Talk therapy can be very beneficial for people with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions. Therapy and medication are the most common treatment options for mental disorders but there is still a lot of misinformation about what psychotherapy is and what it does.
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a method for treating mental health problems. Treatment involves talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, licensed social worker, psychiatric nurse, or other mental health providers. Psychotherapy may be useful in treating a number of mental health conditions, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality disorders
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Neurocognitive disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
Psychotherapy may also be beneficial in treating patients without a mental disorder, including managing stress, recovering from physical or sexual abuse, improving the quality of sleep, or resolving conflicts.
There are a number of psychotherapy approaches but it generally involves learning about the patient's condition, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Through therapy, patients may be able to recognize negative emotions and behaviors and work to change those negative reactions and learn how to manage their condition.
Psychotherapy generally involves a one-on-one session once a week or once every other week. In some cases, psychotherapy can take place in a group session or use a combination of individual therapy and group therapy. Some patients can benefit from short-term therapy but psychotherapy is generally a long-term treatment that may require regular sessions for a year or longer.
Psychotherapy may be used in combination with medication. Some patients respond better to just therapy, others to just medication, but finding the right combination of therapy and the right medication can help most patients with mental conditions.
Psychotherapy sessions are generally confidential. However, a therapist may have a duty to report when a patient represents an immediate threat to themselves or to others.
Misconceptions About Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy has been around for decades but there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions about this therapy. Some misconceptions include:
- Psychotherapy is a quick fix. Therapy is generally not a way to cure a mental illness in one session. Psychotherapy could be a long-term process and require regular sessions and active participation by the patient.
- My therapist will tell me what to do to fix my problem. In most cases, the therapist will not simply tell you what to do. Therapists will generally talk with the patient and ask questions to get the patient to determine what they want to do and why.
- Psychotherapy is Only for Crazy People. A mental illness is a real illness. Like a physical illness, mental illness should be addressed to improve the patient's quality of life. Psychotherapy is a treatment option for people with a mental illness as well as for many people without a mental illness.
Many people are hesitant to seek help for a mental illness and resistant to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy can be a difficult process and takes time and effort. It may not be easy to look at past and current negative behaviors, address painful experiences, or work to change emotions and reactions. Going into the first psychotherapy session with an open mind can help a patient understand the process, the type of therapy, and goals of treatment.
Types of Psychotherapy
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychotherapy can be categorized as one of the following:
- Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy
- Behavior therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Humanistic therapy
- Integrative or holistic therapy
Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on changing problematic behaviors, feelings, and thoughts by looking at their motivations and unconscious meanings. Also called insight-oriented psychotherapy, patients and therapists work together to explore the unconscious process through verbalization, free association, fantasies, and dreams. Sigmund Freud was a well-known practitioner of psychoanalysis.
Behavior therapy focuses on normal and abnormal behaviors and how these behaviors can be learned and unlearned. Desensitizing a patient to an anxiety or phobia may involve repeated exposure to the thing that is causing stress or anxiety instead of avoiding the issue. Behavior modification is used to change negative behaviors and improve emotional responses and interactions.
Cognitive therapy is focused on changing dysfunctional thinking which can lead to dysfunctional behaviors. By changing their thoughts, patients can improve their emotions and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a combination of behavior therapy and cognitive therapy that uses a number of modalities to help patients recognize and handle dysfunctional thinking, behaviors, reactions, and emotions.
Humanistic therapy focuses on the needs of the individual, the ability to make rational choices, and positive growth. Also known as experiential therapy, this provides an environment to foster self-actualization to maximize potential. Some types of humanistic therapy include:
- Client-centered therapy
- Gestalt therapy
- Existential therapy
Integrative or Holistic Therapy
Many psychotherapists use a combination of therapies, modalities, and approaches to address the specific needs of the patient. Integrative or holistic therapy combines ideas and strategies from a variety of categories.
Psychotherapy in Treating Depression
Depression is associated with feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Symptoms of depression can include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in normal activities, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts. Depression can be caused by physical changes in the brain, changes in brain chemistry, or hormonal imbalance.
Psychotherapy can help individuals with depression in understanding the cause of depression, provide coping mechanisms, and work on new ways to react to negative thoughts, emotions, or behaviors. Therapeutic treatment may include interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Psychotherapy in Treating Anxiety
Anxiety can include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include feeling nervous or restless, increased heart rate, a sense of impending danger, trouble concentrating, and trouble sleeping.
Psychotherapy in treating anxiety often involves cognitive behavioral therapy. This includes exploring how negative thoughts affect behavior and emotions, identifying negative thoughts, changing how one reacts to negative thoughts, and replacing negative thoughts with realistic thoughts. Exposure therapy may also be used to expose individuals to the things that cause their anxiety and explore their reactions and emotions to overcome them.
Psychotherapy in Treating PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and uncontrolled thoughts about the traumatic event in the past or concerns that something will happen in the future. PTSD can have negative impacts on thinking and emotional reactions. Traumatic events that may develop into PTSD can include a serious accident, watching another person suffer injury or death, physical or sexual abuse, or warfare.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to address PTSD. This includes recognition and reevaluation of trauma-related thinking. Exposure therapy can also be used to gradually address the associated memories, situations, and emotions. Patients can also learn coping skills to recognize and manage their stress.
Other therapies to treat PTSD may involve Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Present Centered Therapy (PCT).
Treatment for Mental Health After an Injury or Illness
If you suffered a mental health illness, disease, or other condition because of an accident or medical error, talk to our experienced trial lawyers about your options for treatment and recovery. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.