How Does Psychotherapy Help?
Psychotherapy helps people with a mental disorder to:
- Understand the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that contribute to his or her illness and learn how to modify them
- Understand and identify the life problems or events — like a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job, or a divorce — that contribute to his or her illness and help him/her understand which aspects of those problems he/she may be able to solve or improve
- Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life
- Learn healthy coping techniques and problem-solving skills
Types of Therapy
Therapy can be given in a variety of formats, including:
- Individual: This therapy involves only the patient and the therapist.
- Group: Two or more patients may participate in therapy at the same time. Patients are able to share experiences and learn that others feel the same way and have had the same experiences.
- Marital/couples: This type of therapy helps spouses and partners understand why their loved one has a mental disorder, what changes in communication and behaviors can help, and what they can do to cope. This type of therapy can also be used to help a couple that is struggling with aspects of their relationship.
- Family: Because family is a key part of the team that helps people with mental illness get better, it is sometimes helpful for family members to understand what their loved one is going through, how they themselves can cope, and what they can do to help.
Approaches to Therapy
While therapy can be done in different formats — like family, group, and individual — there are also several different approaches that mental health professionals can take to provide therapy. After talking with the patient about their disorder, the therapist will decide which approach to use based on the suspected underlying factors contributing to the condition. There are many therapeutic approaches are available. Here are a few therapeutic approaches examples for your information.
Psychodynamic therapy is based on the assumption that a person is having emotional problems because of unresolved, generally unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood. The goal of this type of therapy is for the patient to understand and cope better with these feelings by talking about the experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is administered over a period of at least several months, although it can last longer, even years.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the behaviors and interactions a patient has with family and friends. The primary goal of this therapy is to improve communication skills and increase self-esteem during a short period of time. It usually lasts three to four months and works well for depression caused by mourning, relationship conflicts, major life events, and social isolation.
Psychodynamic and interpersonal therapies help patients resolve mental illness caused by:
- Loss (grief)
- Relationship conflicts
- Role transitions (such as becoming a mother, or a caregiver)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people with mental illness to identify and change inaccurate perceptions that they may have of themselves and the world around them. The therapist helps the patient establish new ways of thinking by directing attention to both the “wrong” and “right” assumptions they make about themselves and others.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended for patients:
- Who think and behave in ways that trigger and perpetuate mental illness
- Who suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders as the only treatment or, depending on the severity, in addition to treatment with antidepressant medication.
- Who refuse or are unable to take antidepressant medication
- Of all ages who have mental illness that causes suffering, disability, or interpersonal problems
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy used for high-risk, tough-to-treat patients. The term “dialectical” comes from the idea that bringing together two opposites in therapy — acceptance and change — brings better results than either one alone. DBT helps a person change unhealthy behaviors such as lying and self-injury through keeping daily diaries, individual and group therapy and phone coaching.
DBT was initially designed to treat people with suicidal behavior and borderline personality disorder. But it has been adapted for other mental health problems that threaten a person’s safety, relationships, work, and emotional well-being.
Comprehensive DBT focuses on four ways to enhance life skills:
- Distress tolerance: Feeling intense emotions like anger without reacting impulsively or using self-injury or substance abuse to dampen distress.
- Emotion regulation: Recognizing, labeling, and adjusting emotions.
- Mindfulness: Becoming more aware of self and others and attentive to the present moment.
- Interpersonal effectiveness: Navigating conflict and interacting assertively.
Tips for Starting Therapy
Here are some tips to use when starting therapy for the first time:
- Identify sources of stress: Try keeping a journal and note stressful as well as positive events.
- Restructure priorities: Emphasize positive, effective behavior.
- Make time for recreational and pleasurable activities.
- Communicate: Explain and assert your needs to someone you trust; write in a journal to express your feelings.
- Try to focus on positive outcomes and finding methods for reducing and managing stress.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but when it takes on a life of its own it becomes an unhealthy, generalized reaction that affects the body and mind. Symptoms can include rapid heartbeat, aches and pains, and muscle tension.
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
Although anxiety is not always present in depressive disorders, most of the time it lurks beneath the surface. But true depression differs from an anxiety disorder in that a depressed mood is typically its most obvious symptom, whereas anxiety is the primary sign of an authentic anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Panic disorder, Specific phobias, Social anxiety disorder
What Is Phobic Disorder?
Specific phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. They involve an unreasonable or irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger. The fear can be of a situation, object, or event. If people with phobias can’t avoid what they fear, then it immediately results in a marked anxiety response. This response can include rapid heartbeat, nausea or profuse sweating.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a psychological condition that causes an overwhelming fear of situations that require interacting with another person or performing in front of others. Unlike being shy around strangers or nervous before a performance, social anxiety is a fear that you might humiliate yourself with your actions or speech in public.
The symptoms of social phobia are much the same as symptoms for other anxiety disorders. They include: Difficulty talking, Dry mouth, Intense sweating, nausea, racing heart, trembling or shaking.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision.
EMDR therapy combines different elements to maximize treatment effects. A full description of the theory, sequence of treatment, and research on protocols and active mechanisms can be found in F. Shapiro (2001) Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (2nd edition) New York: Guilford Press.
What Is Play Therapy?
… toys are the child’s words!
Initially developed in the turn of the 20th century, today play therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all applying the therapeutic benefits of play. Play therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them (Axline, 1947; Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002). Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.
What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?
EFT is a well-known humanistic approach to psychotherapy formulated in the 1980’s and developed in tandem with the science of adult attachment, a profound developmental theory of personality and intimate relationships. This science has expanded our understanding of individual dysfunction and health as well as the nature of love relationships and family bonds. Attachment views human beings as innately relational, social and wired for intimate bonding with others. The EFT model prioritizes emotion and emotional regulation as the key organizing agents in individual experience and key relationship interactions.