There is no simple answer to this question. Mental health therapy is different for every person, and if you do treatment two separate times, those times could be completely different.
So how does mental health therapy work? Is it awkward sitting in a chair talking to a stranger? Do you even need a therapist? For all this and more, read on!
How It Works
There are several approaches to psychotherapy, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). These include cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, psychodynamic therapy, and other kinds of talk therapy. No matter which method turns out to be best for you, the conversation is the crux of treatment.
Therapy for your mental health aims to teach you how your mind and emotions work. Therapy’s goal is to change things within yourself that are causing issues in your life or can even be as simple as starting a personal growth journey. Mental health therapy takes a lot of work and involvement on your part, a good therapist is a guide that can give you tools, but they can’t change anything for you; that is up to you.
You and your therapist build a relationship in which you can openly communicate with a neutral, non-judgmental party. As this relationship develops, you and your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that keep you from feeling your best.
When most people think of mental health therapy, they go right to counseling. Counseling is when you talk with a therapist about what is bothering you, and they ask you questions to try and dig deeper into the real reason you feel that way. It can help you better understand what you think and why you think it, enabling you to identify your issues, develop better coping skills, and grow as a person.
According to Psychology Today, different types of therapies work towards various goals, be it PTSD, depression, anxiety, or working through personal issues of any kind.
• For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat various issues, including panic attacks and eating disorders.
• Exposure therapy is a more niche-oriented therapy generally used to treat OCD, PTSD, or a range of phobias. Exposure therapy is just what it sounds like, exposing yourself to something that may be a trigger for you.
Do You Need Mental Health Therapy?
Any time your quality of life doesn’t want you to want it to be, therapy can help. Perhaps you have depression or anxiety issues, and treatment can help. Many people have problems from their childhoods that interfere with their adult life, and therapy can help.
According to the APA, signs that you could benefit from therapy include:
• Prolonged sadness or helplessness
• Chronic anxious feelings or worried thoughts
• Your problems haven’t gotten better despite your efforts
• Difficulty concentrating at work or in your personal life
• Drug or alcohol problems that are harming you or others
• You have problems with your relationships
• Self-esteem issues
• Problems with life skills, like confidence or motivation
• Marriage or relationship issues that require couples counseling
It is also important to note that you do not have to have any urgent issues. You may just want to learn about yourself, who you are, and work on developing a better you. In this case, therapy can help.
Types of Therapists
Different levels of education qualify and license a therapist, including but not limited to:
• MFT (marriage, family counselors)
• LCSW (licensed clinical social worker)
• MD Psychiatrists (medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry and can prescribe medications)
A great place to start is asking your primary care doctor. He or she will be able to refer you to a skilled psychologist they trust. This psychologist will often be covered under your insurance since they are associated with your primate care doctor. There will likely be a waiting period before you can see your new doctor, so be prepared for that. Your primary care doctor can often prescribe you medication to hold you over if your situation is dire. Be honest with them, and they can help.
If you do not have health insurance, consult the nearest university or mental health center. They often provide low-cost treatment and information that will help you find the therapy you need.
Psychology Today offers an online search tool to find a therapist in your area - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
What If It Isn’t Working?
If you’ve been in therapy a while and it doesn’t seem adequate, you should consider your psychologist and your treatment plan. You also need to keep in mind that as treatment progresses, repressed negative emotions may bubble up to the surface of your mind.
If you don’t feel like you can be open with your psychologist, you might want to find a new one. If your treatment plan doesn’t seem logical for you, bring that up with your psychologist and discuss making changes.
The journey to better mental health is just that, a trip, and no one should go on a long journey alone. Therapy can be a great asset, and your therapist can be a trusted confidant that can guide you towards a better you and a better life.
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If you’re considering therapy or even if you’re a few weeks in, you may be wondering if it’s all worth it. Is it working? You may not feel any different. Therapy can be expensive, so wondering about its efficacy is actually valid. If you’re new to treatment and still developing your relationship with your therapist, it may be hard to tell if you’re on the right track.
Therapy effectiveness is measured differently for everyone. Someone might measure its effectiveness by how many days they shower in a week. Someone else might measure it by eating regular meals more than a few times a week. There are endless possibilities; however, there are some general things that are the same for everyone.
Thankfully, there are some criteria you can use to evaluate the efficacy of therapy, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). These criteria, in a nutshell, use current empirical literature to make informed, research, and colleague-backed treatment decisions.
Is It Based On Relevant Empirical Literature?
Empirical means based on observation or experience rather than theory. The relevant empirical literature on psychology would be up to date, peer-reviewed, and based upon reproducible studies, and you can observe the results. You should evaluate if your treatment is based on sound science.
How can you do this without being a psychologist? Today we have the Internet. You can ask your psychologist about the name of your treatment and the studies associated with it. From there, you should have a basis for your research. If it isn’t relevant or up to date, you might want to consider a new psychologist. If it is, however, then stay the course!
Use Only Cutting Edge Research
This criterion will help you evaluate if the empirical literature is relevant. There is good science, and there is bad science. There is also new science that hasn’t been around long enough to be tested extensively. You don’t want to be a guinea pig.
An example of bad science is the science that draws a conclusion that isn’t based on enough evidence. Just because a treatment worked for a few people doesn’t mean it’s effective. Did the experiment account for the placebo effect? Was there a control group? Have the results been replicated? If the answer is no for any of these, be very wary.
A Treatment Must Be Better Than Doing Nothing
Let’s say someone has an extreme fear of spiders. One treatment might be exposing this person to so many spiders that they no longer afraid of is an option. However, this approach could horrify the person and increase their fear if unsuccessful. If this person has heart issues, it could also trigger those. A good therapist will evaluate all of these angles to determine if the treatment is worthwhile or if just letting this person be afraid of spiders is better.
Treatment should help, never harm. If you think the risk of damage is too high in your treatment, voice your concerns to your therapist. Hopefully, they will convince you of the best path, but you should consider finding a new therapist if you don’t trust them.
Guided By Specific Outcomes
You and your therapist should decide upon specific outcomes for your therapy. Maybe you want to be less anxious or become more assertive. Without precise, measurable results, any endeavor is sure to fail. So be specific, not vague.
Don’t aim at something like “I want to be happy.” Instead, work with your therapist to find specific aspects of your thoughts and habits that keep you unhappy. Then work on ways to change those.
According to the ADA, “The strongest recommendations are based on demonstrations that the treatment under consideration is more effective than alternative interventions that are known or believed to be effective.”
In other words, your therapist should give you a few options to weigh. Your therapist will be the best source of information on these treatments, but feel free to do your research as well. Choose only the treatments and goals that make the most sense to you. In the end, the final say is yours!
Therapist’s Interpersonal Skills
The central part of a therapist’s job is talking to many different people and engaging well with them. If your therapist is not involved or does not feel comfortable in the relationship, this can be an issue. If a therapist has good interpersonal skills, good enough to build a relationship with you, therapy will become much more effective.
Therapist’s Ability to Assess You
Upon going to a therapist, one of the first things they have to do is assess their new patient. If a therapist cannot evaluate their patient correctly, then there is no basis to start. Assessment is critical in creating the proper baseline and foundation for therapy.
Individualized Treatment Plan
Therapists deal with many different people that have various symptoms and issues. That means there is not a one size fits all type of advice or treatment. The ability of a therapist to alter treatment options for each patient based on their needs is a must for effective therapy.
Your Ability to Open Up
If you do not open up to your therapist and let them know what is going on, there is no way for therapy to work. It is not easy, but the honest conversation is a must. When you open up completely, your therapist gets a clear view of what they are dealing with, which will create a much more effective and efficient therapy experience.
Your Willingness to Learn
If you are going to therapy without learning, then treatment will not help you very much. You are opening up your mind to the options set before you is a must.
Your Willingness to Change
After you learn where your issues are coming from and ways you could potentially deal with them or fix them, you must want to change. Learning is one thing, but if you don’t apply it to your life and your issues, it will stall progress. If you are willing to make changes in your life, you are much more likely to work past whatever you are dealing with.
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Therapy can come in many forms. Talk therapy is a practice that you can do differently where one of the most popular therapies available. Psychodynamic therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, and humanistic therapy are just a few popular therapy options.
6 Popular Types of Talk Therapy Currently Used Today
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely practiced form of talk therapy that involves structured sessions. It is usually a short-term mental health treatment that addresses patterns of existing behavior. By understanding unhelpful thought patterns, the therapist can help guide the patient into making healthier choices.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can identify beliefs the patient did not know they had. These beliefs can be about themselves, others, or the world around them, just by addressing current symptoms and not spending as much time on the past, the design of this therapy to work on simple changes.
Psychodynamic therapy stemmed from what was once called psychoanalysis. Like psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy allows the patient to talk about anything that’s on their mind. The subconscious thought is encouraged so that a therapist can uncover thought and behavior patterns that may contribute to distress. Psychodynamic therapy can focus on current events as well as childhood and past events.
Unlike cognitive behavioral therapy, a usual practice that is called psychodynamic therapy is on a long-term basis. It is an intensive form of talk therapy designed to treat depression, eating disorders, somatic symptoms, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
These are designed to help the patient develop self-acceptance. For those who struggle with low esteem and depression, this can be a beneficial form of talk therapy. By focusing on current life, a humanistic approach to counseling is different from psychodynamic treatment.
Possible techniques used in humanistic therapy include role-playing, reenacting, and active listening. Those who are suffering from relationship difficulties, trauma, or depression can all benefit from humanistic treatment.
Dialectic Behavior Therapy
DBT is a form of talk therapy that identifies negative thinking patterns by using favorable behavior modification. It is one of the most popular therapies for those who struggle with impulsive behavior and suicidal ideation or self-destructive behavior.
By accepting the patient’s experience of what is happening, a patient’s trust is at the forefront. Unlike many other talk therapy practices, DBT comprises several components, including individual therapy and group skills training. Many patients who have had little success in other forms of therapy do well with this type of intensive therapy.
Interpersonal therapy mainly focuses on depression and relationship issues. An interpersonal counselor can address relationships and mood cycles that impact one another.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR uses talking and sensation techniques to help those who may be suffering from trauma. Specific eye movements can help reframe memories and situations so that patients no longer have to endure flashbacks or intrusive thoughts. This type of therapy generally lasts between 8 and 12 sessions.
The Efficacy of Talk Therapy
Many people assume all talk therapies are the same. In reality, just as patients are unique, so are their therapies. While cognitive-behavioral therapy may work for some people with depression, it does not necessarily work for all.
Finding the right therapy is crucial when treating mental health issues. With a suitable form of treatment and counselor, therapy can help solve relationship and mood issues.
You may have heard about talk or cognitive behavioral therapies before but not know what they entail. They're both great for different reasons and it's important to find
which one will work best for you!
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Counseling can take many different forms. In addition to mental illness, many people seek therapy because of circumstantial issues. Depending on the person, there are a wide variety of treatment options available.
Not everyone who receive mental health treatment are mentally ill. Life provides everyone with certain challenges that may feel overwhelming. Needing professional help to overcome life obstacles is separate from having a mental illness.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a mental illness is a condition that is associated with distress or a problem functioning in social, work, or family environments. A mental illness is diagnosable and occurs when a significant change occurs in the foundation of emotions, communication, self-esteem, or realistic perception.
Examples of diagnosable mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, socialized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. Although mental illness can be brought on by external factors such as trauma or life circumstance, mental illness can also be rooted in biology. For severe cases of mental illness involving schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, medication is often a necessity.
Mental health does not describe a class of people. Regardless of personal, relational, or mood functioning, everybody has mental health. Because we are an emotional species, understanding and coping with our thoughts and feelings is essential. Visiting a mental health professional can help an individual uncover subconscious thought patterns, change problematic behavior, process grief, and repair relationships.
If you are going through a hard time and thinking of seeking professional help, here are three steps you can take to get ready for this process.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
A great deal of energy can be spent avoiding unwanted feelings and emotions. Whether you’re experiencing marital problems, living through a death in the family, or experiencing a change in routine, it can be second nature to deny your feelings. By masking them through using substances like alcohol or drugs or by avoiding them through long hours at the office, you can actually prolong suffering. The first step to overcoming difficult obstacles is to acknowledge the feelings surrounding them. Once this is done, you can accept the need for help.
If you do not feel particularly hopeful about a situation, let alone the future as a whole, it will be hard to manage whatever it is you are dealing with. By assigning small goals that can be realistically accomplished, you can start to have hope for a better life. This is not an easy step. For those who are feeling depressed or extremely anxious, having hope in the future may involve finding outside help. A mental health professional can guide you through the process of overcoming painful emotions. Many people find comfort knowing they are not alone in their struggles.
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Most people find that they recover from mental health problems after seeking professional help. While the time frame for everyone is different, an increase in energy is common. Making plans that are designed around small, individual goals can help boost confidence and happiness. Set goals for yourself and be ready to discuss those during your counseling sessions.
Therapy can help with all kinds of life circumstances. Whether you’re adjusting to a new routine or grieving the loss of a loved one, talking through the issues can improve behavior and mood. During a crisis, it is easy to become cognitively overwhelmed and when life feels unmanageable, our coping skills can decline.
Visiting a mental health professional is one way to feel secure and confident in a variety of situations.
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When as a society, we think of health, we typically think of physical aspects. We think of losing weight, gaining muscle, and looking athletic. What most of us fail to remember is that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
Mental health disorders are "real," but often treatable. Mental health issues can be either minor and short-term or life-long. Some others are more severe and require help from a professional.
Today, amid a pandemic, political and civil turmoil, the mental health of millions of people is at risk.
According to Mental Health America, "as the number of cases of COVID-19 increases, so does the associated anxiety. For the general public, the mental health effects of COVID-19 are as essential to address as are the physical health effects. And for the one in five who already have mental health conditions – or the one in two who are at risk of developing them – we need to take personal, professional, and policy measures now to address them."
If you need the help of a mental health professional, here are some tips to follow.
Where To Find Help?
One of the best places to start would be your family physician, who can refer you to a specialist. Which type of specialist you go for help will depend on the nature of the problem and symptoms. Your family physician can do an assessment and determine where to refer you. A local health department, mental health facility, or a crisis center are also other available options.
Try getting a few contact names, so you can research about more than one facility before choosing a provider. Also, if you have health insurance, they may provide a list of mental health providers who are covered in your plan. Your local health department or community mental health center, however, may provide free or low-cost care.
One supplemental program is peer support groups. They can serve as an essential addition to the help you receive from professional mental health providers.
Support groups can be a valuable resource, for sure. A layperson usually leads these groups. They are designed to bring individuals together- those who have similar mental health or substance abuse illnesses. Other organized types of support groups are drop-in centers, warmlines, and training courses in mental health wellness and recovery.
Types of Mental Health Professional
How to Choose the Right Mental Health Professional?
Talk with the professional on the phone. Ask questions about their approach, philosophy, specialty, or concentration. Once you have selected and feel comfortable with a specific counselor or doctor, the next step is to schedule an office visit.
Your first visit will involve talking with the therapist or doctor to allow them to get to know you and your circumstances for a visit. They will ask you what you think the problem is. They will ask about your life, job, living arrangements, family, and friends. Even though you may feel this information is personal, it will help the professional assess your situation and develop a treatment plan.
As you start working through your treatment plan, you should begin to feel improvement. You should feel you trust your therapist and feel better about whatever circumstances you are there to face.
It would help if you start to be more comfortable in your relationships because your treatment plan may be painful and uncomfortable at times. The more you actively participate in the treatment plans, the better you will be able to cope with your feelings more effectively.
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Are you thinking about getting therapy?
If you’ve never been to a therapist before, you may be wondering what to expect and how exactly a stranger can help you with your problems. These are very common and fair concerns!
Good therapists offer you a large arsenal of therapeutic methods and research-based treatments. In fact, according to a study called Enduring Effects for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety by Steven D. Hollon et al. “cognitive and behavioral interventions have enduring effects that reduce the risk for subsequent symptom return following treatment termination.”
In other words, therapy has shown to continue benefiting you even after you’ve stopped going! Finding a good therapist is often the first step in your mental health journey, besides deciding to seek help.
Read on for five ways a good therapist can help you resolve your issues.
Finding the Root of the Issue
Often, the issue you are dealing with has a much deeper root that you may not even be aware of. Sitting at home trying to find the source alone doesn’t work for many people. We don’t have an outside view of ourselves and our issues, but therapists do.
Upon talking to them about what is bothering you, they may catch onto something you've probably not noticed, at all. From there, you could attempt to fix the root of the problem rather than just struggling with its effects.
Deal With Depression
One of the most prevalent mental illnesses in our society is depression. Depression can wreak havoc on your life and greatly diminish your wellbeing. Because depression is so relevant, therapists have developed many different ways to help people deal with it. Sometimes a mindset change is all someone needs to begin the journey out of depression, and a qualified therapist is the first step to recovery.
Dismantle Your Fears
Fear is something many struggle with, and it can hold you back from living life to its full potential. A good therapist can help you deal with your fears and phobias in constructive ways.
Bringing Out Repressed Emotions
Yes, the thought of bringing up repressed memories and emotions is horrifying. Still, if you leave let them fester you; they will affect your wellbeing, quality of life, and relationships. Talk therapy provides an efficient venue for dealing with repressed emotions for a better and healthier you.
Life Skill Tools
While you and your therapist work through your issues, they will give you exercises and advice to get you through your problems and tough times, as well as help you build efficient life skills. All these will enrich your personal growth journey making you emotionally healthier, stronger, and better able to cope with life.
A Place Of Trust
The ultimate crux of therapy is your relationship with your therapist. Therapy is a place of trust, and the therapist is your best confidant. Remember that everything that takes place in therapy is 100% confidential (by law), and the therapist can not divulge anything you tell them (unless you disclose that you are planning to hurt someone).
In this place of trust, you can be yourself, and talk about the most personal issues, no matter how scary, shameful or difficult. The trust relationship facilitates your ability to be honest and therefore provide the best forum for dealing with and overcoming any issues you may have.
There are many assessment tests a therapist can employ to evaluate your mental health. If you think you may have a generalized anxiety disorder, for instance, your therapist can give you a test to diagnose it. Your therapist should also be able to draw upon their education and years of experience to test you for things you may have never thought to ask for. These tests are critical for forming a treatment plan.
In therapy, you get to enjoy sharing with a bright, neutral, and non-judgmental person. Maybe all you need are some resources and a push in the right direction. Your therapist can help you with struggles in personal relationships, painful issues, any defects you want to overcome and can even help you with your career concerns.
It is also fine if you need to vent. There are no wrong answers! Wanting to talk with a professional is a valid reason to go into therapy. You may even find that checking in every month or every other week is helpful.
Therapists have an arsenal of scientific knowledge and treatments at their disposal. They will first work with you to identify specific problems you want to address. You may walk in feeling a general dissatisfaction about your life. Your therapist will help you determine what, specifically, is making you less satisfied.
Once problems are identified, your therapist can suggest treatments. However, unlike at your primary care doctor’s office, you will need to be an active participant in these treatments. You will need to be an active participant in finding what to treat as well! You will only get from therapy what you put into it.
Therapy is not a must for everyone, but it is not a bad idea. Therapists are trained to help others process their issues. Even if you need only to vent or gain self-awareness, therapy is worth the time.
Ultimately, the goal of personal growth can get a considerable boost when you find a partner in the person of your therapist to help you through that journey.
Talk therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy, offers a more satisfying life by helping people with emotional growth.
During therapy sessions, a person is free to discuss their experiences and feelings with a trained therapist, who, without judgment, supplies respected opinions and options about how the person can make helpful changes.
Why would someone commit to examining and
discussing their life this way?
By resolving psychological issues with guidance and support, a person can improve their quality of life and alleviate physical, mental, and emotional suffering.
According to researchers, there are six excellent benefits available through talk therapy:
Improved Physical Health and Management
of Chronic Conditions
Emotional issues often result in physical symptoms. Resolving emotional issues with talk therapy can help alleviate physical symptoms of stress like:
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, talk therapy can also help people manage chronic medical conditions for a better quality of life. Because these conditions affect a person’s emotional, mental, and physical health, talk therapy can offer ways to improve a person’s quality of life.
Talk therapy is recommended for:
Measurable Changes in the Brain
Forbes Magazine reported on studies that map brain activity showing measurable changes with talk therapy. Scientists understand that some emotional issues are the result of imbalances in the brain. Drug therapy is often used to restore the brain’s chemical balance. When the balance is corrected, symptoms from physiological and physical problems are lessened or resolved.
Studies show that talk therapy alters brain activity in these areas:
These brain areas affect learning, memory, and emotions associated with the anxiety and depression that can be caused by stress. Talk therapy offers the benefit of helping to manage and reduce psychological stress and affects brain activity in these areas.
Have you ever confided in a friend or family member but doubted the wisdom of the advice they gave you? Do you feel dependent on others when looking for solutions to life’s challenges? Although ideas and support from others can be helpful, your decisions should be based on what you need and the answers that will be best for you.
Because talk therapy is non-judgmental and offers respected opinions and advice, therapists help you discover the answers you need in your own way. By examining your life and emotions, therapists guide you to a better understanding of what works best for you and how to stop doing things that don’t help you. Talk therapy teaches you to use other peoples’ advice as part of, but not all of it, finding your answers.
Reduced Psychological Problems and Behaviors
As talk therapy helps reduce your psychological problems, it also helps change negative behaviors you may engage in because of these issues. According to Healthline, an online clearinghouse for medical information, talk therapy can help change negative behaviors associated with:
Because talk therapy helps people learn effective ways to cope with stress, one of the benefits is the long-term effect these changes can have on their lives. The stress management and coping skills a person learns can be used in multiple situations and with various problems. When a person faces a new challenge in life, they can draw on their coping skills to overcome new obstacles without added emotional, mental, or physical stress.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, one in six adults in the United States will suffer from a mental health issue during their lives. Mental health issues can arise from any life disruption, including loss, unexpected change, and other traumas.
Successful people understand the need to resolve psychological problems to improve their lives and achieve their goals. Many people turn to talk therapy for this benefit.
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