Psychotherapy is a general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider.
During psychotherapy, you learn about your condition and your moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy helps you learn how to take control of your life and respond to challenging situations with healthy coping skills.
There are many specific types of psychotherapy, each with its own approach. The type of psychotherapy that’s right for you depends on your individual situation. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy or, simply, therapy.
In becoming a patient at Vitality, this is the first step for all patients. This is done even for patients who seek only to see a Prescriber for medication, as the time spent with the therapist will assist the Prescriber with notes on your background, previous diagnoses and other information which the Therapist will gather.
Why It’s Done
Psychotherapy can be helpful in treating most mental health problems, including:
• Anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder
• Addictions, such as alcoholism, drug dependence or compulsive gambling
• Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
• Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or dependent personality disorder
• Schizophrenia or other disorders that cause detachment from reality (psychotic disorders)
Not everyone who benefits from psychotherapy is diagnosed with a mental illness. Psychotherapy can help with a number of life’s stresses and conflicts that can affect anyone. For example, it may help you:
• Resolve conflicts with your partner or someone else in your life
• Relieve anxiety or stress due to work or other situations
• Cope with major life changes, such as divorce, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job
• Learn to manage unhealthy reactions, such as road rage or passive-aggressive behavior
• Come to terms with an ongoing or serious physical health problem, such as diabetes, cancer or ongoing (chronic) pain
• Recover from physical or sexual abuse or witnessing violence
• Cope with sexual problems, whether they’re due to a physical or psychological cause
• Sleep better, if you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep (insomnia)
In some cases, psychotherapy can be as effective as medications, such as antidepressants. However, depending on your specific situation, psychotherapy alone may not be enough to ease the symptoms of a mental health condition. You may also need medications or other treatments.
Types of Psychotherapy
There are a number of effective types of psychotherapy. Some work better than others in treating certain disorders and conditions. In many cases, therapists use a combination of techniques. Your therapist will consider your particular situation and preferences to determine which approach may be best for you.
Although many subtypes and variations on therapies exist, some psychotherapy techniques proven to be effective include:
• Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
• Dialectical behavior therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches behavioral skills to help you handle stress, manage your emotions and improve your relationships with others
• Acceptance and commitment therapy, which helps you become aware of and accept your thoughts and feelings and commit to making changes, increasing your ability to cope with and adjust to situations
• Psychodynamic and psychoanalysis therapies, which focus on increasing your awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviors, developing new insights into your motivations, and resolving conflicts
• Interpersonal psychotherapy, which focuses on addressing problems with your current relationships with other people to improve your interpersonal skills — how you relate to others, such as family, friends and colleagues
For most types of psychotherapy, your therapist encourages you to talk about your thoughts and feelings and what’s troubling you. Don’t worry if you find it hard to open up about your feelings. Your therapist can help you gain more confidence and comfort as time goes on.
Because psychotherapy sometimes involves intense emotional discussions, you may find yourself crying, upset or even having an angry outburst during a session. Some people may feel physically exhausted after a session. Your therapist is there to help you cope with such feelings and emotions.
Your therapist may ask you to do “homework” — activities or practices that build on what you learn during your regular therapy sessions. Over time, discussing your concerns can help improve your mood, change the way you think and feel about yourself, and improve your ability to cope with problems.
Except in very specific circumstances, conversations with your therapist are confidential. However, a therapist may break confidentiality if there is an immediate threat to safety or when required by state or federal law to report concerns to authorities. These situations include:
• Threatening to immediately or soon (imminently) harm yourself or commit suicide
• Threatening to immediately or soon (imminently) harm or take the life of another person
• Abusing a child or a vulnerable adult (someone older than age 18 who is hospitalized or made vulnerable by a disability)
Length of Psychotherapy
The number of psychotherapy sessions you need — and how frequently you need to see your therapist — depends on such factors as:
• Your particular mental illness or situation
• Severity of your symptoms
• How long you’ve had symptoms or have been dealing with your situation
• How quickly you make progress
• How much stress you’re experiencing
• How much your mental health concerns interfere with day-to-day life
• How much support you receive from family members and others