What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a general term for therapeutically discussing, analysing and implementing a process to control a mental health problem. It is used for healing emotional distress, behaviour disorders and substance abuse problems. It has a lasting effect that reduces the risk of a problem returning later.
Psychotherapy covers a broad range of issues. The main principle is that a person’s way of thinking determines how they feel and react to life’s challenges. The goal is to teach them to understand and manage the issue and to live a normal, happy life.
Mental disorders, like depression, bipolar disorder, stress, anxiety and others, can be effectively treated with psychotherapy. A proper therapeutic course should also prepare the patient to deal with awkward or embarrassing situations or behaviours that crop up after treatment.
There are many forms of psychotherapy. Therapists may use one or more of them to develop a solution. They often blend elements and customise the treatment according to an individual patient’s needs.
- Psychotherapy: This is therapeutic treatment provided by a trained mental health professional. It explores emotions and behaviours, as well as environmental, lifestyle and historical influences. The analysis is used to design and implement a unique, effective healing process through changes in thought patterns and lifestyle.
- Medication: Psychiatric medication rarely cures mental disorders outright. However, it can help with the management of symptoms. In some cases, medication paired with psychotherapy is the most effective way to promote recovery.
- Self Help Plan: A unique plan to guide and encourage individuals to employ self-implementation of wellness techniques. Self-help plans are prepared in conjunction with a mental health professional and should include ways of dealing with awkward situations.
- Hospitalisation: In some cases, hospitalisation may be necessary so that a person can be closely monitored, constantly diagnosed and their medications adjusted accordingly.
- Support Groups: A forum for members to meet and sustain each other towards a shared goal. Support groups usually comprise non-professional peers who have similar problems. It is recommended for patients who have completed professional treatment and wish to further secure their long term wellbeing.
Of the above, the most effective and widely used form of psychiatric treatment for patients suffering from disorders is a combination of psychotherapy and prescribed medication. In some cases, psychotherapy can be applied without the need for medication.
Main types of treatment applied in psychotherapy:
- Insight therapy helps people to understand their disorder. Once a person knows why they think or act the way they do, they are better equipped to control or change it.
- Behavioural therapy is about learning how to change from bad behaviour to good behaviour, rather than just knowing what the cause of the negative behaviour is.
Psychiatric medication (biochemical therapy) may be included in the psychotherapy process, if required.
- Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy: This looks at deep-seated issues that you may be unaware of. Unresolved problems from the past can cause reactions like depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, etc. These underlying problems are raised to a level where they can be identified and dealt with.
- Behavioural therapy: This stimulates a person to engage in positive activities to replace previous negative activities. It fills the vacuum created by no longer engaging in the harmful behaviour. It can also be used to desensitise a person to things they are afraid of (phobias). The aim is to create a feeling of reward, rather than feelings like anxiety, guilt or boredom.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy: This is based on the principle that what we think determines how we feel. Negative emotions may stem from false beliefs about ourselves. Correcting the beliefs improves your emotional state. It deals with current thought patterns, rather than past experiences. The therapist encourages looking at things from different angles. Read more here.
- Dialectical behaviour therapy: Used for treating people with suicidal tendencies, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and similar. It teaches them skills so that they can take personal responsibility for changing their behaviour.
- Family therapy: Some conditions require treatment of the entire family unit. Negative patterns in a family unit that cause mental disorders are identified and family members are encouraged to change their habits. Read more here.
- Interpersonal therapy: Someone who feels unappreciated may get angry and trigger negative reactions from other people. This can lead to breakdowns in relationships. Learning how to manage their feelings and how to discuss things calmly, improves the situation and avoids piling up emotional distress.
- Group therapy: A group session consists of a therapist and a number of patients. The patients have similar problems and they benefit from noting how other patients handle issues and by getting feedback on their own problems. Talking to peers help people who feel a sense of isolation in other situations.
- Integrative or holistic therapy: This integrates multiple therapies tailored to the patient’s individual needs. For example, a combination of two individual therapies being applied to the same patient at the same time.
- Supportive therapy: In these cases, patients are guided and encouraged to develop and implement their own skills. It improves self-esteem, coping skills and social functioning. It empowers them to deal with their mental health conditions on their own, which then reflects back on them in a motivational way through the positive outcomes in other aspects of their lives.
If you suspect that you, or someone you care about, may have an emotional problem, please dial the number at the top of this page for personalised advice or to arrange a confidential interview with an experienced mental health counsellor.
Getting the right help
Some people feel that admitting a problem is a sign of weakness. By hiding it, they are, in fact, displaying a lack of courage.
Many people do not get appropriate care when they need it. They then allow it to create greater problems than the one they vainly avoided. Anything that delays appropriate care leaves a trail of damage and is more difficult to overcome.
The factor that causes the problems is difficult to see. The person may function fairly well on the surface and try to conceal the problem. If they have the courage to talk about the issue, they should be applauded and helped to secure timeous care.