Why people seek psychotherapy

According to psychologists Dr. Liz Roemer and Dr. Sue Orsillo

Dr. Liz Roemer

Dr. Sue Orsillo

, the most common complaints people bring into their psychotherapy sessions have as their root cause cognitive fusion, lack of acceptance of self and others, experiential avoidance, or failure to take valued action. In light of our earlier discussion of unnecessary suffering, this is not surprising, as we have seen that these are all common causes of it. They are at the root of the pain that drives people to seek help.

Those unhealthy mental practices often are rooted in our core beliefs. 

Core beliefs are the deeply entrenched beliefs about ourselves and the world that we carry through life. Very unhealthy core beliefs often originate from our dysfunctional families of origin. This is where we might have learned to believe I’m not lovable or I’m not good enough. We also carry core beliefs that are the result of the propaganda with which we are bombarded throughout life, propagated in families, school systems, religious institutions, and the media. 

As an extension of our core beliefs, and despite all evidence to the contrary, we can easily delude ourselves into identifying ourselves and others as being a certain way—as more of a static idea than a human being. For example, in the United States we continually hear people described as being “a good person,” “a good Christian,” or a good anything that we value. On the surface, there might seem to be no harm in this, but there is inherent danger in identifying with labels. It’s just as easy to label people as bad as it is to label them with more positive attributions, and the unfortunate logical conclusion of such labeling is often violence against those determined “bad.” There is considerable suffering in this for both the judger and the judged.


From a psychoneuroimmunology perspective, happy moods are life serving and unhappy moods are unhealthy. But, perhaps counterintuitive at first, happy moods are actually unhealthy as well, and the reason lies in the importance of mindfulness in emotional well-being and the nature of mood itself: moods and mindfulness cannot coexist. When we are mindful, our thoughts, images, sensations, and emotions change from moment to moment; we don’t reside in a single state. So from a mindfulness perspective, happy moods are destructive because they entail a lack of psychological flexibility. Yes, it is possible to be in a happy mood, but a healthy mood is an oxymoron.