Demystifying Psychotherapy: What Is the Essence of Psychotherapy?

A dizzying array of theories, modalities, and approaches makes up the vast field of psychotherapy. Humans have counseled, supported, and reassured other humans since the dawn of humanity. We are social beings who are not only capable of extraordinary empathy, but also derive comfort and joy from meaningful connection. The formal discipline of psychotherapy was propelled into existence by Sigmund Freud and his “talking cure” in the 19th century. Countless theorists, researchers, and clinicians have shaped the practice since then, sparking controversy, passion, excitement, and heated debate. The field continues to evolve and respond to the old and emerging challenges of living in the 21st century.

Psychotherapy is a relational, collaborative, and dynamic process that unfolds between the practitioner and client to guide and support the client in the effort to manifest their unique definition of a well-lived life. Psychotherapy is bound by the rules of professional conduct and ethical obligations on the part of the practitioner. It entails practices and interventions which are informed by the practitioner’s chosen form of psychotherapy and their evolving understanding of the client’s history, goals, and needs. The client is an active participant who enters into this endeavor upon giving informed consent, which means the client learns about and accepts the responsibilities involved.

The client may bring to psychotherapy their wounds, traumas, insecurities, and shame. As relational beings who need to feel loved just as desperately as we need air to breathe, humans often find that the source of pain that has wreaked the greatest havoc on their lives is relational in nature: being neglected or abused, misunderstood or bullied, abandoned, broken up with, assaulted, made to feel “less than,” lonely — the list goes on.

We hurt in relationships and we heal in relationships. The relationship between the therapist and the client is what breathes life into psychotherapy. To be witnessed and seen, welcomed, respected, and supported by another whose sole purpose is to apply themselves to render caring assistance is a powerful catalyst for personal growth and recovery.

The quality of the client-psychotherapist bond has been shown to be the key predictor of the outcomes of psychotherapy. After all, psychotherapy entails an intimate exploration of the client’s subjective, interpersonal, spiritual, and embodied experience, their past and present, their hopes and dreams. This work requires a great deal of trust and vulnerability.

Without trust, regard, and genuine connection, therapy interventions derived from the very best and most solidly-researched protocols will have limited impact. Every client is different and therefore every relationship built over time between the therapist and the client will also be unique. It will also continually evolve and shape the work the therapist and the client are doing together. When people reflect back on successful psychotherapy experiences, they tend to emphasize the depth of the bond and caring they experienced with their therapist over recollections of specific skills and insights they gained, even if the latter helped them very much. The therapeutic relationship is the essence of psychotherapy, a key ingredient without which the powerful outcomes of this endeavor cannot become a reality.

About Aga Grabowski, LCSW, PMH-C, CST (she/her)

I am a co-founder of Wildflower, a psychotherapist, a presenter and a consultant in the area of perinatal and reproductive mental health.  Many other aspects of my personal identity shape my clinical work: chief among them is the family and immigrant background which has informed my attunement to the psychological upheaval that accompanies major life transitions and to the many sociocultural forces that impact our lived experience.

In my clinical work, I am focused on helping people thrive and cope during periods of significant change, and particularly during journeys towards and through parenthood which may involve infertility, losses, depression, anxiety, and conflict.  I work with people from all walks in life. Clients I work with are some of the strongest, most resilient folks I know. They don’t always feel this way, and they come to therapy feeling raw, maybe lost, and certainly quite vulnerable. It takes courage to confront your pain and struggle. I view psychotherapy as a deeply collaborative process that aims to help you discover and tap into your strengths and resources.  You already have what it takes to feel better, be happier, face challenges – good psychotherapy basically helps you access all that. This can only happen if your therapist genuinely cares about and respects you and is invested in their own ongoing professional development and personal growth.

I have extensive training in perinatal and reproductive mental health, evidence-based treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, sex therapy, and trauma.  I earned my bachelor’s degree in international studies at the University of Chicago and obtained my master’s degree in clinical social work at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.  I often present on topics related to mental health. I am an AASECT-certified sex therapist and a certified perinatal mental health clinician. My most valuable learning experiences come from my clients: their experience, wisdom and perspective have shaped my clinical practice the most, something I am deeply grateful for.

LCSW License Number:149016046
Type 1 NPI Number: 1841631132
Accepts: BCBS PPO and BlueChoice plans, Lyra, self-pay and out of network clients


Selected training and affiliation
AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist
Certified Perinatal Mental Health Clinician
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Training
Bringing Baby Home Educator Training, Gottman Institute
Circle of Security Parent Educator
Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) training
Gottman Method Level 1 training
Dialectical Behavior Therapy Training

Key beliefs
People are stronger and more resilient than they often realize.
Our culture teaches us to be fiercely independent. To thrive, we need to embrace being interdependent -- deep connection with others is essential for happiness.

More about me
I love the outdoors and hiking, camping, kayaking.
I can’t live without chocolate.
I feel grateful every day for getting to do the work I love.