During our lifetime, we may experience mental health issues in one way or another. For instance, people diagnosed with serious illnesses such as cancer, may need help to cope with the reality of their diagnosis, someone may need help to cope with the death of a loved one, or someone just may simply need help to quit smoking. At times we may feel overwhelmed and see no way out or any possible solutions for our problems, which is when we need someone who would just listen to us and assist us in finding solutions to our struggles. This is the job of Psychotherapy.
“Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment process based on the relationship between a client and a psychologist. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows the person to talk and do something about his/her problems, issues and difficulties openly with someone who is neutral, unbiased and nonjudgmental. This is done in order to identify, change or enhance thought and behavior patterns to make one feel better than before and to be happier, healthier and productive in his/her life” (APA, 2016).
Psychotherapy is not a general conversation, but a scientific process whereby the psychotherapist applies evidence based procedures and techniques by tailoring them according to the person’s needs and requirements. As such, psychotherapy aims to offer a safe, confidential and supportive environment where one can have the space to explore the reality of their life.
Talking can help make sense of what is going on in ones life. It may also facilitate an understanding of past experiences and offer the opportunity to look at how those experiences may be impacting the present.
Due to myths and stigmas attached to psychological illnesses and the therapeutic process in general, one may feel reluctant to seek therapy. However, one should understand the potential benefits of psychotherapy before ruling it out completely. Individuals may seek help from psychotherapists for a number of reasons including their long-term mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or the like, while others may need it to cope with their physical illnesses, which are interfering and disturbing their emotional and psychological well-being. Some may even seek psychotherapy for their short-term problems such as adjustment issues, grieving the death of a loved one or facing difficulty at a new job.
It should be noted here that the reasons listed above are not exhaustive in nature. The reasons are defined by the individuals themselves, not the society or the culture or the community.
Only you can underst and what influences your mental health, how it impacts you and when you need to seek help for that concern.
There are a number of approaches to psychotherapy depending upon various theoretical approaches. Therapeutic treatment depends on three important factors, namely: the current psychological researches, theoretical orientation of the therapist and which approach or technique works best for the current problem and for the client. These factors collectively help in the successful treatment and improved overall mental health of the client.
The therapist here bases his/her technique on the cognitive behavioral model and the treatment is based on the concepts of thoughts, feelings, physiological reactions and consequent actions and the idea that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a cruel cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overpowering problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller fractions. The client is shown how to change negative thoughts into positive ones. Unlike some other talk therapies, CBT addresses current problems, rather than focusing on issues from the past.
If your therapist or physician recommends CBT, you will typically have a session with a therapist once a week. The course of treatment usually lasts 5 to 20 sessions (varies with the needs of the client), based on intervention needed, with each session lasting 30-50 minutes.
During the sessions, you will break down the problems into separate fractions – such as your thoughts, physical feelings and actions. After which you and your therapist will analyze the areas that need work. Your therapist will then be able to help you work out how to change negative thoughts and behaviors, and ask you to practice the techniques in day-to-day life.
In a brief explanation, humanistic interventions encourage the clients to think about themselves more positively and aim to help them improve their lives through self-awareness. The humanistic approach encourages clients to discover and learn about their strengths. There are a several types of humanistic therapies including Person-Centered counseling, Gestalt therapy, Transactional analysis, Transpersonal psychology and Existential therapy.
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), tries to connect mental illnesses and past events involving relationships that maybe connected to the illness. Events may include bereavements, disputes or relocation. The therapeutic process equips the client with coping strategies for feelings and interpersonal difficulties to help improve mental health. Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) has been shown to be particularly effective in treating depression, and usually lasts about 12 to 16 sessions.
The aim of family therapy is to involve members of the client’s family and help them work out problems together. As such, it focuses on family relationships, e.g. parents, siblings and spouses, and encourages everyone involved to work together to fix identified problems.
The therapist tends to encourage group discussions and activities that would allow everyone to participate, promoting a healthy family unit as a path to improving mental health. In some cases, more than one therapist may be involved to make sure everyone and their individual personalities are represented and involved.
Affect/emotional modulation would assist the client in making realistic cognitive appraisals. The technique encourages clients to develop problem-solving skills through acquisition of knowledge and by brainstorming on different ways to respond to a single event. The client in this approach is encouraged to engage in active problem-solving rather than self-critical thinking. Through maintaining a healthy therapeutic relationship, the client would be able to engage in the construction of healthy interpersonal boundaries that would e.g. when to say no to people and be assertive.
Using an eclectic approach means that the therapist can combine elements of various psychotherapeutic theories and practices, and customize them to the requirements of the client to bring about the required change. Many psychologists and mental health practitioners today do not tie themselves to any particular school of thought and instead, they blend and tailor the treatment to best suit the client.
According to research, psychotherapy is as effective as medications, bringing about a sustainable positive change in the families and lives of the sufferers. In one such research, while comparing two groups, it was found that people who are exposed to psychotherapies were better off in terms of both physical and psychological health than those who did not receive any psycho-therapeutic treatment at all .
There are three factors that result in successful psycho-therapeutic treatment. These include:
• Practicing evidence-based psycho-therapeutic treatment interventions
• Clinical competence, expertise and experience of the psychologist
• Psychotherapist’s relational attributes and personal characteristics with ethical and cultural competence
When someone enters into psychotherapy, they often feel that their problem and distress is never going to end. Psychotherapy helps such individuals to understand the problem through psycho- education, for both the client and family. This is very crucial on the part of the mental health professionals, who must help the client understand their current condition, the contributing factors and various ways to subdue this condition. Though certain problems and issues may respond really well to one particular type of therapy, the most crucial element of any therapeutic success is the working relationship between the therapist and the client. The fact that mental illnesses can be treated and one’s life can be improved serves as a motivation and hope for the client.Such positive change can lead to productive thinking, which ultimately can result in healthy behavior, improved relationships, creation of strong support systems and better functioning.
Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2015). Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice, with Video Resource Center: Skills, Strategies, and Techniques. John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.pk