Home Topics Conditions and Diagnoses Mental Health Psychotherapies

Psychotherapies

Provided by the NAMI: National Institute of Mental Health




Psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”) is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Most psychotherapy takes place with a licensed and trained mental health care professional and a patient meeting one on one or with other patients in a group setting.

Someone might seek out psychotherapy for different reasons:

  • You might be dealing with severe or long-term stress from a job or family situation, the loss of a loved one, or relationship or other family issues. Or you may have symptoms with no physical explanation: changes in sleep or appetite, low energy, a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed, persistent irritability, or a sense of discouragement or hopelessness that won’t go away.

  • A health professional may suspect or have diagnosed a condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress or other disorder and recommended psychotherapy as a first treatment or to go along with medication.

  • You may be seeking treatment for a family member or child who has been diagnosed with a condition affecting mental health and for whom a health professional has recommended treatment.


An exam by your primary care practitioner can ensure there is nothing in your overall health that would explain your or a loved one’s symptoms.



What to Consider When Looking for a Therapist




Therapists have different professional backgrounds and specialties. There are resources at the end of this material that can help you find out about the different credentials of therapists and resources for locating therapists.

There are many different types of psychotherapy. Different therapies are often variations on an established approach, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. There is no formal approval process for psychotherapies as there is for the use of medications in medicine. For many therapies, however, research involving large numbers of patients has provided evidence that treatment is effective for specific disorders. These “evidence-based therapies” have been shown in research to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other disorders.

The particular approach a therapist uses depends on the condition being treated and the training and experience of the therapist. Also, therapists may combine and adapt elements of different approaches. The health information pages for specific disorders on the NIMH website list some of the evidence based therapies for those disorders.

One goal of establishing an evidence base for psychotherapies is to prevent situations in which a person receives therapy for months or years with no benefit. If you have been in therapy and feel you are not getting better, talk to your therapist, or look into other practitioners or approaches. The object of therapy is to gain relief from symptoms and improve quality of life.

Once you have identified one or more possible therapists, a preliminary conversation with a therapist can help you get an idea of how treatment will proceed and whether you feel comfortable with the therapist. Rapport and trust are important. Discussions in therapy are deeply personal and it’s important that you feel comfortable and trusting with the therapist and have confidence in his or her expertise. Consider asking the following questions:

  • What are the credentials and experience of the therapist? Does he or she have a specialty?

  • What approach will the therapist take to help you? Does he or she practice a particular type of therapy? What can the therapist tell you about the rationale for the therapy and the evidence base?

  • Does the therapist have experience in diagnosing and treating the age group (for example, a child) and the specific condition for which treatment is being sought? If a child is the patient, how will parents be involved in treatment?

  • What are the goals of therapy? Does the therapist recommend a specific time frame or number of sessions? How will progress be assessed and what happens if you (or the therapist) feel you aren’t starting to feel better?

  • Will there be homework?

  • Are medications an option? How will medications be prescribed if the therapist is not an M.D.?

  • Are our meetings confidential? How can this be assured?


Psychotherapies and Other Treatment Options


Psychotherapy can be an alternative to medication or can be used along with other treatment options, such as medications. Choosing the right treatment plan should be based on a person's individual needs and medical situation and under a mental health professional’s care.

Even when medications relieve symptoms, psychotherapy and other interventions can help a person address specific issues. These might include self-defeating ways of thinking, fears, problems with interactions with other people, or dealing with situations at home and at school or with employment.

Elements of Psychotherapy


A variety of different kinds of psychotherapies and interventions have been shown to be effective for specific disorders. Psychotherapists may use one primary approach, or incorporate different elements depending on their training, the condition being treated, and the needs of the person receiving treatment.

Here are examples of the elements that psychotherapies can include:

  • Helping a person become aware of ways of thinking that may be automatic but are inaccurate and harmful. (An example might be someone who has a low opinion of his or her own abilities.) The therapist helps the person find ways to question these thoughts, understand how they affect emotions and behavior, and try ways to change self-defeating patterns. This approach is central to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

  • Identifying ways to cope with stress.

  • Examining in depth a person’s interactions with others and offering guidance with social and communication skills, if needed.

  • Relaxation and mindfulness techniques.

  • Exposure therapy for people with anxiety disorders. In exposure therapy, a person spends brief periods, in a supportive environment, learning to tolerate the distress certain items, ideas, or imagined scenes cause. Over time the fear associated with these things dissipates.

  • Tracking emotions and activities and the impact of each on the other.

  • Safety planning can include helping a person recognize warning signs, and thinking about coping strategies, such as contacting friends, family, or emergency personnel.

  • Supportive counseling to help a person explore troubling issues and provide emotional support.


**********

Get Help


If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress, please reach out to a mental health professional or get confidential, free support and text LOOKUP to 494949 or chat online here.

If you live in Indiana and need help finding a behavioral health provider, visit Find Help or call (800) 284-8439.

 


 

Read More

 

Back to list

Warning! The image or video you are about to view may contain content that could be triggering. Please view at your own risk.

Watch Video Get me out of here