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What is Psychotherapy?

Verified By Dr Namita Singh November 27, 2021 3158 0

Mental disorders are medical conditions that affect an individuals’ mood, thinking, and behaviours. Other than medication, Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, uses psychological methods to treat mental problems and is usually carried out by a psychiatristpsychologist, or other qualified mental health professionals. The methods primarily focus on regular personal interaction to understand your behaviours to help you function better and increase your well-being by making changes to behaviours. 

During a psychotherapy session, you will understand your moods, feelings, thoughts, and behaviour, which will help you take control of your emotions and life to better respond to challenging situations and develop healthy coping techniques and skills. 

What are the types of psychotherapy?

There are different types of psychotherapy, and each one has its own approach. The type of therapy adopted may differ with each person and is usually based on the individual’s behaviour. In certain cases, some approaches may be considered better than others, and the therapist chooses a suitable approach. Some of the most effective psychotherapies include:

  1. Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies: This therapy focuses on increasing your awareness about your unconscious thoughts and behaviours to change problematic outcomes and develop new insights into motivation and sub conscious thinking. This particular approach requires a close relationship with the therapist and the patient to learn more about themselves through an interactive therapeutic relationship. 
  2. Behaviour therapy: This therapy helps identify and change self-destructive or unhealthy behaviours following the ‘learning’ approach. The idea behind this approach is that all behaviours are learned, and that unhealthy or abnormal behaviours can be changed. 
  3. Cognitive therapy: For this type of therapy, the focus lies on what people think rather than what they do. Therapists believe that dysfunctional thinking leads to dysfunctional behaviour, and thus a change of thoughts can lead to a change of behaviour. 
  4. Dialectical behaviour therapy: This type of cognitive therapy uses behavioural skills to help individuals manage stress and emotions, and improves interactions and relationships.
  5. Humanistic therapy: This type of therapy emphasises on people’s capacity to make rational choices to lead a fulfilling life. This is based on the principle that every individual sees the world differently.
  6. Acceptance and commitment therapy: This therapy helps you become aware of your thoughts and feelings, resulting in making sensible and committed changes to cope and adjust to certain situations.
  7. Interpersonal therapy: This type of therapy helps in addressing and improving existing relationships with people in your life by enhancing interpersonal skills.
  8. Integrative or holistic therapy: This type of therapy is a tailor-made approach adopted by therapists where a blend of two or more therapies are used based on your needs. 

Supportive psychotherapy: This type of therapy helps in strengthening your coping skills during stressful and difficult situations. 

Why is psychotherapy needed?

Mental illness is very common, and psychotherapy helps in the treatment of these mental health problems, including:

  • Anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders and phobia
  • Kleptomania, a disorder that leads to recurrent urges to steal items that are generally not needed. More of an Impulse control problem issue
  • Addictions such as drug abuse, alcoholism, excessive internet/screen dependency and gambling
  • Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, delusional disorders, paranoia
  • Borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder

Bipolar disorder, depressiondementia are to name few of the many mental health related disorders

The benefits of psychotherapy are not just confined to those with any mental illnesses. It helps in:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Relieving stress and anxiety
  • Coping with difficult situations
  • Managing passive-aggressive behaviour
  • Dealing with any physical health problems
  • Recovering from drugs and alcohol
  • Better sleep

Even though in certain cases psychotherapy can be as effective as medications, depending on the situation, it may not be sufficient to treat a health condition.

How to prepare for psychotherapy?

Therapy sessions can be conducted for an individual, family, couple, or a group. Psychotherapy is suitable for both children and adults, and is usually conducted in sessions. The therapy becomes successful only when both the individual and the therapist are actively involved. Here is how you can prepare for therapy:

  • List down your concerns: Write down your concerns and issues you would like to work on with the therapist’s help. This will help you find a suitable therapist and also helps you organise your thoughts during the sessions. 
  • Look for a therapist: Find the right therapist through a trusted source like your friends, family, or doctor. Several employers offer counselling services through employee assistance programs (EAPs). You can also find your own therapist through the internet with research.

What happens during a psychotherapy session?

The number and frequency of sessions vary with individuals and is usually based on the following:

  • Your situation or mental health
  • Tracking your progress
  • The support you receive from family and friends
  • The severity of the mental condition

Sessions may last for a few weeks or up to a year in the case of severe mental health conditions.

Psychotherapy sessions encourage you to open up regarding your thoughts, concerns and feelings even if you find it hard initially. The therapist helps you gain more confidence and comfort with each session. As psychotherapy involves intense discussions, you may find yourself crying, upset or may even have an outburst as a result. The therapist will help you cope with all these emotions, and may even ask you to do certain exercises or participate in particular activities during the sessions. With time, you should feel more comfortable opening up to the therapist and after a few sessions, your ability to cope with problems will improve. 

Every session with the therapist is highly confidential. The information shared during the sessions is not disclosed unless the therapist feels there is a threat to you or someone else, and judicial laws require therapists to report such concerns to the authorities. 

It is important to feel comfortable with your therapist for the therapy to go well. Being active and honest in the sessions are extremely important for your progress. If you find it difficult to open up about certain matters of your life, let your therapist know. 

Psychotherapy doesn’t offer instant results. Any progress comes gradually, and it is essential to be patient throughout the therapy. If you feel like the sessions are not helping, convey the same to the therapist. Psychotherapy may not completely cure your problem. However, it will help you cope with challenging situations in a healthy manner. As adaptation and learning improves for most individuals, with sessions the quality of life enhances. The individual usually is more aware and skilled with better coping mechanism, calmer and confident to deal, move forward in life progressions.

Verified By Dr Namita Singh
Ph.D. in Psychology, M.Phil.-Specialization Neuropsychology, Consultant Psychologist, Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad

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