, somewhere in between, neither, or both; a person’s physical characteristics or biological sex; and the external reflection of identity (gender expression). Awareness of the difference between gender and sex is increasing, as is the knowledge that gender occurs along a broad spectrum and includes many more identities than simply “male” and “female.” Traditionally, the term has been used as a synonym for biological sex, in reference to the expression of traits associated with masculinity or femininity. But gender does not depend on the physical characteristics a person was born with, and any individual may express any combination of masculine and feminine traits. Many theorists argue the concept of biological sex is misleading and advocate sole use of the term “gender.” A person whose gender identity differs from gender assigned at birth may identify as transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, agender, identify as another gender, or use no label at all.

Gender Dysphoria

Gender Dysphoria also known as gender incongruence, may be experienced by transgender individuals and others whose gender does not align with the gender they were assigned at birth. Some people may develop mental health concerns as a result of distress experienced with gender dysphoria, but this incongruence itself is not a mental health condition, just as being transgender is not a mental health condition. Many—though not all—trans people experience dysphoria. Non-binary, agender, and other gender non-conforming individuals might also experience dysphoria, as may some intersex people. Anxiety, depression, stress, and feelings of isolation may develop in those who experience dysphoria, and a therapist or counselor can offer support to individuals coping with these and other concerns.


Genetics refers to the study of how parents pass on various traits to their offspring through genes. Eye color, height, personality characteristics, and many other individual traits are largely influenced by genetics. In the mental health field, the role of genetics is relevant to personality formation and the development of mental health issues.

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s, is an experiential and humanistic form of therapy that was originally designed as an alternative to conventional psychoanalysis. Gestalt therapists and their clients use creative and experiential techniques to enhance awareness, freedom, and self-direction. The word gestalt comes from the German word meaning shape or form, and it references the character or essence of something.


Gratitude is an emotion of thankfulness that may be experienced toward a person, animal, or deity. Gratitude can also describe a general feeling of thankfulness for life itself or for good aspects of life.

Grief, Loss, and Bereavement

Grief, Loss, and Bereavement Most people will experience loss at some point in their lives. Grief is a reaction to any form of loss. Bereavement is a type of grief involving the death of a loved one. Bereavement and grief encompass a range of feelings from deep sadness to anger. The process of adapting to a significant loss can vary dramatically from one person to another. It often depends on a person’s background, beliefs, and relationship to what was lost.

Group Therapy

Group Therapy can help people improve their mental health. It involves at least one mental health professional and two or more people in therapy. Many use it to address a specific mental health concern. The group dynamic often helps people feel supported as they move forward. Whether your goal is growth, improving social skills, or something else, group therapy could help you achieve it.


Groupthink is a suspension of critical thinking that often occurs in groups of people. It is a defensive reaction that preserves group cohesion at the expense of both individual members and group outsiders. Groups may make decisions that individuals would never support, and groups engaged in groupthink are frequently unable to competently evaluate alternative possibilities to the ones prescribed by the group.

Guided Meditation

Guided Meditation is defined as an intentional self-regulation of attention. Simply put, guided meditation is meditation with the assistance of a guide. Guided meditation is usually experienced in a classroom setting, one-on-one with a meditation teacher, or with an audio or video recording that guides the meditation session. Some mental health counselors may also use guided meditation as a tool to help people in therapy.

Guided Therapeutic Imagery

Guided Therapeutic Imagery a technique in which mental health professionals help individuals in therapy focus on mental images in order to evoke feelings of relaxation, is based on the concept of mind-body connection. Mind-body connection upholds the interaction between body and mind as one important factor in a person’s overall health and well-being. In guided therapeutic imagery, a person can call on mental images to improve both emotional and physical health.


Guilt is an unpleasant feeling of remorse or sadness regarding a past action. It can occur when a person does something against his/her moral code, believes he/she has done something against his/her moral code, or feels as if he/she has otherwise wronged someone. People who have strong feelings of guilt may experience pain as a result and may also find that their guilt affects their attitude, relationships, daily actions, and outlook on life. Individuals having difficulty overcoming guilt on their own may wish to seek the help of a mental health professional to cope with their guilty feelings.


Habit is any learned behavior that becomes relatively reflexive over time. Common habits include nail-biting, thumbsucking, and some varieties of fidgeting.


Habituation occurs when a person or animal’s original response to a stimulus decreases after repeated exposure.


Haldol (haloperidol) is a typical, or first-generation, antipsychotic medication. This drug is the first major antipsychotic from the butyrophenone series and is only available via prescription. It works by blocking several receptors in the brain, but is primarily targeted for receptors of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is most commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis, but has several other applications.

Halfway House

Halfway House is a residential facility designed to help people transition into independent living. Its name indicates its status as “halfway” between an institution such as jail or a psychiatric hospital and complete independent living in a home or apartment.


Hallucination is a false perception that may seem compellingly real to the person who is hallucinating. Visual and auditory hallucinations are the most common variety of hallucinations.


Hallucinogen is a drug that tends to induce hallucinations and changes in thought, perception, or consciousness.


Happiness is a state of generalized well-being associated with feelings of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.


Hatred is a relatively stable feeling of intense dislike for another person, entity, or group.

Health / Illness / Medical Issues Disease

Health / Illness / Medical Issues Disease or some form of serious illness will likely affect every person in some way, whether it is directly (one’s own condition) or indirectly (a friend or family member’s condition). The onset and existence of medical health issues and illnesses may contribute to feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, and/or anger, and a mental health professional may be able to help individuals cope with any challenges that arise as they face a difficult or debilitating illness.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal regulation that established national standards for how health information is transmitted and disclosed.


HIPAA, which became federal law in 1996, enacted a number of privacy rights and protections for consumers in order to ensure that care information remains sufficiently confidential.

Health Psychology

Health Psychology also called medical psychology or behavioral medicine, is a branch of psychology focusing on how biological, social, and psychological factors impact health and well-being. Health psychologists strive to promote overall health and prevent illness.

Helplessness / Victimhood

Helplessness / Victimhood or a sense of being unable to act or react to a negative situation, may be experienced by anyone, especially during illness or when affected by a traumatic event. A persistent feeling of helplessness, however, can last long after a person’s actual helplessness disappears. In this case, feelings of helplessness may interfere with daily life and have significant mental health consequences, at which point it may be helpful to speak to a therapist.


Heterosexuality is attraction to people of the opposite sex. Men who are attracted to women and women who are attracted to men are heterosexual.


HIV / AIDS is a serious, incurable health condition. HIV causes the immune system to gradually fail and often leads to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which can leave individuals susceptible to tumors, cancers, and opportunistic infections. As of June 2016, over 1 million people in the United States have HIV. Approximately 1 in 8 of these individuals remain unaware of their HIV status. There is not yet a cure for HIV, and the condition is ultimately fatal. Thus, a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS is often likely to have a negative impact on the mental and emotional well-being of those diagnosed. The support of a therapist may be helpful while waiting for test results or coming to terms with a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS.


Hoarding is a condition in which people collect large quantities of objects. This clutter often interferes with healthy functioning and the use of one’s home. It can also harm one’s quality of life and/or relationships with others. Despite this harm, a person who hoards may panic at the thought of throwing things away. In the United States and Europe, compulsive hoarding is more common than popular culture would suggest. Between 2 and 6% of the population engage in compulsive hoarding. Research suggests many cases of hoarding go undiagnosed and untreated.

Holistic Psychotherapy

Holistic Psychotherapy an integrative approach grounded in psychosynthesis, focuses on the relationship between mind, body, and spirit, attempting to understand and address the ways issues in one aspect of a person can lead to concerns in other areas. Those pursuing holistic therapy may, with the support of a qualified mental health professional, become better attuned to their entire awareness, which can often promote greater acceptance of the self.


Homophobia has historically been defined as a fear of being around people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or another non-heterosexual orientation, or the fear of becoming gay. In contemporary usage, however, the term is most commonly used to describe a person who dislikes, abuses, or attempts to “convert” people who are not heterosexual.


Homosexuality can be described as the romantic or sexual attraction, relationships, and sexual behavior between individuals of the same gender. This term typically refers to those who are only attracted to those of the same gender. Individuals who experience same-sex attraction as well as attraction to individuals of other genders may more often describe themselves in other terms, such as bisexual, pansexual, or queer, among others.


Honesty can be understood as the practices of both telling the truth and of avoiding deception by either omission or misdirection. This concept, especially as it relates to individual interpretations of honesty, has garnered attention in the fields of philosophy and psychology both.


Hope is an emotion characterized by positive feelings about the immediate or long-term future. Often hope is coupled with high motivation, optimism, and a generally elevated mood.


Hopelessness is an emotion characterized by a lack of hope, optimism, and passion. An individual who feels hopeless may often have no expectation of future improvement or success.


Hormone is a chemical that carries chemical messages from one part of the body to another. They are secreted by endocrine glands, tissues, and organs.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) involves changing the levels of hormones—specifically estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone—in the body. Often used to treat symptoms of menopause and aging, HRT is also often part of the transition process for transgender individuals who wish to use hormones to help align their physical characteristics with their gender identity.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic Psychology (humanism) is grounded in the belief that people are innately good. This type of psychology holds that morality, ethical values, and good intentions are the driving forces of behavior, while adverse social or psychological experiences can be attributed to deviations from natural tendencies. Humanism incorporates a variety of therapeutic techniques, including Rogerian (person-centered) therapy, and often emphasizes a goal of self-actualization.


Humiliation is an unpleasant emotion brought about by feeling that one’s social status or public image has decreased. It is the opposite of pride. People experiencing humiliation may have diminished feelings of self-worth.


Humor is a description applied to any thought, behavior, motivation, or experience that causes feelings of amusement or light-hearted happiness. Most people know what humor is without being able to define it, and humor is usually associated with laughter, smiling, and a slightly elevated mood.


Hyperactivity describes an excessive state of activity, particularly motor activity, that may be transient or chronic. Hyperactive behavior is commonly associated with children, though adults may also exhibit hyperactivity. Common hyperactive behaviors include: Difficulty concentrating, Difficulty sitting still, Fidgeting, frequent motor activity, or the need for frequent physical activity, Excessive talking, Difficulty following directions.


Hypersexuality is sexual behavior or a desire for sexual interaction that is significantly higher than average. For example, people with hypersexuality might masturbate a dozen times a day or feel the need to engage in sexual intercourse multiple times each day.


Hypersomnia is excessive sleeping or sleepiness, in contrast to insomnia.


Hypervigilance is an increased state of vigilance and awareness that may be caused by fear and anxiety, as well as certain mental health conditions. People experiencing hypervigilance typically exhibit symptoms in an attempt to avoid danger.


Hypnotherapy employs the use of hypnosis—an altered state of consciousness caused by little more than the power of suggestion—to help facilitate behavioral and emotional change. A trained hypnotherapist can cause a trancelike state in clients by using auditory, visual, or other perceptual cues. Once the person enters the hypnotic state, he or she is much more suggestible, making it easier to discuss memories, gain insight, and alter behavior.


Hypochondria or hypochondriasis, is a diagnosable anxiety condition. People with hypochondria have a fear of injury or illness that others may consider irrational. They may make frequent trips to the doctor, for example, or become convinced they have serious undiagnosed illnesses. In some cases, individuals even manifest symptoms psychosomatically through their worry. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), lists hypochondria as illness anxiety disorder (IAD), and people with hypochondria may receive this diagnosis. Those who find their illness anxiety is serious enough to impact typical function may find it beneficial to seek support from a therapist or counselor.


Hysteria was a term was used to characterize a number of psychological symptoms such as blindness, loss of sensation, hallucinations, suggestibility, and highly emotional behavior. It is also sometimes colloquially used to describe excessively emotional behavior.

‘I’ Message

‘I’ Message or “I” statement is a style of communication that focuses on the feelings or beliefs of the speaker rather than thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener. For example, a person might say to his or her partner, “I feel abandoned and worried when you consistently come home late without calling” instead of demanding, “Why are you never home on time?”


Id is one of three components of Sigmund Freud’s Structural Model of psychology. According to Freud, the id is unconscious and governed by the pleasure principle, base drives, and instincts. It stands in contrast to the superego, which functions as the conscience and the ego, which mediates between the two other components. The ego and superego develop from the id, making the id the original component of psychology and also the least organized.

Identity Issues

Identity Issues Developing a sense of self or an identity is an essential part of every individual becoming mature. Identity or parts of identity may be classified by any number of things such as religion, race, sexual preference, gender, and/or ethnicity. Some traits are set at birth such as race and sex. Some traits may be modified later in life such as language(s) spoken or religious preferences. Struggling with various parts of identity is natural and normal. Developing an identity or sense of self and those traits a person desires to have can take time and may be challenging. Not having a strong sense of self or struggling with identity issues may lead to depression, anxiety, and other psychological health problems in addition to even physical health problems.


Illusion is an inaccurate perception of a stimulus. The term is also broadly used to refer to inaccurate beliefs or perceptions. In scientific usage, however, an illusion is a sensory distortion.


Imprinting is learning that occurs during a specific and limited time period in an animal’s life–usually shortly after birth. Although imprinting can involve any type of learning, it is most commonly associated with bonding and developing relationships.


Impulsivity describes a tendency to react to stimuli quickly and without much thought. It often involves unplanned risky behavior, action without forethought, and decreased sensitivity to immediate or long-term consequences. Historically, the definition of impulsivity has been inconsistent, although research on the topic dates back 2,500 years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now categorizes impulse control issues separately from addictions and compulsions.


Inadequacy not being good enough—is experienced by everyone at one point or another. But when feelings of inadequacy—low self-worth, incompetence, powerlessness, and even shame—begin to interfere with the ability to maintain relationships, succeed at work or in school, or feel happy and at peace, exploring the underlying issues that incite those feelings may help.


Incest describes any sexual relations between members of a family. While the strictest definition of the term applies only to those who are closely related, incest may also refer to sexual intercourse between family members who are not blood-related, such as step-siblings or cousins by marriage. Incest is taboo, or forbidden, in many parts of the world. It is often a form of sexual abuse and carries criminal penalties in most states and in many countries.

Indirect Communication

Indirect Communication is acting out rather than directly saying what a person is thinking or feeling using facial expressions, tone of voice, and/or gestures. Susan Heitler, PhD and Topic Expert, describes indirect communication as “hinting or acting out,” often with nonverbal behaviors like gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, or periods of silence. Indirect communicators, who tend to act out their feelings rather than say them directly, are typically looking to save face or to avoid situations of conflict, where they may experience uncomfortable amounts of tension and unrest (Joyce, 2012).

Individual Therapy / Psychotherapy

Individual Therapy / Psychotherapy is a joint process between a therapist and a person in therapy. Common goals of therapy can be to inspire change or improve quality of life. People may seek therapy for help with issues that are hard to face alone. Individual therapy is also called therapy, psychotherapy, psychosocial therapy, talk therapy, and counseling. Therapy can help people overcome obstacles to their well-being. It can increase positive feelings, such as compassion and self-esteem. People in therapy can learn skills for handling difficult situations, making healthy decisions, and reaching goals. Many find they enjoy the therapeutic journey of becoming more self-aware. Some people even go to ongoing therapy for self-growth.


Individuation refers to the process through which a person achieves a sense of individuality separate from the identities of others and begins to consciously exist as a human in the world. When difficulty arises in the process of developing and understanding one’s true self, a therapist or other mental health professional may be able to offer guidance, encouragement, and support.

Inferiority Complex

Inferiority Complex is a fundamental feeling of inadequacy due to real or imagined social, psychological, intellectual, or physical defects.


Infertility or the inability to conceive a child, is often emotionally painful. In some cases, infertility may lead to grief that can be as intense as the grief of losing a living child. Those experiencing fertility issues may find it helpful to speak to a therapist.

Infidelity / Affair Recovery

Infidelity / Affair Recovery is unfaithfulness in a marriage or relationship. It can severely strain a relationship and the people involved. An affair can leave the other person feeling devastated, alone, betrayed, and confused. Sometimes, an affair ends a relationship. Other times, couples can repair the relationship. They may do this on their own or with the help of a therapist. This can often make the relationship stronger.

Informed Consent

Informed Consent is the process of informing a client, patient, or research subject of the risks, benefits, expected outcome of a research project, medication, medical procedure, or therapeutic approach in which they have agreed to take part. State laws on informed consent vary, and many states set out specific elements that informed consent forms must contain. Doctors and mental health professionals frequently give their clients informed consent forms to sign before beginning treatment or altering a treatment plan. A possible source for State Department of Health can answer questions regarding informed consent requirements for different types of providers, including therapists.

Inner Critic

Inner Critic refers to an inner voice that judges, criticizes, or demeans a person whether or not the self-criticism is objectively justified. A highly active inner critic can take a toll on one’s emotional well being and self-esteem. In some cases people who struggle with frequent or debilitating self-criticism will seek help from a therapist or counselor to change their thought patterns.


Insanity is a term used by some people to describe behavior motivated by disrupted mental states that may interfere with functioning. Because the term is often used in a pejorative manner to describe those experiencing mental illness, the field of psychology has largely abandoned its use. However, insanity is still used within the legal system as a mitigating factor or defense against criminal allegations.


Insecurity or a tendency to lack confidence or certainty in oneself, may be experienced by most people regarding some aspect of their lives. However, for many, feelings of insecurity can be resolved before they have a lasting, harmful impact. When one deals with generalized insecurity for a long period of time, however, the doubt and negative feelings experienced may have a significant effect on life. Insecurity is linked to mental health conditions such as narcissism, anxiety, paranoia, and addictive or dependent personalities.


Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or a combination of both. Insomnia may be its own diagnosis or a symptom of another physical or mental health problem. Insomnia can be separated into two categories: Primary insomnia is when a person is having sleep difficulties that are not associated with any other health conditions. The root cause   of primary insomnia can vary greatly and include anything from stress to trauma to family challenges. Secondary insomnia occurs when a person is having sleep difficulties as a result of another health condition, medicine, or substance. The length of time and how often a person experiences insomnia can vary greatly. Insomnia can be classified as: Transient insomnia is insomnia that comes on suddenly and lasts for a week or less. People do not typically seek treatment for transient insomnia, but may have several episodes. Acute insomnia (short-term insomnia) is the inability to sleep well for a month or less, and is commonly caused by stress or lifestyle factors. Chronic insomnia (long-term insomnia) is ongoing insomnia that may get better for brief periods only to return.


Intelligence is the ability to learn, process, comprehend, and store information gathered from the environment. The term is an elusive one, as philosophers and scientists have debated the concept of intelligence for hundreds of years, and it has proven difficult to limit the idea of intelligence to one collectively agreed-upon definition. However, psychologists have only recently generally agreed that in order to understand intelligence and what it does, a person’s ability to adapt to the surrounding environment must be considered. Adaptation, put simply, means changing one’s self to fit one’s surroundings or finding new surroundings, if necessary. This action involves several cognitive processes, showing that intelligence is a collection of many abilities, rather than any single ability.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Internal Family Systems (IFS) uses Family Systems theory—the idea that individuals cannot be fully understood in isolation from the family unit—to develop techniques and strategies to effectively address issues within a person’s internal community or family. This evidence-based approach assumes each individual possesses a variety of sub-personalities, or “parts,” and attempts to get to know each of these parts better to achieve healing. By learning how different parts function as a system and how the overall system reacts to other systems and other people, people in therapy can often, with the help of a trained mental health professional, become better able to identify the roots of conflict, manage any complications arising, and achieve greater well-being.

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a diagnostic tool used by the medical community. Currently in its tenth revision (ICD-10), this manual classifies medical diseases and mental health conditions to provide standardized descriptions and monitor the incidence and prevalence of mental and physical health concerns. Published by the World Health Organization (WHO), the ICD has been translated into 43 languages and is used by all members of WHO.

Internet Addiction

Internet Addiction also known as problematic Internet use, is becoming increasingly recognized as a mental health concern. An Internet addiction is typically characterized by a level of Internet use that impairs relationships; brings about family, work, or interpersonal difficulties; and impacts daily function in a negative way. A qualified therapist or other mental health professional can often help those seeking treatment address and resolve this concern.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) was developed by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman in the 1970s and based on the work of Harry Stack Sullivan, Adolf Meyer, and John Bowlby. IPT is a type of therapy that utilizes a uniquely structured model for the treatment of mental health issues. Based on attachment and communication theories, IPT is designed to help people address current concerns and improve interpersonal relationships.


InterPlay is a practice based on the premise that play helps people unlock parts of themselves they have psychologically buried over time. InterPlay practitioners, referred to as Certified InterPlay Leaders (CL), call this process “unlocking body wisdom.” Play activities are designed to help participants tap into experiences that have been locked away for a long time. InterPlay also helps people learn to use this “body wisdom” in ways that increase self-awareness and encourage better life choices.


Intersex is a term for people who do not fit neatly into either category of male or female. It is a replacement for the more negative and stigmatizing term of hermaphrodite.


Intervention is a staged approach for encouraging someone experiencing mental health problems and/or addiction to seek treatment. Although it is often used with people who have substance abuse problems, it may be used with anyone who is avoiding treatment or engaging in self-destructive behavior.


Intimacy refers to close and loving relationships such as marriages and relationships between close friends. It is also sometimes used to refer to sexual relationships.


Introjection one of many defense mechanisms posited by Sigmund Freud, occurs when a person internalizes the ideas or voices of other people. This behavior is commonly associated with the internalization of external authority, particularly that of parents.


Introversion is a personality trait that is characterized by a tendency to be inwardly oriented and to gather strength or energy from being alone rather than from the company of others.


Irritability an agitation that may result from provocation, illness, or seemingly no reason at all, may be simply an expression of normal annoyance, but it may also indicate a mental health or medical condition. When experiencing consistent irritability that causes stress and interferes with the ability to sleep, work, eat, or maintain good relationships with others, or irritation that may be inappropriate for or out of proportion to a particular situation, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist.


Isolation the experience of being separated from others—may result from being physically removed from others, as when a person lives in a remote area, or it can result from the perception of being removed from a community, such as when a person feels socially or emotionally isolated from others. Social isolation is distinct from the experience of solitude, which is simply the state of being alone, usually by choice. Taking time to be alone can be a healthy, rejuvenating experience that allows us to reconnect with our own needs, goals, beliefs, values, and feelings. But when a person experiences too much solitude or feels socially isolated from others, he or she may develop feelings of loneliness, social anxiety, helplessness, or depression, among others.


Jealousy is an often overwhelming feeling of insecurity about a potential loss or inequity in distribution of resources. Although jealousy is commonly used interchangeably with envy, the two are distinct emotions: While jealousy can be described as a fear that someone else may take something that a person considers to be one’s own, envy is the desire for something that belongs to someone else. Envy is more likely to cause feelings of sadness and a desire to change, and jealousy is more likely to provoke anger and resentment. Most people experience jealousy from time to time, but extreme jealousy can greatly interfere with normal functioning, and an individual who finds that jealousy interferes with daily life may consider speaking to a therapist to better understand its underlying causes.

Jungian Psychotherapy

Jungian Psychotherapy Carl Jung is well known as the forefather of analytical psychology. He believed that religious expression was manifested from the psyche’s yearning for a balanced state of consciousness and unconsciousness simultaneously. Jung spent many years studying and practicing with Sigmund Freud, but this specific theory led them to part ways. Jung surmised that the collective unconscious was one shared by all people. The foundation for this theory was based on specific archetypes and patterns that dictate how people process psychic images. Throughout history and across all cultures, mythology and dream study have maintained a common thread. Jung believed that each person strives to achieve wholeness by attaining a harmony within consciousness and unconsciousness and that this can be accomplished through dream study.


Kindness is characterized by being warm, friendly, pleasant, or compassionate toward others.


Klonopin (clonazepam) is in a class of anxiolytic (antianxiety and antipanic) medications called benzodiazepines. It works by decreasing abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Doctors prescribe this drug to treat seizures and panic attacks. Off-label use (meaning not indicated on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved packaging) includes restless legs syndrome, sleepwalking, and social phobia in adults. Klonopin has been prescribed for a number of neurological conditions, such as epilepsy and anxiety, since the 1950s and 1960s. Klonopin was originally brought to market in 1975 to treat epileptic seizures.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development is a stage-based model of moral maturity developed by Lawrence Kohlberg in 1958. Kohlberg continued to develop and edit the theory based upon new research throughout his life. The theory offers three levels of moral development, each of which contains two stages. Kohlberg asserts that moral development is neither the result of a genetic blueprint nor the result of conscious teaching of morality. Rather, it is a process of maturing that arises from thinking about moral issues.


Leadership refers to the role carried out by a person or group of people who lead, direct, and offer support to others. Successful leadership requires the ability to establish a clear vision and encourage others to adhere to that vision, guiding and directing them along the way. This typically involves providing the necessary information and instruction to inspire others to follow willingly and realize the desired goals. Coordinating and openly communicating with all members or participants is a large part of this process, as difficulties and disagreements may arise.

Learning Difficulties

Learning Difficulties (also referred to as a learning disability) can be described as an issue with the brain’s ability to process information. Individuals who have a learning difficulty may not learn in the same way or as quickly as their peers, and they might find certain aspects of learning, such as the development of basic skills, to be challenging. Because learning difficulties cannot be cured, their effects may impact an individual’s performance throughout life: academically, in the workplace, and in relationships and daily life. Intervention and support, which may be supplemented by counseling or other mental health care services, can help an individual with a learning difficulty to achieve success.


Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication. It is commonly used to treat anxiety in adults, depression in adults and adolescents who are at least 12 years old, tension, and excessive worry. It works by primarily increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It does this by preventing its reuptake into the presynaptic cell membrane. This SSRI drug is available by a doctor or psychiatrist prescription only.

LGBTQ Issues / Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

LGBTQ Issues / Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Although a person’s sexual or romantic orientation or gender identity may not be a source of distress, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, or any other orientation or gender identity may find that the social stigma of living as a minority is a source of stress or anxiety. When seeking therapy, whether for issues associated with one’s sexual, romantic, or gender identity or for concerns related to mental health, finding a qualified mental health professional who has experience and familiarity with the challenges members of the LGBTQIA community often face can be critical to successful therapy outcomes.


Libido is a person’s sexual desire. In psychoanalytic theory, it is also used to refer to the life instinct in general. Sigmund Freud originally conceived of the life energy as primarily sexual, but later revised his theory to include expressions of love, self-preservation, and pleasure. In analytic psychology, the term libido may also be used to refer to a life force that provides energy for nearly all activities including biological, social, cultural, sexual, and creative endeavors.


Lithium is a naturally occurring mineral which is often administered as a psychotropic drug in salt form. Lithium impacts the flow of sodium in both nerve cells and muscle cells. Due to its sedating effects, lithium is often used as a mood stabilizer. It may also be used to augment and improve the effectiveness of other psychiatric drugs. Common brand names for lithium-based medications include Cibalith-S, Eskalith, Eskalith CR, Lithane, Lithizime, Lithobid, Lithonate, and Lithotabs. Note that, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Eskalith and Eskalith CR are no longer on the market.


Loneliness a complicated emotion that typically occurs when one’s needs for social contact are not met, may be described as a feeling of emptiness that results from isolation. A person may be lonely when alone, but the state of being alone does not necessarily indicate loneliness.

Longitudinal Research

Longitudinal Research is a long-term study that can last for months or years. Longitudinal studies are designed to chart and monitor change over time. These studies typically gather a set of data at the study’s beginning and then repeatedly gather data on the same topic throughout the course of the study.


Loxitane (loxapine) is drug belonging to the typical antipsychotic category. It is commonly prescribed to treat issues related to mood and schizophrenia. It works by blocking the action of dopamine when sections of the dopamine system become overactive. It is a prescription medication, and therefore is not available over the counter.


Love is a complex set of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person. Love can also be used to apply to non-human animals, to principles, and to religious beliefs. For example, a person might say he or she loves his or her dog, loves freedom, or loves God.

Lucid Dreaming

A lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming. The dreamer may be able to exert control over his or her dreams by doing something like changing the dream’s characters or plot, or the dreamer may simply be aware that his or her dream is not real. Lucidity does not necessarily mean that the dreamer has control over the dream’s content. In most lucid dreams, awareness that the dream is not real begins midway through the dream, often when the dreamer realizes that some element of the dream is improbable. People frequently wake up at this point, but people who have practiced lucid dreaming may be able to begin dreams with conscious awareness that they are dreaming. Lucid dreaming training programs frequently claim to help dreamers exert significant control over their dreams or use their dreams to work through issues in their waking lives.

Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking is the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. A four-year-old child, for example, might believe that after wishing for a pony, one will appear at his or her house. Magical thinking is also colloquially used to refer more broadly to mystical, magical thoughts, such as the belief in Santa Claus, supernatural entities, and miraculous occurrences.


Malingering is the faking or exaggeration of illness—either mental or physical—to obtain some reward or gain or to avoid punishment or stress. It is different from factitious disorders (manufactured illnesses) in that malingering is motivated by a specific external force and is not necessarily indicative of a mental health condition.


Mania may be used colloquially to refer to any deviant behavior, but in the field of psychology, mania refers to physical and emotional agitation, overactivity, and excitability, and is frequently accompanied by impulsivity and poor decision-making.


Manipulation is the practice of using indirect tactics to control behavior, emotions, and relationships.


Mantra is a sound that is thought to bring about spiritual transformation.

Marriage Counseling /Couples Counseling

Marriage Counseling /Couples Counseling also known as couples counseling, relationship counseling, or couples therapy, is a form of therapy that supports people in intimate relationships. Therapy may be helpful for partners considering separation or seeking improved intimacy and understanding. While the relationship itself is the focus in marital counseling, each partner is expected to pay attention to self-improvement and self-awareness.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that was proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in a 1943 paper titled A Theory of Human Motivation. The theory describes, in five stages, what he believed to be necessary for human subsistence and satisfaction.


Masochism is the enjoyment of physical or emotional pain and humiliation. While the term is commonly associated with sexual masochism, it frequently does not have an underlying sexual element.

Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy is a type of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatment in which bodily tissues are manipulated and massaged in order to enhance an individual’s health and well-being. Finding a massage therapist can be beneficial for either relaxation or rehabilitation.

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana refers to the use of the marijuana plant, cannabis, to treat a disease or its symptoms. Though not yet recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine, marijuana has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of a number of medical conditions and has gained popularity in the United States as an alternative treatment over the past few decades. Medical marijuana can be smoked, vaporized, taken in pill form, or added to food for consumption.


Mediation is any process designed to help people resolve disputes, and can be informal—such as when a friend offers to talk to both members of a couple about a relationship problem—or highly structured, such as when divorcing couples attend binding mediation as part of a court action.


Meditation is a period of relaxed contemplation, usually to achieve some benefit or goal such as increased spiritual awareness, relaxation, or intellectual fulfillment. The term is a broad one, and can characterize a wide variety of practices ranging from deep breathing to inducing a state of altered consciousness. It often, though not always, requires a specific posture and breathing pattern.


Mellaril (thioridazine) is a typical antipsychotic medicine that is only available via prescription. This medication blocks the activity of dopamine and reduces unusually high levels of excitement in the brain. Due to the severe side effects which may be experienced when using this medication, it is recommended that you follow the exact instructions received from your doctor and pharmacist.


Memory is the process the brain uses to comprehend, store, and retrieve a wide variety of information ranging from autobiographical facts to complex procedures. It is typically broken down into three subcomponents: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.


Menopause is the gradual shifting in women from fertility to infertility. During menopause, a woman’s menstrual periods stop and she ultimately becomes unable to get pregnant or give birth.

Men’s Issues

Men’s Issues can refer to a number of concerns that may affect mental or physical health and well-being and lead men to seek therapy. Statistically, men do not typically seek therapy in high numbers, but when they do, they generally report the same types of concerns that might lead anyone to seek therapy, such as depression, stress, anxiety, and relationship concerns. Some mental health professionals may offer counseling services tailored to issues particularly relevant to men.

Mental Illness

Mental Illness and mental disorder are used to refer to a variety of mental health conditions that affect a person’s ability to function. Over time, the language society has used to refer to mental health concerns has changed dramatically. At times in history people with severe mental health issues were given labels like “lunatics” and “psychos” and confined to insane asylums, but today these terms are viewed as derogatory. The term “mental illness” may sometimes still carry a negative connotation, as it is frequently used colloquially in a disparaging way.


Microaggression is a subtle form of oppression experienced by minority groups as part of everyday life. The term was originally coined to characterize the racism experienced by people of color but has since been broadened to include the microaggression encountered by women and other minority groups.


Midbrain also called the mesencephalon—is the smallest portion of the brain and is located just above the brainstem.

Midlife Crisis

Midlife Crisis which can occur anytime between one’s thirties and sixties, is considered to be the consequence of realizing one’s own mortality. For some people, this realization sparks a crisis, and they may begin to feel hopeless, frustrated, or anxious, which may strain relationships with friends, family, and partners. Although popular stereotypes suggest that men are usually the ones who have midlife crises, midlife transitions can affect anyone. Therapy can help a person both learn to accept the aging process and possibly even embrace the gifts of maturity—wisdom, peace, and a sense of accomplishment, among others—and may help alleviate the desire to capture what is gone.

Migraine Headache

Migraine Headache is a severe and often debilitating type of headache that can cause symptoms such as sensory disturbances, cognitive problems, and nausea.

Military and Veterans Issues

Military and Veterans Issues Many military veterans experience a group of mental health conditions that tend to disproportionately affect military personnel. These conditions may include posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse, among other issues. Due to the traumatic environment in which active military combatants serve, veterans are at a significantly higher risk for developing these health concerns. These concerns can often be addressed and resolved with the support of a mental health professional.


Mind is an abstract concept used to characterize thoughts, feelings, subjective states, and self-awareness that presumably arise from the brain.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Mindfulness-Based Interventions therapeutic approaches grounded in mindfulness, promote the practice as an important part of good physical and mental health. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are some mindfulness-based interventions currently utilized in therapy. Designed to deliberately focus a person’s attention on the present experience in a way that is non-judgmental, mindfulness-based interventions, whether offered individually or in a group setting, may offer benefit to people seeking therapy for any number of concerns.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines cognitive behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies in order to help individuals better understand and manage their thoughts and emotions in order to achieve relief from feelings of distress. Though originally developed to address recurrent depression, MBCT may be beneficial to people seeking treatment for a wide range of mental health concerns.


Miscarriage refers to the loss of a fetus during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy loss may occur for any number of reasons, though in many cases, the cause cannot be determined. Though miscarriage is common, it is difficult and traumatizing for many, and those who experience this loss, whatever the stage of their pregnancy, often face lasting feelings of sadness, shame, and anxiety, among other concerns.


Misogyny refers to the outright hatred of women, and typically is expressed as sexual discrimination or objectification of women or girls. Because misogynistic behavior and attitudes are a widespread issue, many women internalize it, which may take the form of self-objectification and passive acceptance of traditional gender roles.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) were the first medications approved for the treatment of depression symptoms and are also used to treat several other medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and bulimia nervosa.


Monogamy is the practice of mating with only one mate at a time.


Mood is an emotional state that may last anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks. Mood affects the way people respond to stimuli. For example, a depressed mood creates a bias in favor of responding negatively, whereas a manic mood makes it more likely that a person will respond energetically. Moods are different from emotions in that they are not necessarily caused by anything. For example, a person may feel the emotion of happiness after getting married or receiving a gift, while a happy mood is a disposition to react happily toward external stimuli. Moods tend to last longer than emotions.

Mood Swings

Mood Swings or rapid changes in one’s emotional state, may occur as a reaction to circumstances or environment, as a result of a physical or mental health condition, or for no apparent reason. General moodiness is likely to be a part of everyone’s life, but in some circumstances, changes in mood may be severe and have an effect on health and daily function. When rapid or frequent mood shifts seem to occur without a cause or when they affect one’s behavior, well-being, or typical function, the support of a therapist or other mental health professional may be helpful.


Motivation is the driving force that determines much of our behavior. Our desires can motivate us to act in positive and negative ways. In psychotherapy, motivation is used to encourage people to make positive behavioral changes in their lives.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational Enhancement Therapy is a directive, person-centered approach to therapy that focuses on improving an individual’s motivation to change. Those who engage in self-destructive behaviors may often be ambivalent or have little motivation to change such behaviors, despite acknowledging the negative impact of said behaviors on health, family life, or social functioning. A therapist trained in MET can often help an individual to view behaviors more objectively, and through MET, an individual may become empowered to begin the process of change.

Movie Therapy

Movie Therapy also known as cinema therapy, involves the therapist-directed viewing of movies for therapeutic purposes. The combination of thematic elements—music, dialogue, lighting, and images—can often evoke deep feelings in viewers, both allowing for personal reflection and providing new perspective on external events. Movies might be used as part of individual therapy, group therapy, or family therapy, but movie therapy has been shown to be particularly beneficial as part of couples counseling.

Multicultural Concerns

Multicultural Concerns cover a broad range of topics and identities including race, religion, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and/or disability. Culture, or customs, beliefs, and products of various institutions or people at any particular time, can greatly influence how people interact and how we see one another–both positively and negatively. People from different cultural groups may be negatively stereotyped or heavily discriminated against because of their differences from a main culture. Historically, multicultural concerns have affected people of Native American, African-American, Italian, Irish, Jewish, and other cultural groups. Other racial and religious minority groups continue to be ostracized or persecuted in various parts of the world. School, work, and social situations can bring together people of various cultures, which may or may not result in friction between individuals. Regardless of one’s background or heritage, healthy social environments can depend on tolerance, compassion, and a willingness to learn about others’ differences. Ever-changing societies rely on refraining from negative stereotyping and discrimination.

Music Therapy

Music Therapy a type of expressive arts therapy that uses music to improve and maintain the physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals—involves a broad range of activities, such as listening to music, singing, and playing a musical instrument. This type of therapy is facilitated by a trained therapist and is often used in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and hospices.

Myers Briggs Personality Test

Myers Briggs Personality Test sometimes referred to as the Myers-Briggs® personality test, is a psychometric personality assessment that gives a four-letter code indicating personality type based upon a test-taker’s self reports. The assessment is trademarked by a company named CPP, but similar, albeit unofficial and unaffiliated, tests based on Jungian personality types are available online. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® is based on the notion that there are psychological preferences for how people develop their worldview and make decisions.


Narcissism is excessive self-involvement, vanity, egocentrism, and lack of regard for others. While most people display narcissistic behavior from time to time, when narcissism is a person’s primary method for coping with the world, he or she may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality. Narcissism is named for the Greek myth of Narcissus—a man so vain that he spent his life staring at his own reflection in a pool of water.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy is a method of therapy that separates a person from their problem. It encourages people to rely on their own skills to minimize problems that exist in their lives. Throughout life, personal experiences become personal stories. People give these stories meaning, and the stories help shape a person’s identity. Narrative therapy uses the power of these stories to help people discover their life purpose. This is often done by assigning that person the role of “narrator” in their own story.

Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture debate is the scientific, cultural, and philosophical debate about whether human culture, behavior, and personality are caused primarily by nature or nurture. Nature is often defined in this debate as genetic or hormone-based behaviors, while nurture is most commonly defined as environment and experience.


Needy is a term used to characterize a host of behaviors associated with a high need for physical or emotional attention. All people will experience neediness at some point in their lives–for example, in infancy–but when feelings of neediness are excessive or chronic they may interfere with healthy functioning and negatively impact one’s relationships with other people.


Negativity or a disagreeable, worrisome outlook on life, can occur in anyone, although persistent negative thoughts may be linked to an individual’s social well-being or mental or physical health.


Neglect describes mistreatment and relates specifically to a caregiver’s failure to meet the basic needs of the person they provide care for. Though most often associated with children, neglect can also refer to the mistreatment of adults, especially when it comes to elder care. People who have been through neglect may be more likely to experience attachment issues, feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Individuals who wish to overcome challenges associated with these issues may find it helpful to speak with a qualified mental health professional.


Neurofeedback a specific form of biofeedback, is designed to monitor, quantify, and train brain waves in real time in order to help individuals increase their ability to regulate brain function. The approach uses specialized equipment—usually an electroencephalograph (EEG)—to measure and record the brain’s electrical activity. Experts then work with this information to promote positive brain activity and/or or identify and address any brain areas that may be experiencing dysregulation. This approach to treatment, which is also referred to as neurobiofeedback, EEG biofeedback, brainwave biofeedback, and neurotherapy, is a non-invasive process, and both providers and people receiving treatment report it to be completely safe and pain-free.


Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections—as well as eliminate old ones—throughout life. In previous generations, people often believed that the neural connections of the brain were fixed by a certain age. We now know that the brain continues to develop and rewire itself throughout life and that experience can change the brain’s structure and functioning.


Neuropsychology combines elements of neurology and psychology. Neuropsychologists study the effects that psychological conditions have on the nervous system—including the brain and spine—and they may also research ways in which changing brain chemistry due to injury, hormones, or environmental factors can affect mental health.


Neurotransmitter is a chemical released by a neuron that either amplifies or inhibits the transmission of signals between neurons.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a psychological approach that involves analyzing strategies used by successful individuals and applying them to reach a personal goal. It relates thoughts, language, and patterns of behavior learned through experience to specific outcomes. Proponents of NLP assume all human action is positive. Therefore, if a plan fails or the unexpected happens, the experience is neither good nor bad—it simply presents more useful information.

Night Terror

Night Terror is a sleep disorder that causes people to wake with overwhelming feelings of terror and dread.


Nightmare is an upsetting or frightening dream. Nightmares are common, and some dream studies have shown that about 75% of dreams are negative. The content of nightmares varies greatly from person to person, and may include painful memories, realistic but fear-inducing scenarios, or fantastical scenes of monsters and ghosts. Nightmares are particularly common among children, who frequently dream of frightening but unrealistic scenarios. Among very young children, nightmares can be especially upsetting because they may not understand that the nightmares are not real or that the scenes in the dreams could not happen.

Nonbinary Gender

Nonbinary Gender refers to gender that is not specifically male or female. People with a nonbinary gender may feel as if they are both male and female, that they fall somewhere between male and female, or that their gender is something different altogether.

Nonmonogamous Relationships Polyamory

Nonmonogamous Relationships Polyamory, meaning “many loves,” can be defined as the practice of having or pursuing multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved. Falling into the category of ethical nonmonogamy, polyamory is becoming increasingly recognized as a relationship style, although monogamy is generally still the norm in many cultures. Many of those who pursue polyamorous relationships find them to be fulfilling, and when challenges arise, a therapist or other mental health professional may often be able to help committed partners navigate polyamory and other nonmonogamous relationship styles.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication is the act of conveying a thought, feeling, or idea through physical gestures, posture, and facial expressions. A study conducted at UCLA found a majority of communication to be nonverbal, although the study’s exact statistics—which showed only 7% of any message to be relayed through words, 38% through vocal elements such as tone, and 55% through nonverbal elements such as posture and gesture—are often disputed.


Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) (PPACA), commonly called “Obamacare” or simply the “Affordable Care Act” is a large piece of legislation designed to make health care more affordable and accessible in the United States. Certain provisions of the law began taking effect in 2010, and the law was enacted in full in 2014, making it possible for millions of Americans without health care to become insured.


Obesity the state of having excess adipose (fat) tissue, is a medical term that is the subject of some debate. Though obesity was officially classified as a disease by the American Medical Association in 2013, this classification has generated much controversy, both because a number of factors—genetics among them—can contribute to a person’s body type and size and because a common diagnostic tool, the body mass index (BMI), is known by many to be flawed.


Objectification involves viewing and/or treating a person as an object, devoid of thought or feeling. Often, objectification is targeted at women and reduces them to objects of sexual pleasure and gratification. This tendency has stirred much debate and reform over the years, mainly on the part of feminists and other civil rights advocates, although much work remains to be done in this area.


Obsession is a recurrent thought, impulse, or image that is pervasive and unwanted and causes distress. Individuals who experience obsessions typically feel as if they cannot control or stop these thought patterns or recurring images.

Obsessions and Compulsions / OCD Obsessions

Obsessions and Compulsions / OCD Obsessions are persistent, unwanted thoughts about a certain topic. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts which one feels compelled to perform. People diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) often act out compulsions in response to their obsessions. For example, a person may constantly worry their house will get robbed. To manage their anxiety, the person checks the locks on their doors a dozen times a night. This behavior cannot realistically prevent a robbery or break-in, but the person feels severe distress if they don’t follow through. If left untreated, OCD can last a lifetime. Symptoms may interfere with one’s work, relationships, and general well-being. A therapist can help people manage their symptoms and learn coping skills.

Online Therapy Distance

Online Therapy Distance therapy, unlike traditional therapy, does not have in-person interaction during treatment. It has evolved as the practice of therapy enters the digital age. Therapists may offer different forms of distance therapy to reach more people in many locations. Distance therapy is often conducted online or on the phone. Other terms for distance therapy include distance counseling, teletherapy, phone therapy, or internet therapy.


Ophidophobia is the fear of snakes. Ophidophobia is one of the most common phobias, with about a third of people experiencing the phobia to some degree. Some people with a snake phobia also have a more generalized phobia of reptiles known as herpetophobia. At its extreme ends, ophidophobia can be so strong that it interferes with people’s ability to go anywhere that snakes might be, such as pet stores, the woods, or to homes with pet snakes.

Oppositional and Defiant Behavior in Children and Teens (ODD)

Oppositional and Defiant Behavior in Children and Teens (ODD) is a condition that generally appears in childhood. It is characterized by defiant, hostile behavior that is not developmentally appropriate. Parents and caregivers who are concerned about a child’s disruptive behavior or defiance may wish to seek out a mental health professional, as therapy can often help treat ODD and may both prevent a child’s behavior from worsening and reduce the risk that other mental health issues will develop.


Oppression is the unfair or cruel use of power to control another person or group. The term is often used in a political context to refer to the oppression of minority groups such as women and racial minorities.


Optimism is the tendency to think positively. The expression, “The glass is half full” refers to optimistic thinking. Optimism is the opposite of pessimism.

Organizational Psychology

Organizational Psychology also called industrial psychology, employment psychology, occupational psychology, and business psychology—is the field of psychology dedicated to studying people’s behaviors within organizations, particularly in the workplace.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a fixation on the consumption of healthy foods and the avoidance of those perceived to be unhealthy. Those who have this condition may experience physical and emotional health issues, social isolation, and other issues as a result of their desire to maintain a pure diet.


Oxytocin a chemical messenger within the body, functions as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone in mammals. It plays an active role in social bonding, social memory, love and intimacy, sexual reproduction, and maternal functions before, during, and after childbirth.

Palliative Care

Palliative Care is medical care that focuses on alleviating the discomforts of a disease or injury.

Panic / Panic Attacks

Panic / Panic Attacks is the most extreme form of anxiety. A person experiencing panic may feel terror, confusion, or behave irrationally, often as a result of a perceived threat, for example, a natural disaster or the possibility of a plane crashing. Panic can sometimes result in panic attacks, and panic disorder is a condition characterized by the fear of experiencing a panic attack, especially in a public place. Those who experience frequent panic attacks or fear the onset of an attack may wish to speak to a therapist.


Pansexuality is a sexual orientation describing a romantic attraction toward people of any and all genders, including but not limited to those who are intersex, transgender, or genderqueer. Individuals who identify as pansexual may describe themselves as being interested in the person more than the person’s gender. There are similarities between bisexuality and pansexuality, and the two terms may overlap or not, depending on how an individual identifies.


Paranoia can be defined as an unfounded belief or fear that something bad is going to happen. Often, an individual experiencing paranoia will be suspicious of another person or group, believing that other person or group will be responsible for the negative occurrence. A sense of threat and the exaggerated nature of an individual’s beliefs are what set paranoia apart from typical fear and worry. When paranoia impairs functioning or leads an individual to develop other conditions, such as anxiety, a mental health professional can provide help and support.


Paraphilia describes a sexual interest in something that is not typically considered sexually arousing. Some paraphilias focus on activities (such as spanking, binding, and whipping) while others focus on a specific erotic target (shoes, clothing, or a specific group of people). A paraphilia does not in itself indicate either a mental health condition or any criminal activity.


Paraphrenia is a form of atypical psychosis with an onset that is much later in life than other psychotic disorders.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

Parasympathetic Nervous System is part of the autonomic nervous system—the division of the nervous system that controls largely automatic processes such as digestion, respiration, and heart rate. It acts in concert with the sympathetic nervous system and conserves the body’s energy by bringing bodily functions back to homeostasis, particularly after the fight or flight response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system.

Parent Work

Parent Work is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the parent and their relation to the child. Different from individual adult psychotherapy, this type of therapy provides the parent with the opportunity to explore various themes and determine the effects each has on his or her parenting. By being able to recognize particular “stories,” a parent will develop the skills to make the necessary changes to effectually rewrite the story of their parenting. This form of thereapy was developed by Kelly Novick and Jack Novick.


Parenting can be satisfying and fulfilling. But it can also be difficult and time-consuming. Parents must tend to an infant or child’s daily needs. They are also responsible for helping each of their children develop life skills. These skills include daily living skills, social skills, and appropriate behaviors. Parents with more than one child must account for the personalities of each, as well. New parents, overwhelmed parents, and parents facing mental health conditions may benefit from the support of a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can help parents through difficult situations or behavioral concerns.

Passive Aggression

Passive Aggression Named for the fact that it contains both passive and aggressive behavior, passive aggression is communication or behavior that seems neutral or even charitable but that has a subtle underpinning of aggression. When people display passive aggressive behavior they are often attempting to criticize, stop, or alter the behavior of another person without making either a direct request or an aggressive gesture. Some characteristic elements of passive aggression include: Ambiguity in speech, Forgetfulness and procrastination, Intentionally cryptic or indirect speech, Sulking, Portraying oneself as a victim or martyr, Insisting that there is not a problem when there obviously is one.

Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral Counseling a clinical practice that integrates both psychological and theological concepts into its framework, is not unlike other modes of therapy when it comes to the therapeutic process. What sets it apart is the way faith, spirituality, and theology are incorporated into the model. Pastoral counselors believe this incorporation of spiritual exploration and support can foster wholeness, healing, and growth in those who are seeking help. Beyond providing psychotherapy, pastoral counselors utilize resources such as prayer, scripture study, and participation in the congregation community to help guide people on their journey toward transcendence, transformation, and greater connection to others.

Pathological Lying Compulsive

Pathological Lying Compulsive lying describes a condition in which a person tells falsehoods out of habit, sometimes for no reason at all. It is also known as pathological lying, mythomania, and habitual lying. A German physician named Dr. Delbruck first described the condition in 1891. Five of his patients had a habit of telling excessively large lies. He named their behavior pseudologia phantastica (spelled pseudologia fantastica in American English).


Pathologizing is the practice of seeing a symptom as indication of a disease or disorder. In mental health, the term is often used to indicate over-diagnosis or the refusal to accept certain behavior as normal.


Patience is the state of tolerating frustrating or difficult circumstances, and is often conceived of as a personality trait. The quality of patience enables people to frequently bear frustration or difficulties.


Pedophilia is the sexual attraction to prepubescent children by adults over the age of 16.

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure occurs when a peer group exerts direct or indirect pressure to conform. Peer pressure can bring about changes in behavior, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. While peer pressure is most frequently used to describe the influence of friends on children and teenagers, all people can be subject to peer pressure.


Perfectionism may be seen as a positive trait that increases one’s chances of success. But it can lead to self-defeating thoughts or behaviors that make it harder to achieve one’s goals. The trait may also cause conditions like stress or anxiety to develop. Those who strive for perfection out of feelings of inadequacy or failure may find speaking to a therapist to be helpful. This can be one step toward resolving excessive self-criticism.

Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety is fear about one’s ability to perform a specific task. People experiencing performance anxiety may worry about failing a task before it has even begun. They might believe failure will result in humiliation or rejection. While performance anxiety can occur with any task. Anxiety around a public presentation or show is often called stage fright. A person may also experience performance anxiety regarding sex. Performance anxiety can vary between individuals. Many people experience a mild nervousness before giving a speech or doing a recital. But for some individuals, the thought of performing can cause panic attacks. People who experience severe performance anxiety may wish to get help from a therapist.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder also known as dysthymia, is the state of having a mild to moderate chronic depressed mood. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the symptoms of dysthymia are less severe than those of major depression, but the condition, being chronic, also tends to last longer than a major depressive episode.

Person-Centered Therapy

Person-Centered Therapy (Rogerian Therapy) was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940s. This type of therapy diverged from the traditional model of the therapist as expert and moved instead toward a nondirective, empathic approach that empowers and motivates the client in the therapeutic process. The therapy is based on Rogers’s belief that every human being strives for and has the capacity to fulfill his or her own potential. Person-centered therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy, has had a tremendous impact on the field of psychotherapy and many other disciplines.


Personality A person’s personality is a set of traits—including mood, emotions, and behavioral dispositions or tendencies—that are relatively stable across time. Personality is more consistent than either mood or emotion, but personality can affect both.

Personality Disorders

Personality Disorders is a long-standing pattern of maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood. Often described by those who experience them as rigid, pervasive, and distressing, this type of emotional disturbance is likely to cause significant impairment in a person’s life when left untreated. The behavior and thinking patterns that characterize personality disorders typically fall outside cultural norms. Some believe personality disorders are not treatable, and an abundance of misunderstanding about this type of mental health concern only helps increase the stigma surrounding it. With the help of a compassionate, qualified therapist or counselor, and the desire of the person in therapy to seek help and participate in treatment, people can often learn to manage their emotions, communication, relational patterns, and other characteristics of the particular issue affecting them.


Persuasion is an attempt to change someone’s beliefs, opinions, or behavior without using physical force.


Pessimism can be described as a tendency to think negatively. A person who has pessimistic tendencies may frequently find and focus on the negative aspects of a situation rather than concentrating on the positive ones. Optimism is considered to be the opposite of pessimism.


Phobias can be described as an intense fear—which may be considered irrational—of a particular place, situation, animal, or object. This will typically be avoided by the person experiencing the phobia, and when it must be endured, it generally provokes significant fear and/or anxiety. Certain phobias may be more common than others, such as arachnophobia, ophidiophobia, acrophobia, and agoraphobia (the fear of spiders, snakes, heights, and open or crowded spaces, respectively), while some phobias may be much rarer. When a phobia is so severe that it interferes with the ability to function, a therapist or other mental health professional may be able to help the person affected address and explore ways to overcome fear, anxiety, and other effects of the phobia.

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse may bring immediate harm to someone, but its effects can also be long-lasting. A person who has experienced physical abuse, especially in childhood, may be more likely to experience emotional and psychological difficulties later in life. Those who have survived domestic violence, an abusive relationship, or other abuse in adulthood may also experience distress related to the effects of abuse long after it has stopped. The support of a therapist or other mental health professional can often help an individual recover from these effects.

Play Therapy

Play Therapy is a form of therapy primarily geared toward children. In this form of therapy, a therapist encourages a child to explore life events that may have an effect on current circumstances, in a manner and pace of the child’s choosing, primarily through play but also through language. Play therapy, can help individuals communicate, explore repressed thoughts and emotions, address unresolved trauma, and experience personal growth and is widely viewed as an important, effective, and developmentally appropriate mental health treatment.

Pleasure Principle

Pleasure Principle is a term originally used by Sigmund Freud to characterize the tendency of people to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Freud argued that people will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid even momentary pain, particularly at times of psychological weakness or vulnerability.

Poetry Therapy

Poetry Therapy a form of expressive arts therapy, involves the therapeutic use of poems, narratives, and other spoken or written media to promote well-being and healing. Therapists may use existing literature as part of treatment or encourage those in therapy to produce their own literary works to express deep-seated emotions. In either case, they offer a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere in which people in therapy are able to explore their written expressions and associated emotional responses. Though any mental health professional might incorporate elements of poetry therapy into their therapeutic practice, the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy has developed a credentialing program for those individuals who wish to become certified or registered poetry therapists.


Polyamory meaning “many loves,” can be defined as the practice of having or pursuing multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved. Falling into the category of ethical nonmonogamy, polyamory is becoming increasingly recognized as a relationship style, although monogamy is generally still the norm in many cultures. Many of those who pursue polyamorous relationships find them to be fulfilling, and when challenges arise, a therapist or other mental health professional may often be able to help committed partners navigate polyamory and other nonmonogamous relationship styles.


Polyandry is a form of polygamy—multiple marriage—in which a woman marries more than one man.


Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple spouses—either in religious, cultural, or legal ceremonies.


Pornography visual material that depicts naked people and/or sexual acts, can be defined in different ways, but it is generally agreed that pornography is designed to cause sexual excitement. Although it is widely available, it remains controversial: many people consider it inappropriate and obscene, and some believe it to be addictive or otherwise harmful.

Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is a relatively new form of psychology. It emphasizes the positive influences in a person’s life. These might include character strengths, optimistic emotions, and constructive institutions. This theory is based on the belief that happiness is derived from both emotional and mental factors. Positive psychology aims to help people identify happiness from moment to moment. It emphasizes this over only appreciating happy moments when looking back on them. People seeking therapy who desire to experience a greater sense of joy and liberation from their current circumstances may find this approach helpful. Many find it easier to focus on positive emotions they experience in the present after treatment has ended.

Positive Psychotherapy

Positive Psychotherapy influenced by the humanistic, psychodynamic, and transcultural approaches to treatment, is founded on the premise that human nature is intrinsically good. Positive, which stems from the Latin “positum,” meaning factual or given, was used by developer Nossrat Peseschkian to emphasize both that mental health issues are not the only things “factual” about a person seeking help and that each individual possesses the qualities necessary to constructively deal with conflict.

Possibility Therapy

Possibility Therapy encourages people in therapy to discover solutions to their challenges rather than dwelling on the causes of their problems. The focus is often on future opportunities rather than past pains. This approach draws from the humanistic therapy of Carl Rogers. Possibility therapy centers around the individual. The person in therapy often directs the session and sets the pace.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression affects women after childbirth, typically within the first year. Mild and major depression is estimated to affect more than 19% of women in the first few months after childbirth. Some women experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy, a condition known as antenatal depression. Symptoms of depression often go unrecognized, though, because women experience dramatic shifts in hormones during pregnancy and postpartum. Most new moms are likely to show signs of fatigue, for example, along with changes in appetite and sleep patterns, as they adjust to caring for a new baby. The full set of depressive conditions and mood issues that can occur around a pregnancy are collectively known as perinatal depression or perinatal mood disorders.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum Psychosis is a rare but serious condition characterized by the presence of psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, in a person who has recently given birth. Because postpartum psychosis can lead to dangerous thoughts and behaviors, it warrants immediate medical attention.

Posttraumatic Growth

Posttraumatic Growth The healing journey after a traumatic event such as abuse, domestic violence, military combat, loss, or other types of psychological upheaval will likely look different for each person. The progress toward greater mental health and emotional well-being, a period during which a person might be participating in psychotherapy and other types of treatment, can be called posttraumatic growth. Psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD developed the theory of posttraumatic growth in the 1990s. Though the idea of recovering from the effects of trauma was not new, the introduction of posttraumatic growth grew as a systematic study in psychology, social work, science, and counseling because of Tedeschi’s and Calhoun’s influence. Today, it is a concept many therapists use to help inspire people in therapy toward positive change, assess the progress of people healing from trauma, and better understand the transformation process as someone recovers.

Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD)

Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD) is a common reaction to traumatic or stressful events. Studies indicate 3.5% of the United States (U.S.) population will experience PTSD in any given year. Almost 37% of these cases can be classified as “severe.” Someone with PTSD may relive a traumatic experience through memories and dreams. They may avoid reminders of the trauma to prevent emotional distress. PTSD can also involve memory issues and a heightened reactivity to one’s surroundings. PTSD takes many forms. It may happen due to a natural disaster or a personal tragedy. It may arise immediately after an experience or years later. People of any gender, ethnicity, and background can experience it. Posttraumatic stress is a treatable condition. People with PTSD may wish to contact a therapist. Therapy can help people process distressing emotions and memories. Understanding one’s symptoms is often the first step to reducing them.


Power or a person’s ability to exert influence, can be seen throughout life in a variety of situations, such as the workplace, in family life, or with social issues. If abused, power has the capacity to harm, but power is not inherently negative. It often can be used to facilitate growth and self-actualization. When power is exerted inappropriately over an individual, or when one finds it difficult to assert power, a therapist or other mental health professional may often provide assistance in working through these issues.

Pragmatic / Experiential Therapy for Couples (PET-C)

Pragmatic / Experiential Therapy for Couples (PET-C), a form of couples counseling, aims to help intimate partners resolve relationship issues, reduce distress, develop emotional intelligence, and improve physical and emotional connections. This approach uses neurobiology findings and research conducted on intimate relationships to help partners identify areas that may need change and develop methods to foster this change. Those seeking therapy who are interested in a couples counseling modality that is grounded in available scientific evidence about intimacy and relationships may find PET-C a beneficial approach, especially if they have not found other types of couples counseling helpful.

Preconscious Sigmund Freud

Preconscious Sigmund Freud developed the concept of the preconscious to characterize ideas, memories, and beliefs that are unconscious at a particular moment, but are not repressed. These thoughts can be accessed through careful examination of a person’s psyche, most often through psychotherapy. In contemporary psychology, preconscious thoughts are treated as ideas that are readily accessible but that are not being actively thought about. These ideas are part of normal long-term memory. For example, the name of your third grade teacher is likely part of your preconscious memory, but reading this sentence might cause you to recall the name of that teacher.

Prefrontal Cortex

Prefrontal Cortex is a part of the brain located at the front of the frontal lobe. It is implicated in a variety of complex behaviors, including planning, and greatly contributes to personality development.

Pregnancy and Childbirth

Pregnancy and Childbirth is often regarded with excitement, but no matter how eagerly a child’s birth is anticipated, stress and other forms of emotional distress are still likely to occur during the challenging period of pregnancy. Pregnancy issues may be mild or serious, but they can affect the health of the mother or child, put strain on a romantic partnership, and lead to life changes, both predicted and unpredictable. When concerns that arise during pregnancy or after birth cause distress or otherwise affect one’s mental health, the support of a therapist or other mental health professional may be helpful.

Prejudice / Discrimination

Prejudice / Discrimination a prejudgment or assumption made about someone without the adequate knowledge to do so with guaranteed accuracy, can negatively impact emotional well-being and one’s sense of self. Discrimination, or actions or behaviors taken against individuals as a result of prejudiced beliefs, can create feelings of shame, anger, and sadness in victims. Prejudice and discrimination may have far-reaching effects. People who believe that they are being judged negatively or who are treated as inferior may have difficulty performing to the best of their ability, especially if they experience prejudice or discrimination on an ongoing basis due to an intrinsic characteristic of who they are as a person. The discriminatory actions of others may also lead those affected by these assumptions and behaviors to develop physical or mental health problems as a result. The support of a mental health professional may be helpful when this is the case.

Premarital Counseling

Premarital Counseling a specialized type of therapy usually provided by marriage and family therapists, is believed to offer benefit to all couples who are considering a long-term commitment such as marriage. Typically, the goal of premarital counseling is to identify and address any potential areas of conflict in a relationship early on, before those issues become serious concerns, and teach partners effective strategies for discussing and resolving conflict. Partners seeking counseling before marriage may also find that premarital counseling can help them better understand their expectations about marriage and address any significant differences in a safe and neutral environment.

Premature Ejaculation

Premature Ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates during sexual activities before he wants to.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) describes the large and varied collection of physical and psychological symptoms that typically begin between 7 and 10 days before the beginning of the menstrual period and subside shortly after the menstrual period begins.

Presenting Problem

Presenting Problem is the initial symptom for which a person seeks help from a therapist, doctor, psychiatrist, or other provider.

Pressured Speech

Pressured Speech is speech at an accelerated or frenetic pace that conveys urgency seemingly inappropriate to the situation. It is often difficult for listeners to interrupt pressured speech, and the speech may be too rapid to understand. Pressured speech may be incoherent. Pressured speech occurs on a continuum and may range from extremely fast talking to completely incoherent, garbled speech.


Priming is a cognitive process that occurs when exposure to one stimulus alters a person or animal’s reaction to a later stimulus.

Private Practice

Private Practice is a method of performing mental health, medical, and other services. Private practitioners have their own offices and typically set their own schedules.


Privilege in terms of social equality, describes the state of a person or group of people being granted automatic benefits simply due to status as a member of a certain group. Peggy McIntosh, anti-racism activist and feminist, said, “Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do.”


Procrastination is the tendency to avoid unpleasant or stressful tasks—that are often very important—and replace them with less important, less stressful tasks. A person who avoids calling a debt collector or who posts on social networking sites instead of writing a paper is engaging in procrastination.


Projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person. For example, a husband who has a hostile nature might attribute this hostility to his wife and say she has an anger management problem. In some cases projection can result in false accusations. For example, someone with adulterous feelings might accuse their partner of infidelity.

Prosocial Behavior

Prosocial Behavior is behavior that deliberately benefits another, rather than helping another person by accident or proxy.


Prozac (fluoxetine) is part of a group of relatively newer antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This prescription medication effectively increases the amount of serotonin—a neurotransmitter related to mood—in the body. Newer antidepressant medications like Prozac were developed to produce fewer side effects than older antidepressant medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclics, and tetracyclics.


Psyche refers to all of the elements of the human mind, both conscious and unconscious. In colloquial usage, the term sometimes refers to a person’s emotional life. For example, a person might say that trauma has damaged a person’s psyche.

Psyched Out

Psyched Out is a slang term used to refer to altered psychological states involving increased emotional and psychological agitation.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) is a nurse who can act as a primary mental health care provider and who fills many–but not all–of the functions of a doctor. PNPs have strong medical backgrounds and experience in psychiatric settings.


Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who studies, treats, and diagnoses mental health conditions. As with most parts of human functioning, the realm of mental health has its own professional medical sector. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who may prescribe psychiatric medications, although some mental health professionals may prescribe medication under the direction of a psychiatrist. Family physicians and other general practice medical providers are authorized to prescribe psychiatric drugs, though they may not have the necessary training to diagnose all mental health conditions.


Psychiatry is the field of medicine dedicated to the study and treatment of mental health conditions. A person trained and credentialed to practice this type of medicine is called a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists may treat mental health conditions that interfere with daily functioning such as depression and anxiety, and may also treat mental health conditions caused by physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury. Psychiatrists may practice in a number of specialty fields, including addiction psychiatry, community psychiatry, child psychiatry and social psychiatry. Many psychiatrists partner with therapists and other mental health professionals to provide both talk therapy and medication to their clients.

Psychoanalysis / Modern Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis / Modern Psychoanalysis was developed in the late nineteenth century both as a theory and a form of therapy. Based on the premise that unconscious conflicts form the root of psychological issues, psychoanalysis suggests symptoms can be reduced by bringing these conflicts into conscious awareness. The theory of psychoanalysis has been criticized and revised numerous times, but it remains one of the most influential approaches in the field of psychology.


Psychobabble is speech that relies heavily on psychological jargon and expressions. It is often used by individuals who have little to no training in psychology. The word is derived from a combination of the words “psychology,” or the study of the mind and behavior, and “babble,” which is to utter meaningless or unintelligible sounds. Even when used correctly, psychobabble is often difficult to understand and can obfuscate the meaning of even relatively simple ideas.


Psychodrama an experiential form of therapy, allows those in treatment to explore issues through action methods (dramatic actions). This approach incorporates role playing and group dynamics to help people gain greater perspective on emotional concerns, conflicts, or other areas of difficulty in a safe, trusted environment. People seeking therapy may find psychodrama to be beneficial for the development of emotional well-being as well as cognitive and behavioral skills.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic Therapy is the psychological interpretation of mental and emotional processes. Rooted in traditional psychoanalysis, it draws from object relations, ego psychology, and self psychology. It was developed as a simpler, less-lengthy alternative to psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic therapy aims to address the foundation and formation of psychological processes. In this way, it seeks to reduce symptoms and improve people’s lives.


Psychoeducation refers to the process of providing education and information to those seeking or receiving mental health services, such as people diagnosed with mental health conditions (or life-threatening/terminal illnesses) and their family members. Though the term has been in use for most of the 20th century, it did not gain traction until movements addressing the stigmatization of mental health concerns and working to increase mental health awareness began in earnest.


Psycholinguistics is the field of psychology dedicated to the study of language. The term was originally coined at a 1953 academic conference to create an umbrella term for linguistic psychological studies.


Psychologist is a person who studies human behavior, emotion, and mental states. While anyone with a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field may be referred to as a psychologist, the term is commonly associated with psychologists who provide therapy and clinical assessments.


Psychology is the field of science dedicated to understanding human motivations, behavior, and the mind. It encompasses a wide variety of subfields, and psychologists may engage in a number of scientific practices.


Psychopathy is characterized by symptoms that affect mood, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Specifically, those with psychopathy typically demonstrate impulsive behavior, a narcissistic or self-centered perspective, chronic violations of legal or social rules, and a lack of empathy and guilt.


Psychopharmacology is the field of psychology and psychiatry dedicated to the study of drugs’ effects on mood and behavior. Of particular interest in this field is the study of the effectiveness, dosing, and indications for psychoactive drugs.

Psychosexual Development

Psychosexual Development is the central component of Freudian psychoanalytic theory. For Freud, the development of the personality was synonymous with the development of drives—particularly sexual ones.


Psychosis is an abnormal psychological state that involves disruptions in fundamental aspects of brain functioning such as cognition, perception, processing, and emotion. Historically, psychosis was used to refer to any mental health condition that interfered with normal functioning. In contemporary psychology, however, it is most commonly used to describe an episode that causes someone to disconnect in some way from reality. Individuals experiencing symptoms of psychosis may find it helpful to seek treatment from a mental health professional.


Psychosurgery is neurological surgery designed to treat psychological symptoms.

Psychotherapy Individual

Psychotherapy Individual therapy is a joint process between a therapist and a person in therapy. Common goals of therapy can be to inspire change or improve quality of life. People may seek therapy for help with issues that are hard to face alone. Individual therapy is also called therapy, psychotherapy, psychosocial therapy, talk therapy, and counseling. Therapy can help people overcome obstacles to their well-being. It can increase positive feelings, such as compassion and self-esteem. People in therapy can learn skills for handling difficult situations, making healthy decisions, and reaching goals. Many find they enjoy the therapeutic journey of becoming more self-aware. Some people even go to ongoing therapy for self-growth.


PsyD is a doctoral degree in psychology that functions as a professional degree rather than an academic one.


Purging is the process of using laxatives, forced vomiting, and other extraordinary measures to prevent the body from absorbing food, often in an attempt to avoid gaining weight.

Quality of Life

Quality of Life is a measure of emotional, financial, physical, and political well-being. It can be used to characterize the well-being of entire societies or of individuals.


Queer meaning strange or deviant, has frequently been used as a pejorative term for non-heterosexual people including lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or questioning people. The gay and queer rights movements have altered the understanding of the term queer, and some members of the non-heterosexual community have reclaimed the term as a positive descriptor.

Random Act of Kindness

Random Act of Kindness is an unexpected act of charity or helpfulness and is often done for a stranger.

Random Sample

Random Sample is a subset of a larger group. Researchers use random sampling techniques to ensure that each member of the larger group has an equal likelihood of inclusion in the smaller study group.

Rape Sexual

Rape Sexual abuse is any form of sexual violence, including rape, child molestation, incest, and similar forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Most sexual abuse experts agree sexual abuse is never only about sex. Instead, it is often an attempt to gain power over others. Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and even save lives. A person can report sexual assault by calling local police. Survivors may also wish to get a physical exam at a hospital. Therapy can also be helpful for those who experienced sexual abuse in the past. Some therapists specialize in addressing the trauma of sexual assault. Long-term assistance may be beneficial to some survivors of sexual abuse.

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), developed by Albert Ellis in 1955 and originally called rational therapy, laid the foundation for what is now known as cognitive behavioral therapy. REBT is built on the idea that how we feel is largely influenced by how we think. As is implied by the name, this form of therapy encourages the development of rational thinking to facilitate healthy emotional expression and behavior.


Rationalization is an attempt to logically justify immoral, deviant, or generally unacceptable behavior. In Freud’s classic psychoanalytic theory, rationalization is a defense mechanism, an unconscious attempt to avoid addressing the underlying reasons for a behavior. Rationalizing an event may help individuals maintain self-respect or avoid guilt over something they have done wrong. In many cases, rationalization is not harmful, but continuous self-deception, when a person consistently makes excuses for destructive behavior, can become dangerous.

Reality Testing

Reality Testing is a concept in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory in which the ego recognizes the difference between the external and internal world. In other words, it is the ability to see a situation for what it really is, rather than what one hopes or fears it might be.

Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy developed by Dr. William Glasser in 1965, is founded on the principles of choice theory and has developed into a widely recognized form of therapy. Parents as well as many professionals in the fields of education, mental health, and social services have embraced the fundamentals of this therapy, which suggests that all human issues occur when one or more of five basic psychological needs are not met and that an individual can only control their own behavior. Glasser believed that when someone chooses to change their own behavior rather than attempting to change someone else’s, they will be more successful at attaining their own goals and desires.

Reasoning and Rehabilitation

Reasoning and Rehabilitation is a criminal rehabilitation program used with offenders in Canada, the United Kingdom, and some parts of the United States. It aims to reduce recidivism by addressing and attempting to treat the issues that led to an individual committing a criminal act.


Recidivism occurs when someone repeats criminal behavior even after being incarcerated, fined, or experiencing some other serious consequence within the criminal justice system.

Redecision Therapy

Redecision Therapy is grounded in the assumption that adults make decisions based on messages absorbed in childhood from parents and caretakers. These messages, along with past decisions, inform current decision-making processes, and at times they can have negative effects. In redecision therapy, individuals can examine these messages and any past negative decisions in order to identify what is not working. With the help of a therapist, people in therapy may be able to adopt new meanings and extinguish self-defeating decision-making patterns through the use of reflective exploration and experiential techniques.


Regression is the act of returning to an earlier stage of behavioral or physical development. A child who suddenly will not sleep by his or herself and a person with Alzheimer’s who begins exhibiting childlike behavior both may be regressing. Regression can be symptomatic of an illness or a normal part of development. Stress can also cause temporary periods of regression, particularly in children. In Freudian psychology, regression is the act of returning to an earlier stage of psychosexual development as a result of overwhelming anxiety or stress.

Regression Therapy

Regression Therapy is an approach to treatment that focuses on resolving significant past events believed to be interfering with a person’s present mental and emotional wellness. Therapists who practice this approach believe people seeking treatment for phobias, depression, intimacy issues, and a range of other concerns can see improvement in their state of mind by revisiting and reliving the early experiences that influenced the development of these issues. However, the approach is somewhat controversial, due to limited research supporting the method and the potential for false memories.


Regret is a negative emotion that occurs when a person believes his or her past actions or behaviors, if changed, may have achieved a better outcome. Regret is often closely associated with feelings of guilt and shame. We often express the emotion of regret to others in the form of an apology.


Rehab short for rehabilitation, can denote any process designed to help a person recover from an illness. For example, rehab may include physical therapy, group counseling, or drug treatment. However, the term “rehab” is most commonly used to refer to residential drug rehabilitation.


Rejection can be defined as the act of pushing someone or something away. One may experience rejection from one’s family of origin, a friend, or a romantic partner, and the resulting emotions can often be painful. Rejection might be experienced on a large scale or in small ways in everyday life. While rejection is typically a part of life, some types of rejection may be more difficult to cope with than others. A therapist or other mental health professional may often be able to help an individual work through and cope with instances of rejection and the distress that can result.


Relapse occurs when a previous medical or mental health issue returns.

Relational Life Therapy

Relational Life Therapy is a form of couples counseling that aims to help partners resolve conflicts, develop personal accountability, improve communication, and foster intimacy within their relationship. People seeking help from a therapist or counselor in order to improve their relationships, especially when a relationship has been affected by societal assumptions about the roles of intimate partners, may find relational life therapy a helpful approach.

Relational Psychotherapy

Relational Psychotherapy an approach that can help individuals recognize the role relationships play in the shaping of daily experiences, attempts to help people understand patterns appearing in the thoughts and feelings they have toward themselves. Based on the idea that strong and fulfilling relationships with other individuals can help people maintain emotional well-being, this model may be beneficial to people seeking therapy for any number of reasons, but in particular to address long-term emotional distress, especially when distress occurs as a result of relational concerns.

Relationship Enhancement Therapy

Relationship Enhancement Therapy uses an educational approach to teach couples and families skills to better communicate feelings to each other and work together to develop coping strategies. This brief approach to treatment is designed to help couples, individually or in groups, both learn these practical skills and develop the ability to maintain them once therapy has concluded. People of all ages who are seeking therapy and wish to address relationship concerns or family concerns may find this approach to be helpful.

Relationships and Marriage

Relationships and Marriage require work and are bound to face challenges large and small. Simple, everyday stressors can strain an intimate relationship, and major sources of stress may threaten the stability of the relationship. As long as each partner is willing to address the issue at hand and participate in developing a solution, most relationship problems are manageable, but when challenges are left unaddressed, tension mounts, poor habits develop, and the health and longevity of the relationship are in jeopardy.


Relaxation is a state of low tension in the mind and body. People frequently use specific procedures, called relaxation techniques, to become more relaxed.

Religious Issues

Religious Issues or an organized system of beliefs that typically relates to one’s faith and trust in a higher power, is a defining characteristic of the way many people live and make decisions. A person may base a number of life choices on religious views, but when aspects of a person’s life conflict with religious ideals, it may be difficult to reconcile the two, and doubt and distress may result. When a person is challenged by religious beliefs, finds that they lead to uncharacteristic actions, or experiences mental distress as a result of internal doubt or external persecution, the support of a therapist or other mental health professional may be recommended.

Repression Sigmund Freud

Repression Sigmund Freud originally developed the concept of repression as part of his psychoanalytic theory. Repression occurs when a thought, memory, or feeling is too painful for an individual, so the person unconsciously pushes the information out of consciousness and becomes unaware of its existence. The repressed thought may still affect behavior, but the person who repressed the thought is completely unaware of its existence or effect. Repression can sometimes be mistaken for suppression. Unlike repression, suppression is when a person consciously forces unwanted thoughts, memories, or feelings out of conscious awareness.


Resentment or anger and indignation experienced as a result of unfair treatment, is a relatively common emotion. Those experiencing resentment may have feelings of annoyance and shame and might often also harbor a desire for revenge. A person may become resentful as a result of a slight injustice or a grave one, perhaps harboring the same bitterness and anger over a small matter as they would over a more serious issue.

Residential Treatment and Hospitalization

Residential Treatment and Hospitalization allows individuals to experience 24-hour care while pursuing therapy to confront the challenges of conditions related to substance abuse, addiction, and eating disorders. At residential treatment centers, individuals are able to access a higher level of care than can be provided by individual, family, or group therapy alone. Residential treatment centers are available for both youth and adults, and stays can range in length from 28 days to six months and beyond. To learn more about different types of rehab programs, what life is like in rehab, or the medical or financial aspects of rehab, see Frequently Asked Questions About Rehab. Retreat-based therapy offers individuals, couples, and families the opportunity to spend a short period of time on an intensive therapeutic retreat where they can focus on addressing any concerns negatively impacting their well-being. The popularity and success of this type of therapy, as well as that of residential treatment, lies at least partially in the benefit many people obtain from stepping away from their everyday surroundings and immersing themselves in therapeutic work at a dedicated facility.


Resilience can be described as one’s ability to overcome adverse events. These events might include traumatic experiences, loss, serious health problems, and other types of stress that significantly impact health and well-being. Commonly demonstrated after trauma or distress, resiliency is generally considered to be an ordinary trait, able to be cultivated and developed by anyone.


Sadness is a transient emotional state that is generally associated with negative moods and unhappy feelings.


Sanity a term used more colloquially than otherwise in recent years, can be understood to refer to the state of having a sound, rational mind and being capable of good judgment. This term is outdated in the field of mental health and is no longer in general use, but it is still used in a legal context.


Scapegoat is a person, group, or entity who is targeted for blame for something he or she was not responsible for.


Schizophrenia is characterized by a disintegration of thinking processes and emotional responsiveness. It is most commonly manifested through delusions, auditory hallucinations, disorganized thinking and speech, and paranoid delusions and may affect social or occupational functioning depending on symptoms and severity. Finding a therapist or counselor to work with can help those affected with schizophrenia to increase social skills, develop higher self-esteem, and gain insight to the mental health issues accompanying the condition.

School and Academic Concerns

School and Academic Concerns which might include issues such as learning difficulties or disabilities, underachievement, lack of attention from teachers, and bullying, affect a number of students throughout their academic careers, from elementary school to college. Academic concerns may influence a student’s performance in the classroom negatively, but they are also likely to have a significant effect on other areas of life, often placing undue stress on a child and interfering with home, work, and play dimensions. A student who experiences some type of academic concern may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional.

School Counseling

School Counseling takes place in public and private school settings in grades K-12. Counseling is designed to facilitate student achievement, improve student behavior and attendance, and help students develop socially. Mental health professionals with master’s degrees or beyond, school counselors both provide counseling and serve an educational role in and around schools. Many schools have full-time counselors on staff in order to support students who are experiencing personal or academic challenges, help students choose careers and plan for college, and intervene when students face behavioral, physical, or mental health challenges.

Scientific Method

Scientific Method is a set of formulaic guidelines for gathering scientific data, reaching conclusions, and establishing theories. Because mental health significantly affects people’s lives, scientifically tested methods are particularly important. Pseudoscientific ideas and methods are those that have not been validated through rigorous testing and the scientific method. Examples of pseudoscientific theories include ideas that cannot be disproven or validated, theories that are not backed by evidence, and ideas based upon researcher opinion and conjecture.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood condition affected by changes in season. It is a type of depression usually linked to fall and winter months, although for a small number of people it can occur in spring and summer. Available treatment options for this condition include light therapy (phototherapy), nutritional changes, and psychotherapy with or without medication.

Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) Also known as dual-uptake inhibitors, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed by physicians and psychiatrists to treat depression and anxiety. SNRIs, developed in the mid-1990s, are very similar to another category of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but they have a slightly broader effect on chemical processes in the brain, and some individuals who do not respond to SSRIs may benefit from an SNRI. Studies have shown that SNRIs may be slightly more effective than SSRIs but that they may cause more side effects in some individuals.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most frequently prescribed category of antidepressants. These medications have a strong reputation for both safety and effectiveness. Developed in the past 20 years, SSRIs are typically the first choice for physicians when treatment requires the prescription of antidepressants. Unlike many tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs have less affinity for α-adrenergic, histamine, and cholinergic receptors and thus produce fewer adverse effects than most other classes of antidepressants.


Self may refer to one’s conceptualization of his or her own personal identity. Depending on the theoretical framework, self can be defined in different ways. Self theory might include constructs like self-concept, personality, identity, and/or the makeup of one’s inner world.

Self Psychology

Self Psychology an offshoot of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, forms much of the foundation of contemporary psychoanalysis as the first large psychoanalytic movement recognizing empathy as an essential aspect of the therapeutic process of addressing human development and growth. Self psychology theory, which rejects Freudian ideology of the role sexual drives play in organization of the psyche, focuses on the development of empathy toward the person in treatment and the exploration of fundamental components of healthy development and growth. Therapists may use self psychology theory in part to help people consider how their early experiences may contribute to the formation of their sense of self.

Self Relations

Self Relations a relatively new therapeutic approach developed by Stephen Gilligan, focuses on the relationship individuals have with their inner self. According to this theory, psychological symptoms occur when the body and mind attempt to draw attention toward an area of dysfunction or impairment potentially requiring attention. A therapist trained in self-relations therapy can, through a process known as sponsorship, help people identify and apply skills to empower the self and heal.

Self-Acceptance Training

Self-Acceptance Training, an educational, alternative approach to traditional therapy, aims to help people live rich, full lives through group workshop trainings. Practitioners of the approach attempt to evoke a hypnotic trance state in participants, as it is thought that individuals who are in this trance state may be less likely experience critical and/or negative self-evaluations that may interfere with the ability to pay attention to thoughts, imagery, and sensations. Individuals seeking therapy to develop greater awareness of the self and/or to pursue self-exploration in an environment free from criticism, judgment, and evaluation may find this approach beneficial.


Self-Actualization is the final stage of development in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This stage occurs when a person is able to take full advantage of his or her talents while still being mindful of his or her limitations. The term is also used colloquially to refer to an enlightened maturity characterized by the achievement of goals, acceptance of oneself, and an ability to self-assess in a realistic and positive way. Self-actualization can be explored in therapy.


Self-Care describes the actions that an individual might take in order to reach optimal physical and mental health. Mental health professionals often use the term self-care to refer to one’s ability to take care of the activities of daily living, or ADLs, such as feeding oneself, showering, brushing one’s teeth, wearing clean clothes, and attending to medical concerns. Physical self-care, such as sleep and exercise, is also an ADL. Self-care can also refer to activities that an individual engages in to relax or attain emotional well-being, such as meditating, journaling, or visiting a counselor. Because an extended failure to care for one’s self can result in illness or hospitalization, individuals who find themselves unable to take care of their own needs may find it helpful to speak to a therapist.


Self-Compassion is the ability to turn understanding, acceptance, and love inward. Many people are able to extend compassion toward others but find it difficult to extend the same compassion toward themselves. They may see self-compassion as an act of self-indulgence, but extending compassion toward oneself is not an act of self-indulgence, selfishness, or self-pity. In fact, self-compassion can help relieve many mental health concerns such as anxiety or insecurity. Many mental health professionals help people develop compassion for themselves.


Self-Confidence an internal state of mind, can describe the attitudes and beliefs people hold regarding their abilities and strengths. People who have high levels of self-confidence may feel sure they will achieve what they set out to do and maintain a steady sense of control over their lives. Self-confident people generally trust in their abilities, their power, and their judgment.


Self-Criticism, or the act of pointing out one’s perceived flaws, can be a healthy way to increase self-awareness and achieve personal growth, but it may also prove a barrier to one’s self-esteem and peace of mind. Self-criticism may often help facilitate the process of learning from one’s mistakes and can also be helpful when one attempts to overcome areas of weakness or unwanted habits. A high level of self-criticism that prevents individuals from taking risks, asserting opinions, or believing in their own abilities may be unhelpful or detrimental to well-being. Those experiencing these effects may wish may wish to address the reasons behind excessively self-critical tendencies with a therapist or other mental health professional.


Self-Doubt can be understood as a feeling of uncertainty regarding one or more aspects of the self, such as confidence or likability. Some degree of self-doubt is generally held to be normal, because many people may question their ability to master new or challenging situations. If self-doubt becomes debilitating, affects daily function, or impedes performance at work or school, a therapist or other mental health professional may be able to offer support and guidance.


Self-Efficacy is a person’s belief about whether he or she possesses the necessary skills to complete tasks and achieve goals.


Self-Esteem is the degree to which one feels confident, valuable, and worthy of respect. It exists on a continuum from high to low. Where a person’s self-esteem falls on this spectrum can influence one’s overall well-being. People with high self-esteem often feel good about themselves and their progress through life. People with low self-esteem often feel shame and self-doubt. They often spend lots of time criticizing themselves. Low self-esteem is a symptom of several mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Low self-esteem is not represented as its own diagnosis in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V). Yet its symptoms and effects are very real. People who wish to improve their self-esteem can get help from a therapist.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy is a thought or expectation that manifests in a person’s life because it has been thought. For example, when a teacher assumes that a certain student is not intelligent, the teacher might give that student less positive attention and more negative attention, resulting in poorer performance by the student. The teacher, in turn, will have the original assumption about the child validated. Or a student interviewing for college might believe she will do poorly during the admission interview. Her anxiety over doing poorly might then cause her to do poorly at the interview, validating her negative self-assessment.


Self-Harm, or an injury inflicted on oneself, often by cutting or burning, is generally a sign of intense inner turmoil, anxiety, and/or suppressed emotions. Self-injuring behavior is not the same as a suicide attempt: Though some individuals who self-harm may attempt suicide, in general, acts of self-harm do not indicate a desire to end one’s life. A person might harm him or herself to express pain, anxiety, or other emotions or to maintain a feeling of control over his or her body when other situations in life seem outside his or her control. This behavior often develops in adolescence and, if left untreated, may continue for many years. If you are or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, in danger of hurting oneself or others, or feeling overwhelmed or suicidal, please find help immediately. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone right away, or reach out to one of the other resources listed on this page.

Self-Help Groups

Self-Help Groups, also sometimes referred to as mutual-help groups, are groups in which members share the same issue, condition, or situation and thus are in a position to provide help and support to each other. A variety of self-help groups exist to help people address a wide range of issues, including emotional concerns, physical disabilities, eating and food issues, addiction, bereavement, and illness.


Self-Love refers to the act of valuing one’s own happiness and well-being. Self-love is a kind of acceptance that can be described as an unconditional sense of support and caring and a core of compassion for the self. It might also be considered a willingness to meet personal needs, allow non-judgmental thinking, and view the self as essentially worthy, good, valuable, and deserving of happiness. Those who find it challenging to practice self-love or have barriers that make it difficult for them to experience compassion or love for themselves may find the support of a therapist or other mental health professional to be beneficial as they explore the reasons behind these difficulties.

Self-Serving Bias

Self-Serving Bias is a cognitive bias that causes a person to view their own actions favorably or interpret events in a way that is beneficial to themselves. It typically occurs when a person attributes his or her successes to his or her own abilities but any failures to external causes.


Selfishness is the tendency to prioritize one’s own desires and needs above the needs and desires of other people.

Sensitivity to Criticism

Sensitivity to Criticism may lead an individual to be negatively impacted by any criticism, even when that criticism is constructive and intended to be helpful. Criticism can sting in any situation, whether the individual criticized believes in the truth of critical comments or knows such comments to be false. Many individuals are able to consider and integrate helpful criticism and experience no lasting effect from it. Experiencing anxiety, depression, anger, shame, or extreme defensiveness when faced with criticism may indicate a high level of sensitivity. When one finds it difficult to cope with criticism or finds oneself constantly revisiting an instance of criticism, it may be helpful to address this sensitivity with a therapist or other mental health professional.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction, is a condition that causes difficulty with processing and organizing sensory information. This impairment can lead to a variety of issues, including clumsiness, behavioral concerns, and anxiety. It can be severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter—a chemical that carries nerve signals. It is manufactured in the brain and located throughout the body, particularly in the digestive system and blood platelets. Serotonin is best-known for its association with mood and feelings of pleasure.

Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction is any compulsive, sexually motivated behavior that is acted out regardless of any negative consequences that the behavior might have on one’s life. The condition began to be addressed as an actual mental health concern in the 1980s, and though there are claims that it is not a valid illness, an addiction to sex can interfere with daily life, and treatment can readily be sought from a mental health professional.

Sex Education

Sex Education, sometimes referred to as sexuality education, is any process dedicated to providing information about sexual techniques, practices, and health or human sexuality. However, the term is usually used to refer to sex education for children—either at home or in school.


Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex. Anything from demeaning comments and gestures to denying access to equal opportunities based on sex may be considered sexist, as well as treating someone as less competent because of his or her sex, whether in the workplace or classroom, on the streets, or at home. Typically, sexist remarks, behavior, and perspectives are thought of as being targeted at women, who are largely afforded less privilege than men.


Sexting is a colloquialism used to refer to the sending of sexually explicit items, particularly photos and videos, via text message. Due to widespread cell phone use, sexting is becoming increasingly common among both adults and teens. Though the types of messages consenting adults send to each other generally are not subject to scrutiny, when underage teens send sexts, even to their peers, these messages can be considered child pornography.

Sexual Assault/ Abuse

Sexual Assault/ Abuse is any form of sexual violence, including rape, child molestation, incest, and similar forms of non-consensual sexual contact. Most sexual abuse experts agree sexual abuse is never only about sex. Instead, it is often an attempt to gain power over others. Immediate crisis assistance after sexual assault can prove invaluable and even save lives. A person can report sexual assault by calling local police. Survivors may also wish to get a physical exam at a hospital. Therapy can also be helpful for those who experienced sexual abuse in the past. Some therapists specialize in addressing the trauma of sexual assault. Long-term assistance may be beneficial to some survivors of sexual abuse.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual Orientation characterizes a person’s inclination with regards to sexual attraction. Orientation is typically divided into three categories: Homosexuality is primary attraction to members of the same sex. Heterosexuality is attraction primarily to members of the opposite sex. Bisexuality is attraction to members of both sexes. Some sexuality theorists have proposed expanding the definition to include other sexual orientations such as asexuality, which is a lack of sexual interest in others; and pansexuality, which is an attraction to persons of all sexes and gender identities.

Sex and Sexuality

Sex and Sexuality refers to habits and preferences in terms of sexual behavior. People express it in many ways. Sometimes, people feel confusion or distress about their sexuality or sexual identity. They may seek help from a therapist.

Sex Therapy

Sex Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that addresses mental health issues and/ or emotional concerns affecting a person’s sexual function, drive, and/or desire for intimacy. These issues are typically explored with the help of a licensed sex therapist. Some people seek help individually, while others may pursue sex therapy with a romantic partner.


Shame a feeling of being unworthy, bad, or wrong—can be extremely uncomfortable. Shame has the potential to change the way we see ourselves and may lead to long-lasting social, professional, and sexual difficulties and also affect other areas of life. The word “shame” may mean different things to different people, and shame is different from guilt and embarrassment: Guilt is usually understood to involve negative feelings about an act one has committed, while embarrassment deals with a societal reaction. Shame, on the other hand, involves negative feelings about oneself, and although an individual can be shamed by peers or society in general, shame can also be experienced secretly. Shame that does not resolve, that cannot seem to be diminished or altered, can become a cause for clinical concern, and individuals experiencing severe shame regarding a particular issue may find benefit in speaking to a therapist.


Shyness a personality trait or emotional state, might be characterized by awkwardness, worry, or tension around other people, especially strangers. It is not a diagnosable mental health condition, but someone who wants to overcome shyness might seek psychotherapy to address it. Shyness is not synonymous with or linked to generalized anxiety, social anxiety, isolation, introversion, or agoraphobia, though someone with these issues might also be shy.

Sibling Issues

Sibling Issues Siblings are two or more individuals who share a parent in common. They are referred to as brothers or sisters depending on gender. When it comes to child development, sibling relationships can be incredibly important. Siblings represent a child’s first social network, and these early relationships provide a training ground for social learning and relationship building. Because of the intimate nature of these relationships, conflict is almost inevitable. Qualified family therapists and other mental health professionals can help individuals work through sibling issues and other family-related challenges.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep Disorders Sleep-wake disorders are marked by disturbances in sleep patterns. They may impact physical, mental, and emotional health. External factors can cause sleep disorders. These may include anxiety, depression, trauma, or a life transition. If you have sleep issues, it is important to report any symptoms to your doctor.


Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that causes people to become active—usually by walking—while still asleep. The disorder is also called somnambulism and is especially common in children.

Smoking Cessation

Smoking Cessation is the process of quitting smoking. Because smoking causes both chemical and psychological dependency, strategies for smoking cessation typically aim to help alleviate physical symptoms and develop tactics to help control the desire to smoke in situations where one might typically smoke. Those who wish to quit smoking but find it difficult to do so may find it helpful to speak to a therapist.


Sobriety or being sober, can be defined as the state of not being intoxicated. In the fields of addiction and mental health treatment, sobriety typically refers to a person’s decision to maintain abstinence from substance use. Sobriety often, but not always, follows a period of problematic use or addiction.

Social Anxiety / Phobia

Social Anxiety / Phobia is also known as social phobia. Simply put, it is fear of social situations. It is also described as fear of interacting with people other than close friends and family. Social anxiety can be persistent. It affects daily life for many people.

Social Norms

Social Norms are a broad set of prescriptions, both explicit and implicit, that dictate behavior in particular situations. They vary from culture to culture and often change over time. Norms can also change based on subculture and setting. For example, desirable behavior among a group of friends is not necessarily desirable behavior in the workplace.

Social Psychology

Social Psychology is the study of an individual’s behavior in a social context. It is closely related to, though distinct from, sociology. While sociologists study group behavior and social norms, social psychologists study the interplay between group dynamics and individual behavior.

Social Status

Social Status is a term used in social sciences such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology to indicate the level of respect and honor associated with a person’s position in society.

Social Work

Social Work is a professional practice that involves helping people improve their individual and collective welfare by maximizing personal skills and community resources. It is grounded in the principles of human rights, social justice, and mutual responsibility. Social workers require an in-depth understanding of human behavior and development, as well as the functions of social, cultural, and economic institutions. Individuals, families, non-familial groups, organizations, and even entire communities may benefit from social work.


Socialization is the process of acquiring social skills, cultural norms, and societal customs. Although the process continues throughout life, socialization plays a significant role in psychological development during childhood. Children who are completely deprived of social contact in their early years may, in some cases, be unable to develop culturally accepted social skills as adults.


Sociology is a social science aimed at understanding the behavior of people in social groups.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) places focus on a person’s present and future circumstances and goals rather than past experiences. In this goal-oriented therapy, the symptoms or issues bringing a person to therapy are typically not targeted. Instead, a qualified therapist encourages those in treatment to develop a vision of the future and offers support as they determine the skills, resources, and abilities needed to achieve that vision successfully.

Somatic Experiencing (SE™)

Somatic Experiencing (SE™) was developed by Peter A. Levine, PhD to address the effects of trauma. Levine developed this approach after observing that prey animals, whose lives are routinely threatened in the wild, are able to recover readily by physically releasing the energy they accumulate during stressful events. Humans, on the other hand, often override these natural ways of regulating the nervous system with feelings of shame and pervasive thoughts, judgments, and fears. Somatic Experiencing aims to help people move past the place where they might be “stuck” in processing a traumatic event.

Somatic Psychotherapy

Somatic Psychotherapy, a holistic therapeutic approach, incorporates a person’s mind, body, spirit, and emotions in the healing process. Proponents of this type of therapy believe a person’s thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and beliefs can have an impact on physical functioning, while physical factors such as diet, exercise, and posture may positively or negatively affect a person’s mental and emotional state. Thus, those seeking treatment for any number of mental health concerns may incorporating somatic therapy into treatment to be beneficial.


Somatization occurs when psychological concerns are converted into physical symptoms. Though they have no underlying physical cause, somatic symptoms, such as pain or nausea, are very real and have not been invented by the person experiencing them.


Spirituality, a search for transcendent meaning or the belief in some sort of greater existence outside of humankind, can be linked to religion, but the practice of spirituality is generally considered to go beyond religion and link individuals with something larger, such as the universe itself. Both therapists and people seeking treatment may hesitate to include spirituality or religion in the practice of therapy, due to the potential of differing beliefs and the possible controversy of the topic. But research suggests a therapist’s inclusion of an individual’s spiritual beliefs may assist in therapy and in the process of healing.

Sport / Fitness Psychology

Sport / Fitness Psychology is an approach that focuses on the intersection between sport science, medicine, and psychology. This therapeutic model expands on research, theory, and practices to improve performance in professional and amateur athletic settings. Sport psychology researchers work to understand how psychological factors can impact motor performance and how participation in physical activity affects human psychological development. Sports psychologists are also interested in understanding how social and psychological interventions affect the well-being of athletes, teams, coaches, parents, spectators, trainers, exercisers, and participants who are engaged in physical activities.

Spousal Abuse

Spousal Abuse also referred to as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, is a behavioral cycle that involves emotional, physical, or sexual violence inflicted on an individual in a domestic context, such as cohabitation or marriage. Anyone can be a victim, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or economic background. According to the United States Department of Justice, 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner annually.

Stage Fright

Stage Fright is a kind of performance anxiety associated with performing in front of a large audience. Musicians, singers, people giving speeches, and anyone else who must perform in front of a group may experience stage fright.


Stalking is the act of repeatedly following, observing, or initiating contact with a person who has not consented to the behavior. Though some stalkers believe their intentions are innocent, their actions often intimidate victims. Stalking can be a serious crime. The legal ramifications can vary from fines to jail time, depending on the offense.

Standard of Care

Standard of Care a term used in medical and mental health treatment, refers to the usual and customary practices within the field. The standard of care is designed to protect consumers of health services by setting a minimum standard for what is considered acceptable behavior by treatment providers.


Stelazine (trifluoperazine) belongs to a class of drugs called conventional or typical antipsychotics. It is a prescription medication used primarily in the management of symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Stelazine may also be used as a short-term treatment for people who experience anxiety that have not responded to other medications. While this drug has proven to be effective in the management of certain symptoms, it will not cure schizophrenia or anxiety issues. Typically people experiencing those conditions seek additional treatment options such as psychotherapy in conjunction with taking medication. Stelazine has been discontinued by its manufacturer and is no longer for sale in the United States as of 2004. It is available by its generic name only.


Stereotype is a set of generalizations—which are often unconscious—about a group of people. The stereotype is often applied to individual members. In direct forms of bigotry, bigots believe that all members of the group match the stereotype, while in indirect forms of discrimination, stereotypes subtly influence impressions of individual members of the group. Individual members of the group may be assessed as conforming to the stereotype even when they do not.


Stigma refers to a perceived disadvantage or mark of disgrace that is used to set an individual or specific group apart from other members of society.


Stimulants are a type of drug that alters activity within the central and peripheral nervous systems. Most stimulants have an effect on blood pressure, heart rate, and alertness. Some drugs within this category have immense therapeutic value, while some have no clinical application.


Stress is often defined as a bodily response to the demands of life. But there are also emotional and mental aspects of stress. It is experienced as thoughts and feelings as well as in the body. Another way to define stress could be as an internal and conditioned response to external pressures. Mental health professionals often help people reduce and manage their stress. They can also help people work through other mental health issues that have developed while coping with high levels of stress over a period of time.


Stuttering is a manner of talking where a person’s flow of speech is disrupted. Someone who stutters may repeat syllables or pause between words. When stuttering is common enough to interfere with normal speech, it is classified as a speech pathology.


Subculture is a smaller culture with a shared collection of beliefs, values, traditions, and rituals within a larger culture.

Substance Abuse Addiction

Substance Abuse Addiction, or dependence on a particular substance or activity, is one of the most complex areas of mental health. Addiction can often be difficult to treat, and there is a good deal of controversy surrounding the causes of addiction and the best approaches to treatment. Individuals who find themselves experiencing an addiction to drugs or alcohol often find the services of a mental health professional to be helpful in overcoming the addiction.


Suicide Suicidal ideation is a common medical term for thoughts about suicide. Thoughts may be fleeting in nature, or they may persist and resolve into a formulated plan. Many people who experience suicidal thoughts do not die by suicide, although they may exhibit suicidal behavior or make suicide attempts. People who find themselves experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors may find that they do so as a result of conditions such as depression, hopelessness, severe anxiety, insomnia, or panic attacks. Not all people who are diagnosed with these or other medical or mental health conditions will experience suicidal ideation, but some may. All suicidal ideation and behavior should be taken seriously, and those who have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation should contact a crisis line as soon as possible.


Superego In Freudian psychology, the superego is the part of the personality that makes moral demands, that guides a person’s spiritual impulses, and that aims for perfection. It is one third of the psychic apparatus proposed by Sigmund Freud, that also contains the id, which controls basic drives and impulses, and the ego, which is the core of the rational personality that must balance the needs of the id and superego.

Survivor Guilt

Survivor Guilt is a particular type of guilt that may develop in people who have survived a life-threatening situation. Individuals who believe it is unfair that they survived when others died and/or believe they did not do enough to save the lives of others may come to experience survivor guilt after trauma or a catastrophic event.

Sympathetic Nervous System

Sympathetic Nervous System sometimes abbreviated as SNS, is a component of the autonomic nervous system—the portion of the nervous system largely concerned with regulating automatic functions such as heart rate and digestion. Although commonly regarded as the portion of the nervous system that instigates the fight or flight response, the sympathetic nervous system also fulfills a constant role in regulating homeostasis—the maintenance of relatively consistent internal states.


Synapse is the point at which a neuron sends signals to another neuron, and consists of a tiny gap between the two neurons.

Systems Theory / Therapy

Systems Theory / Therapy also called systems science, is the multidisciplinary study of systems to investigate phenomena from a holistic approach. Systems, which can be natural or man-made and living or nonliving, are found in many aspects of human life. People who adhere to systems thinking, or the systemic perspective, believe it is impossible to truly understand a phenomenon by breaking it up into its basic components. They believe, rather, that a global perspective is necessary for comprehending the entire phenomenon.


Taboo is a social or cultural banning of an act. Although the act might not be illegal or punished, it is strongly derided. People raised within the culture are highly unlikely to do the act and highly likely to judge people who violate the taboo. The term was originally a Polynesian word (tabu). Captain James Cook introduced the term to the English language in 1771. The original word was used to describe a ban on contact with a person, animal, or thing.


Tangentiality is the tendency to speak about topics unrelated to the main topic of discussion. While most people engage in tangentiality from time to time, constant and extreme tangentiality may indicate an underlying mental health condition, particularly schizophrenia.


Tantrum is a strong emotional display, usually in response to anger, sadness, or frustration. While anyone can have a tantrum, the term is most often applied to the behavior of children.


Technophobia is an irrational or exaggerated fear of technology or complex devices such as tablets, smartphones, and especially computers. Although technophobia is not mentioned as a specific phobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it is sometimes manifested in ways consistent with the diagnostic criteria in the manual.

Temporal Lobe

Temporal Lobe is one of the four brain lobes. Associated with a number of sensory functions, particularly hearing and speech perception, the temporal lobe is located near the base of the brain on either side of the cerebral cortex. Damage to the temporal lobe can cause lasting effects on a person’s senses, memory, or personality.


Temptation is a strong desire or drive to do something. It typically has negative connotations, and tempting objects and behaviors are often presented as gratifying in the short-term but harmful in the long-term. For example, an ex-smoker might feel tempted to smoke.


Tension means to be stretched very tightly, and in mental health, tension refers to extreme strain or pressure.

Terminal Illness

Terminal Illness is a disease that cannot be cured or treated (for an improved prognosis) and is thus likely to cause death within no more than a few years. A person diagnosed with a terminal illness is often likely to experience a wide range of emotions, such as grief, regret, or sadness, among others. Family members, romantic partners, and friends are also often affected by an individual’s diagnosis, and it may be beneficial for both the individual with the illness and the members of their support system to seek the help of a professional counselor to discuss their feelings and otherwise come to terms with the diagnosis.


Theory In science, including psychology, a theory is a principle or idea that explains or solves a problem. Theories typically address a collection of issues. The theory of evolution, for example, is a general theory that helps to explain where humans came from, the relationships between species, and the changes in species over time.

Therapeutic Relationship

Therapeutic Relationship or therapeutic alliance, refers to the close and consistent association that exists between at least two individuals: a health care professional and a person in therapy.


Thorazine (chlorpromazine) is a conventional or typical antipsychotic medication belonging to a class of drugs called phenothiazines. It works by interfering with dopaminergic transmissions and reducing excitement in the brain. This medication is only available with a doctor or psychiatrist prescription.

Thought Blocking

Thought Blocking is a thought condition usually caused by a mental health condition such as schizophrenia. During thought blocking, a person stops speaking suddenly and without explanation in the middle of a sentence. People who experience this symptom report that they feel like the thought has been removed from their brains.

Thought Disorder

Thought Disorder is a mental health condition that affects a person’s beliefs, thoughts, or perceptions. Thought disorders alter the way a person puts together ordered sequences of ideas and can affect a person’s behavior by causing them to experience paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, or other symptoms.


Tic is an involuntary muscular contraction or vocalization. Muscular tics usually occur in small muscle groups. The movements are recurring and can occur due to psychological conditions, injury, or reactions to drugs.


Tofranil (Imipramine) is an antidepressant used for the treatment of major depression and functional enuresis in children (bedwetting). Although it has been associated with relieving depression, it has also been successfully used to alleviate suicidal tendencies. Chemically it belongs to the dibenzazepine family.

Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome (also referred to as Tourette’s disorder) is a condition characterized by the presence of tics, or sudden and recurrent nonrhythmic movements or vocalizations. It is a hereditary condition for which there is no cure.


Trance is a state of altered consciousness in which a person’s general awareness is decreased and his/her suggestibility is increased.

Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne, is a form of modern psychology that examines a person’s relationships and interactions. Berne took inspiration from Sigmund Freud’s theories of personality, combining them with his own observations of human interaction in order to develop transactional analysis. In therapy, transactional analysis can be used to address one’s interactions and communications with the purpose of establishing and reinforcing the idea that each individual is valuable and has the capacity for positive change and personal growth.


Transference describes a situation where the feelings, desires, and expectations of one person are redirected and applied to another person. Most commonly, transference refers to a therapeutic setting, where a person in therapy may apply certain feelings or emotions toward the therapist.


Transgender is a term broadly used to describe people whose gender identity or internal sense of gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people elect to transition with surgery and/or hormones in order to match their bodies more closely to their gender, but many do not. A transgender person who does not take hormones or have surgery is still a transgender person. There is no “right” way to be trans, and a person who is female-bodied can still identify as male, and vice versa. Approximately 700,000 transgender people live in the United States.


Transvestism which is also termed cross-dressing, describes an individual’s wearing of clothes that are typically associated with a different gender from the one with which that person identifies. Some individuals who engage in this practice may prefer the term cross-dresser, and others may refer to themselves as transvestites.


Trauma describes an event that causes a person to feel severely threatened emotionally, psychologically, or physically or an event that causes harm in any of these ways. Not all people experience or react to trauma in the same way, and different types of trauma may provoke significantly different reactions. For some, effects may be lasting and can cause deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or posttraumatic stress (PTSD) long after the event has passed. Support, guidance, and assistance from mental health professionals can be fundamental to healing from trauma.

Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based treatment model designed to assist children, adolescents, and their families in overcoming the negative effects of a traumatic experience. This evidence-based method has been proven effective for treatment after multiple traumas or a single traumatic event, and therapists trained in TF-CBT are frequently able to help children experiencing the emotional effects of trauma address and resolve these effects.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) The brain is arguably the most complex organ in the body, and protecting it is extremely important for survival. However, there are times a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur regardless of safety measures taken. While not all head injuries affect the brain, the severity of injury when a TBI does occur can range from mild to severe. Most are mild and commonly referred to as concussions, but moderate or severe injuries can lead to permanent brain damage, disabilities, and behavioral changes.

Treatment Plan

Treatment Plan are documentation tools that are considered essential to the implementation of well-rounded health care. Most providers, especially those in the mental health field, use treatment plans as blueprints to guide services provided. Mental health treatment plans typically highlight important assessment information, define areas of concern, and establish concrete goals for treatment.


Triangulation occurs when an outside person intervenes or is drawn into a conflicted or stressful relationship in an attempt to ease tension and facilitate communication. This situation is often seen in family therapy.


Trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. People typically use this term when describing posttraumatic stress (PTSD).

Trust Issues

Trust Issues is the act of placing confidence in someone or something else. It is a fundamental human experience. Trust is necessary for society to function. It can play a large role in happiness. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree. Some life experiences can impact a person’s ability to trust others.

12-Step Program

12-Step Program consist of a set of uniform steps that attempt to support individuals who wish to address a variety of addictions and behavioral concerns. Developed in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the program was originally intended for those who were experiencing alcohol addiction, but it is now widely utilized in the United States to treat a huge array of addictions, including smoking, drug addiction, compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, and compulsive shopping. People who are close to someone who is experiencing an addiction can also attend 12-step programs. The steps in these programs are slightly different, as they are tailored to help friends and family, who may be described as codependent, break the destructive patterns the addiction has caused in their lives.

Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR)

Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) is unconditional acceptance, love, or affection. The term is credited to the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers. It differs from unconditional love in that there need not be actual feelings of warmth and affection behind the attitude. Rather, unconditional positive regard requires that a person be warm and accepting even when another person has done something questionable. While most parents attempt to give their children unconditional love, few grant their children unconditional positive regard. Many therapists advocate giving their clients unconditional positive regard as part of the therapeutic process. UPR is most notably associated with person-centered therapy, or Rogerian therapy.


Unconscious In Freudian psychology, the unconscious mind is the repository for thoughts, feelings, and memories of which a person is not consciously aware. Freud used the term “dynamic unconscious” to refer to unconscious processes that were relevant to psychology as opposed to random pieces of information contained in the unconsciousness that do not have psychological or personal significance.


Vaginismus is a condition that causes involuntary muscle spasms in the vagina.

Values Clarification

Values Clarification is a psychotherapy technique that can often help an individual increase awareness of any values that may have a bearing on lifestyle decisions and actions. This technique can provide an opportunity for a person to reflect on personal moral dilemmas and allow for values to be analyzed and clarified. This process may be helpful for self-improvement, increased well-being, and interactions with others. Therapy often provides an opportunity for values clarification.

Veterans and Military Issues

Veterans and Military Issues Many military veterans experience a group of mental health conditions that tend to disproportionately affect military personnel. These conditions may include posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse, among other issues. Due to the traumatic environment in which active military combatants serve, veterans are at a significantly higher risk for developing these health concerns. These concerns can often be addressed and resolved with the support of a mental health professional.

Victim Blaming

Victim Blaming refers to a practice of questioning what a victim could have done differently in order to prevent a crime from happening, thus implying the fault of the crime lies with the victim rather than the perpetrator. The term is often used in the context of rape and sexual assault, but it can also be applied to other crimes including theft, abduction, and murder.


Voyeurism is a sexual interest in watching people involved in traditionally private behaviors such as undressing, showering, or having sex.


Vulnerability can be defined as susceptibility to a negative outcome or the state of being unprotected from some type of danger or harmful experience. People who are vulnerable may experience feelings of anxiety, fear, and apprehension due to the risk they experience for some type of harm.


Wellness is a measure of a person’s mental and physical health, and is commonly used by therapists, medical doctors, and alternative medicine practitioners to characterize a person’s overall health and well-being.

Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness Therapy also referred to as outdoor behavioral healthcare, is a treatment modality that uses expeditions into the wilderness or other unfamiliar surroundings as a means of addressing behavioral and mental health issues. Though wilderness therapy represents a small subset of adventure-based therapy and broader wilderness experience programs, the approach has its own distinct characteristics. Older individuals may participate in wilderness therapy programs; however, the approach is primarily geared toward treating at-risk adolescents and young adults.


Wisdom encompasses possessing a level of knowledge that is acquired through many life experiences and exercising sound judgment and understanding. Hailed as being a product of spiritual or intellectual enlightenment, wisdom is widely regarded as one of the highest virtues a person can attain. In psychotherapy, wisdom is often expected in the role of therapist, and is sought after and cultivated in the person seeking therapy.


Withdrawal is a psychological and biochemical process that occurs when a person stops using a chemical substance—such as some prescription medications, illegal drugs, alcohol, or nicotine—or stops an addictive behavior.

Women’s Issues

Women’s Issues can refer to any concern that might impact a woman’s mental health. These concerns might be related to gender stereotyping or assumptions and concerns related to women’s health, but they are also likely to include other challenges faced by women that have nothing to do with gender. It is typically considered best to avoid making assumptions based solely on gender, as a person’s identity is multifaceted and no single aspect defines a person entirely. Women may experience certain biological, environmental, and psychosocial challenges related to gender, and these concerns can have a significant impact on mental health and well-being. These issues, and many others, are often able to be addressed in therapy with the help of a mental health professional.

Workplace Issues

Workplace Issues People spend nearly one-third of their adult lives at work, which causes workplace issues to become common source of stress for many. It is impossible to have a workplace where everyone’s roles, expectations, and personalities work perfectly together, without conflict. As such, certain workplace issues may cause negative psychological symptoms. Research shows that perceived stress in the workplace, for example, is associated with a higher prevalence of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Workers may find that discussing their workplace stress or challenges with a trained mental health professional is helpful to them both professionally and personally.


Worry or thinking about problems or fears, real or hypothetical, may be unavoidable at times, as most people tend to worry about some aspect of their lives. However, chronic or excessive worrying can affect physical and emotional health negatively. Those who find frequent worrying to interfere with daily function and wish to manage or minimize persistent worry may find it helpful to speak to a therapist.


Worthlessness can be described as a feeling of desperation and hopelessness. Individuals who feel worthless may feel insignificant, useless, or believe they have nothing valuable to offer the world. People diagnosed with depression often report these feelings, and children who were neglected or abused may carry a sense of worthlessness into adulthood. When worthlessness leads one to experience thoughts of suicide or causes other immediate crisis, it may be best to contact a crisis hotline or seek other help right away.


Xenophobia is the fear of outsiders or strangers. The term is most commonly applied to people who are afraid of immigrants or people from unfamiliar, foreign cultures. While xenophobia can be a true phobia, it is often used in ways similar to the term homophobia. In this context, xenophobia characterizes people who dislike foreigners, believe their country’s culture is superior, or wish to keep immigrants out of their country. Xenophobics may not actually have a true phobia of outsiders; instead, they manifest behaviors that are detrimental or in opposition to outsiders. Thus the term has strong political connotations. In the United States, several political groups have rallied to oppose illegal immigration by Hispanic people, particularly those from Mexico. In some cases, these groups oppose all immigration by people from Mexico. This opposition is sometimes couched in terms of fear. For example, anti-immigration groups may express fear of crime or lost jobs. Pro-immigration groups and Hispanic advocacy organizations have decried these groups as xenophobic.

Yoga Therapy

Yoga Therapy is a type of therapy that uses yoga postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery to improve mental and physical health. The holistic focus of yoga therapy encourages the integration of mind, body, and spirit. Modern yoga therapy covers a broad range of therapeutic modalities, incorporating elements from both physical therapy and psychotherapy.

Young Adult Issues

Young Adult Issues which may arise in those who are in their late teens and early twenties, may consist of difficulties with peers, sexual or developmental concerns, school or career challenges, family differences, and so on. Erik Erickson, noted developmental psychologist, described the period of young adulthood as occurring between the ages of 20 and 45, but the United States Department of Health and Human Services has redefined the young adult period as the time between ages 18 and 24. Because the rapid and numerous changes often characterizing this period may be overwhelming, young people may find the services of a therapist or other qualified mental health professional to be beneficial as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.


Zoloft (sertraline) is a prescription antidepressant drug. It belongs to a group of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This medication is often used to treat depression experienced by adults and teenagers. This medication may also be used to treat adults and teenagers who experience panic attacks, posttraumatic stress, social anxiety, premenstrual dysphoric issues, and obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Zoloft may help to control the emotions, thoughts, and actions that sometimes accompany these mental health conditions, but it will not cure the conditions.