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What is Mental Health Therapy?

The definition of mental health therapy is a treatment intended to relieve or heal a mental illness or disorder. Therapy is intended to develop strategies and methods to manage emotions and feelings that are usually out of a person’s control.

What is the Purpose of Therapy?

The main purpose of therapy is to help treat personal and emotional challenges and teach clients how to best live with or overcome the illnesses and disorders that may affect their daily life. There are many mental health illnesses that people can overcome through therapy, but not every mental illness is curable. For these illnesses, therapy helps patients learn how to best control and live with a specific illness.

Before an individual seeks out therapy, they should consider what outcome they are trying to achieve. As with most consultations, whether it be personal or business related, it is important to understand one’s goals and objectives beforehand. This not only gives the therapist direction, but it also makes the best use of time for the patient. If it is hard to pinpoint a goal or objective, most therapists should be able to work with an individual to come up with plan of action.

Benefits of Therapy

Through life, the majority of people experience several situations and events in which they have a hard time managing their emotions and feelings. There aren’t many people who go through life without at least a few tough times that test their emotional well-being. Below is a list of common reasons to seek therapy.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Health problems
  • Spiritual Issues
  • Phobias
  • Trauma/PTSD
  • Family Issues
  • Relationship Issues
  • Substance Use Problems
  • Types of Therapy

Therapy can come in many different forms. There is no one type of therapy for all mental illnesses and disorders. Below are some of the common forms of therapy that help in treating the different mental illnesses and disorders.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT has two main components, cognitive and behavioral. The cognitive side works to develop a positive view of a person’s life. The behavioral side works to change previous negative behaviors and turn them into positive behaviors. CBT is used for a number of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – DBT is a form of cognitive- behavioral therapy (CBT) that has historically focused on treating borderline personality disorder, BPD.  DBT has four components: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. DBT therapists practice accepting the patient for who they are while working with the patient to understand that they need to make changes in their life to achieve their goals. There is typically more than one problem that is addressed in DBT. The priority is to focus on the most important problems first. When present, suicidal thoughts are the first focal point in DBT.

  • Individual Therapy – Individual therapy, often called counseling, talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is a form of therapy that involves a patient and a trained therapist. Individual therapy normally takes place in the private office of a trained therapist, but it can also take place in a hospital, mental health facility, work setting, school, over the phone, and even chat or video conferencing in some cases. In therapy, it is important that the patient feel safe and secure, knowing that what they tell the therapist is confidential.  When a client does not truly open up, most therapists will have trouble getting to the core of the problem.

  • Group Therapy – Group therapy is when two or more people participate in a therapy session with one or more trained therapists at the same time. On a broad scale, group therapy can apply to a range of personal disorders and problems, including but not limited to eating disorders, anger management, and substance use disorder. Group therapy can take place in professional settings, places of worship, peoples’ homes, and even public places. Group therapy can benefit clients through improving self-awareness and motivation to change, building trust and self-esteem, and helping them feel less isolated knowing others are facing similar problems. To benefit from group therapy, individuals must be willing to participate and talk openly about their problems and challenges.

  • Family Therapy – Family therapy can be helpful for many families because a patients’ family members are often times the people who can and will help aid the person back to recovery. Family therapy can be helpful in any situation that causes stress, anger, conflict, or grief.

  • Marital/Couples Therapy – Couples therapy is typically more focused on everyday relationship difficulties and is designed to focus on managing situations and feelings. Effective marital and couples therapists can help in modifying dysfunctional behaviors, decreasing emotional avoidance, and improving communication. Instead of only focusing on what is not working well, relationship and couples therapy also focuses on the strengths of the relationship.

  • Experiential Therapy – Experiential therapy helps the patient differentiate  harmful or misguided thoughts from healthy emotions and thoughts. While many types of therapy focus on the therapist being neutral, experiential therapy works when the therapist is supportive and empathetic.

  • Animal Therapy – When people think of animal therapy, they often think of pets visiting hospitals and nursing homes. While there is a great value in animals visiting these medical facilities for emotional support, animal therapy incorporates a more structured visit and focuses on rehabilitation. The goal of animal therapy is to improve a patient’s cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. Dogs are primarily used in animal therapy, but animal therapy can also include farm animals and marine animals (such as dolphins). Research continues to evolve with animal therapy, as it has become widely accepted among patients and many medical professionals have seen positive results. One of the main reasons animal therapy works is the tendency for patients to relax around animals because people feel safe and that the animals are not judging them. As for the animals, all pets involved in animal therapy have to go through training in which the handler works with the animals on specific types of therapies. The animals are also trained to look for specific signs and symptoms in patients. After this training, the animals are checked by a veterinarian to ensure the pet is healthy and provides no risk of spreading any diseases or illnesses. The following step is to test whether the animal can carry out the specific task in animal therapy. Last, the owner applies for certification. Once approved, the animal and its handler can enter hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, etc.

Types of Therapists

  • Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental illnesses. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals in some states that are legally allowed to provide prescriptions for medication. Some patients only see psychiatrists to get a prescription, while others see psychiatrists for prescriptions and talk therapy.
  • Psychologist – Psychologists help patients talk through their problems and help them come up with strategies to overcome specific mental illnesses.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – A social worker trained in psychotherapy  helps individuals deal with a variety of mental health and daily living problems to improve overall functioning.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) – Master’s-degree level mental health service providers are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders.

How Long Does Therapy Take?

According to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the average number of therapy visits for a specific treatment ranges between 3-10 visits. One in nine people had more than 20 therapy sessions for treatment.

Factors that attribute to length of therapy include insurance contribution, personal finances, work schedules, type of disorders or problems being treated, and the goals of the patient.

Is Therapy the Best Solution for Help?

Therapy is usually the best option to overcoming mental illnesses, fears, and phobias. When therapy is not enough, a combination of therapy and prescribed medication can help.

When choosing a therapist, one of the most important factors to consider is whether a person is comfortable speaking with the therapist. Unless a person is truly comfortable speaking with a therapist, they usually will not be able to truly resolve their problems.

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