What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a type of treatment where scientifically validated procedures are used to help people manage their thoughts and feelings, and develop healthier habits. It provides a supportive environment for the person to speak openly about their problems and share their emotions with a therapist who is nonjudgmental. The treatment helps the person change their unhealthy thoughts and behavior patterns and learn skills to cope with life situations. Psychotherapy aims to help individuals understand and overcome difficulties through various strategies such as effective communication, problem solving, decision making, assertive skills training, relaxation techniques, etc.
A person who undergoes psychotherapy learns to:
In some conditions, psychotherapy can be as effective as medication. However, depending on the severity of the condition, experts will decide what is best for the person. Psychotherapy can also be a part of the overall treatment plan that includes medication and other treatment options.
Who is a psychotherapist?
A psychotherapist is a mental health professional who is trained in psychotherapy and other forms of psychological treatment. Additionally, they may have expertise in mental health assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
What are the different types of psychotherapy?
There are different types of therapies and the mental health professional decides which type of therapy is best for the person, depending on the nature of the problem. For example, behavior therapy may be good for treating obessive compulsive disorder, cognitive behavior therapy may work well for a person with depression, and so on.
Here is a brief description for some types of therapies:
Behavior Therapy: Focuses on helping the individual understand their thoughts and behavior, here and now behavior, identify negative patterns in their thinking and then learn to replace them with positive thought patterns. This therapy has a structured approach with a focus on helping the person improve their behavioral patterns and respond to situations in a more adaptive way. Example, behavior modification for people trying to quit tobacco use.
Cognitive Therapy: Deals with emotions and thoughts, which in turn lead to actions, through specific principles of learning such as providing reinforcement, rewards, punishments, planning change through behavior control, relaxation training, skills training, and assertiveness skills training. This therapy aims at correcting inaccurate beliefs and thoughts that result in negative emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. Example, people with depression can be treated with cognitive therapy.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): A structured therapy that focuses on helping the person improve interpersonal relationships. Example, marital conflicts, parent-adolescent relationship, etc.
IPT is a time-limited treatment with three phases: initial, middle and a terminal phase.
Treatment also includes working on problems related to grief or bereavement (death of someone important), role dispute (struggle with spouse or a relative), role transition (some other important life change).
Psychodynamic therapy: Also known as insight-oriented therapy, psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious thought processes that manifest in a person's behavior. The therapy helps the person become self-aware, and understand how past events have influenced their present behavior. This self-evaluation helps them examine negative experiences and unresolved conflicts in past or present relationships, which have resulted in the present dysfunctional behavior.
Note: This form of therapy is most successful with patients who are aware of this therapy (psychologically minded) and are willing to collaborate with the doctor. This therapy may not work with severe mental disorders like OCD and schizophrenia but works well for resolving emotional conflicts, relationship issues, etc.
Family therapy: Helps people overcome issues with family relationships. For example, the wife may be suffering from depression because of marital problems. The therapist evaluates the relationship and past events that have caused this emotional problem. The therapist identifies patterns of dysfunctional communication within the family, and they are taught how to listen with empathy, ask questions, and respond in a rational way without getting angry or defensive. This therapy is also effective in cases where families have to be involved in the patient's treatment, or in the case of a dysfunctional family, where family members may be contributing to the patient's current condition.
Group therapy:This is provided to a group of people (6-12 members) who may be dealing with the same type of problem. The therapist suggests this type of therapy for a person depending on the nature of the problem.
Group therapy is beneficial in many ways. Participants have the opportunity to interact with others who are facing similar issues. They can try out role play and give feedback to others or receive feedback and insight from other group members. This therapy is effective in cases of addiction or drug abuse, where shared information may help motivate people in the group.
How long should I take therapy?
It may take a few days or weeks or at times, months to help you overcome the problem with the help of psychotherapy. For major mental health issues, therapy may continue for more than a year. The number and frequency of sessions depend on:
Will my information be confidential?
All your conversations with the therapist are confidential. However, in specific cases when the therapist senses that there may be a threat to life or health of self or others, then the information may be shared with family members and other experts, who will be involved in providing the necessary treatment.
Which is better, therapy or medication?
There is evidence that both medication and therapy are effective in treating mental illness. However, experts decide on the type of treatment based on the nature and severity of the problem. Generally, medication is prescribed for major illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or panic disorder. While medication offers relief from symptoms, psychotherapy enables the individual to gain knowledge about their condition and learn how to manage their symptoms.