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Cognitive psychotherapy.

What is cognitive psychotherapy?

The word ’cognitive’ refers to all psychological functions related to understanding and knowledge. The starting point for the cognitive model is information processing. Essential features include the relationship between thinking, feelings and behavior, and their reciprocity and interaction.

Why seek psychotherapy?

People usually seek psychotherapy as a result of suffering and feeling bad. These may be set off by a certain event or it could also be the result of a continuous, difficult situation in life. Feeling bad manifests itself as depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and various physical symptoms.

What are the working methods of cognitive psychotherapy?

Cognitive psychotherapy views the world from the customer’s perspective: the problems in life and psychological disorders. Individual human experiences form the basis of psychotherapy. Therapy focuses on the experiences, feelings, thoughts, (sensations / feelings and sensations as terms are very close to each other and therefore laymen do not see the difference between them) and behavior of the customer.

Counseling, work guidance, consultation and education all apply many work methods of cognitive psychotherapy.

Cognitive psychotherapy studies the impractical ways of experiencing which limit wellbeing. At the same time it is studied how these ways of experiencing are formed based on problematic feelings, patterns and ways of thinking. In addition to recognizing and changing these ways of experiencing, cognitive therapy develops problem-solving skills and strengthens survival skills.

The implementation of cognitive psychotherapy is individual

Psychotherapy begins with so called conceptualizing. It refers to the full mapping out of the customer’s problem and situation. At the same time, the therapist and the customer will set the goals for the therapy together. Usually therapy sessions occur once a week, sometimes twice. Normally one session lasts 45 minutes but it can be agreed otherwise, as well.

Cognitive psychotherapy has a strong theoretical and scientific basis. It has been found an efficient treatment to e.g. depression, eating disorders, insomnia and anxiety disorders (e.g. panic disorder, social fears, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress reaction).

Cognitive psychotherapy may be short-term (e.g. 10-20 sessions), laying emphasis on relieving symptoms. This is done by developing methods of thinking as well as problem-solving skills and survival skills.

Long-term cognitive psychotherapy, lasting two years for example, can discuss life, difficult experiences in life and important relationships. Therefore, the work focuses on personal feelings and experiences and on studying the core structures of the customer’s personality.

Psychotherapy is cooperation and based on mutual trust. Psychotherapists and psychologists are healthcare professionals legalized and controlled by Valvira (former National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs (TEO)). They are under doctor-patient confidentiality just as all healthcare professional are.

Helena Santasalo is a member of the Finnish Psychological Association. Hyperlink: The professional-ethical rules of psychologists


To companies and work communities

Organizational consultation and supporting management of change

Organizations and work communities go through all kinds of changes. These changes can cause psychological burdening and feelings of insecurity. When left untreated, they may lead to burn out or at least to losing the joy of working.

When is organizational consultation useful?

For example downsizing or significantly increasing operations, or changes in clientele, personnel, basic tasks or the markets are difficult situations which often cause problems.

Organizational changes are always threatening, one way or another, to the personnel’s sense of security and to their chances of experiencing predictability. Conflicts may occur in the work community, which further contributes to, for example, poorer customer service, or the conflicts otherwise cause problems in work performances. Under difficult circumstances work communities regress and they lose their ability to work in teams. Work communities may pinpoint scapegoats, spread rumors or it may even result in bullying. This all takes resources away from actual work.

The management and personnel professionals are more efficient leaders when they receive support in handling different kinds of reactions to change. The goal of consultation is to ease the pressures of those responsible for management of change and to help them restore their strength and resources. This allows the organization to develop as people within the organization are able to move forward.

Helena Santasalo is a member of The Finnish Society for Organisational Dynamics (FINOD). Hyperlink:


Work guidance studies and develops work performance

Work guidance mean studying the questions, experiences and feelings related to work, the work community and personal role at work together with the work instructor. The goal is to understand and organize the phenomena within the organization, as well as their personal ways of functioning and experiencing. By pausing to think about these questions on a regular basis with the work instructor, the employee will regain a sense of control over their own work and ease the burden of work. This frees resources to finding and implementing solutions.

Individual work guidance usually lasts more than 6 months, up to 2 years. Sessions are held every 3-4 weeks and each session lasts 90-120 minutes.

Work guidance begins with an introductory meeting. During this meeting, both parties will assess the possibilities of cooperation. Work guidance is confidential. The contents of conversations remain between the instructed and the instructor. The employer usually pays for the guidance.

Work guidance may also be performed in groups: thus the participants are either work communities or teams (max. 6 people) or peer groups (e.g. superiors of the same level but from different organizations). Work guidance must have the support of management and superiors. It is also recommended that the superiors participate in work community guidance.

Helena Santasalo is a member of Suomen työnohjaajat ry (Finnish work instructors) and Suomen Coaching -yhdistys (Finnish Coaching Association).

Hyperlink to the Ethical rules of work guidance:

Suomen Coaching-yhdistys ry:


Helena Santasalo:

M.P., Åbo Akademi, 1989

Psychodrama instructor, 2002, Finnish Psychodrama Association

Organizational consultant (FINOD) 2006, Metanoia institute

Occupational health psychologist, 2009, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Cognitive Psychotherapist (Upper special level training) University of Helsinki, Palmenia, 2010