The 6 stages of psychological therapy, and their objectives

Psychotherapy is a process that, due to the need to adapt to the personal characteristics of each patient and the state in which he is throughout the intervention, has different parts organized sequentially, each with its own logic and its rhythms.

If you are interested in knowing what they are the phases of psychotherapy, as well as the goals towards which each one of them focuses, read on.

Summary of the stages of psychological therapy and its objectives

Here we will make a brief summary about the phases of psychological therapy, making clear the objectives of each of these stages and the characteristics of the service offered to the patient.

Of course, it must be taken into account that there are several types of therapies and each one of them has certain variations and particular characteristics; Here we will take as a reference model the sessions oriented towards a patient who assists the psychologist individually, either by going to the latter’s office or through online sessions by video call.

1. Case evaluation

The first phase is always the evaluation stage. Most of this takes the form of an interview in which the patient explains what is happening to him (or what he thinks is happening to him), the psychologist asks questions and establishes the foundations of the therapeutic relationship, and if necessary, some psychological tests are applied, such as personality test, cognitive assessment tests, etc. It may also be the case that neurological tests are advised if there are signs of medical problems.

Thus, the main goal of this phase is to collect sufficient information with which to begin to outline the root of the person’s problem, and to know their personal and contextual characteristics (that is, their way of life and the environments in which they are usually expose). All this will be essential to continue working.

2. Generation of hypotheses

In the second phase of the therapy process, possible causes of what happens to the patient are ruled out (with caution, and bearing in mind that no conclusion is final yet) and possible explanations are established about the problem to be treated and what can be do.

In this way, From the information initially collected, there are indications about the possible solutions to adopt according to the criteria of the professional and the indications of the diagnostic manuals, if it is the case that there is a potential psychological disorder. Finally, one of the hypotheses is chosen and work begins from it.

3. Return of information

At this stage of the therapy, the psychologist explains what are the conclusions that have been reached so far, and takes into account the reaction and additional information that the patient provides to this. The purpose is avoid possible errors due to missing information, refer the case to another professional if necessary (it occurs when the problem escapes from one’s own training or experience as a therapist) as well as taking into account the patient’s attitude about the selected hypothesis and its implications.

Once that is done, an action plan is explained to the person and an agreement is sought about what the objective of the therapeutic intervention should be (Since to achieve this requires the commitment and involvement of the patient).

4. Therapeutic intervention (treatment)

This is the fundamental phase of the therapeutic process, since it is a psychological “training” program in which the person attends the sessions periodically and reaches sub-objectives between sessions, always based on what learned in his meetings with the professional and following his instructions.

That is, one part occurs in front of the psychotherapist, and the rest takes place in the private life (or professional life, if that is the case) of the patient. Each time you choose to achieve more ambitious objectives, following an ascending difficulty curve and adapted to the degree of progress of the person.

The objective is for the person to internalize resources for managing emotions, thoughts and their behavior patterns when interacting with others and with their surroundings in general.

On the other hand, if at any time there is a significant change in the information that the patient expresses or reveals about himself and this calls into question the suitability of the form of intervention that is being followed, the psychologist returns to the formulation phase of the hypothesis.

5. Follow up

The psychologist is always doing track the progress, difficulties, emotional state of the patient and their possible complaints or doubts. However, towards the end of psychotherapy, sometimes the sessions are more spaced out and the way in which the person works autonomously, without much professional supervision, is seen.

6. Closing

The goal in this phase of psychotherapy is make the patient adapt to a way of life in which they no longer need to regularly attend sessions with the psychologist, checking that this is not a problem for him and that he can assimilate it normally, keeping the learning and behavior patterns acquired during therapy current.

Are you looking for psychotherapy services?

If you are interested in having professional psychological assistance, please contact us.

In Advance Psychologists You will find a team of professionals specialized in all areas of emotional well-being and mental health: psychotherapy, couples therapy, neuropsychology, psychiatry, speech therapy and coaching. We serve people of all ages, and the sessions can be both in person at our facilities located in Madrid, as well as online via video call.

Bibliographic references:

  • Ching, J .; Londoño-McConnell, A .; Molitor, N .; Ritz, M. (nd). Understanding psychotherapy. U.S. American Psychological Association.
  • de Rivera, J. (1992). The Stages of Psychotherapy, The European Journal of Psychiatry, 6 (1): pp. 51 – 58.
  • McNamee, S. & Gergen, KJ (1996). Therapy as social construction. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • Strupp, H .; Binder, J. (1984). Psychotherapy in a New Key. New York: Basic Books.
  • Wampold, BE; Flückiger, C .; Del Re, AC; Yulish, NE; Frost, ND; Pace, BT; et al. (2017). In pursuit of truth: A critical examination of meta-analyzes of cognitive behavior therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 27 (1): pp. 14 – 32.


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