As anxiety, depression and other mental disorders have become increasingly prevalent, what was once considered a taboo has now become a sought after means of coping with a series of problems that can often become debilitating. Referring to a range of treatments that can help patients with their mental health problems and various emotional challenges, psychotherapy helps individuals understand their feelings and cope with a variety of difficult situations.
Psychotherapy has been practised through the ages, however, it wasn't until the end of the 19th century that Sigmund Freud brought it to the forefront with his so-called 'talking cure'. Locally, psychotherapists abound and can be found in numerous localities.
Psychotherapists, psychiatrist - what's the difference?
Whereas a psychiatrist is an individual with a medical degree who can prescribe psychotropic/psychiatric medication, psychotherapists are professionals who are trained to treat people for emotional and psychological problems through communication. These issues may include depression, phobias, stress, anxiety, emotional and relationship problems, as well as physical or psychosomatic disorders. Treatment involves conducting therapy sessions in a controlled environment and through communication and interaction, behaviours, attitudes and emotions are explored.
What are the different types of psychotherapy?
Broadly speaking, psychotherapy refers to a range of treatments that can help patients deal with mental and emotional challenges, while some therapies may also be appropriate for dealing with psychiatric disorders. Also referred to as 'talking treatment' due to the fact that communication is used as opposed to medication, some forms of therapies can last a few sessions, however, others may be more long-term lasting for years.
Below, we have outlined some of the most common types of psychotherapy.
As its name implies, this type of therapy can assist an individual to better understand how changes in their behaviour directly affect the way they feel and as a result, it can help overcome any emotional distress caused by such undesirable behaviours. By assessing what a patient is doing and the manner in which they are behaving, the psychotherapist endeavours to increase the person's engagement in positive and social activities.
As opposed to behavioural therapy that looks into past behaviours, cognitive therapy delves into an individual's current thinking and communication patterns and tries to change a negative emotional state. In addition, the therapy also revolves around the concept that what we think, directly shapes how we feel. A variation of this is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which brings together the disciplines of cognitive and behavioural therapies and as such, it addresses both thoughts and behaviours.
Focusing on interpersonal relationships, typically, a psychotherapist will use this type of therapy on those who tend to constantly want to please others at their own expense or those who feel that their interpersonal relationships tend to be sensitive. As a result, the patient learns how to modify and alter their approach when it comes to interpersonal issues by improving communication and managing any feelings of anxiety or depression more constructively.
Centering on various symptoms in the family context, the therapy aims to identify patterns that may result in behaviour disorders or mental illness, helping to break negative patterns. For instance, this could result from depression caused due to marital problems. This therapy generally involves discussion and problem-solving sessions as a family, a group, a couple or on a one-to-one basis.
Group therapy consists of a series of sessions whereby 6 to 12 patients and one therapist meet. Although it might sound intimidating having to share your problems with strangers, individuals who participate in group therapy have similar problems and therefore, can observe how others handle their issues, while they can offer each other some feedback. This can be particularly beneficial since it can facilitate improvement and change. At the same time, this type of therapy can be useful to those who might be feeling somewhat isolated.
Otherwise known as insight-oriented therapy, psychodynamic therapy involves analysing unresolved issues and symptoms that originate from past dysfunctional relationships. Elements such as motives, needs and defences are explored, while self-awareness and understanding of how the past affects present behaviour are given importance. More often than not, this type of therapy is employed when symptoms persist even after other forms of psychotherapy have been implemented.
On occasions, psychotherapy coupled with counselling can help prevent or resolve psychosocial issues in children and kids with developmental needs, while it might also help them towards improving their social integration, dealing with emotional issues or resolving any trauma. Taking into consideration the child's age and ability in expressing their feelings, thoughts and emotions, psychotherapy can take place in the form of play therapy, whereby counsellors use a variety of media amongst which include books, toys, crayons, paints, puppets and board games to communicate with the child. Closely linked to this is parent management training, another form of psychotherapy that teaches parents the necessary skills to help reduce their child's behaviour problems.
Increasingly, a number of psychotherapists are offering online psychotherapy. In effect, this service is also provided locally. How does this work? Once you get in touch with your preferred psychotherapist, you must fill in a short online questionnaire that includes a series of detailed questions in order for the professionals to get to know you and your problem in advance before you book your session. Next, you can settle payment and your preferred day and time for your appointment. On the day of your session, all you need to do is simply log in and meet your therapist. Sessions should last as long as any typical face-to-face appointment.
How can you tell if you need to see a psychotherapist
Although only a professional can truly confirm whether you need additional help, below are a few signs that you might need to see a psychotherapist:
- If you are having overwhelming feelings of sadness and helplessness, you are worrying unnecessarily or you're feeling constantly on edge.
- If you're abusing substances like alcohol or drugs.
- You are unable to cope with everyday problems.
If you feel you don't need to the help of a psychotherapist yet, here are a few tips on how to boost your mental wellbeing.
What to expect during your first visit
Prior to attending your session, you should prepare yourself by making a list of the various points you would like to cover and be prepared to impart information to your doctor some of which might be sensitive in nature. If you've been referred to by another doctor or your child has been asked to undergo psychotherapy, make sure you take with you any reports and paperwork you may have. And remember that if you're on any medications, make sure you let your psychotherapist know.
Typically sessions last between 45 and 50 minutes, while you're expected to book an appointment in advance.