Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, counseling, or therapy, is a method used to treat mental health and behavioral health conditions by speaking with a trained counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. A trained professional will have therapy sessions with an individual, couple, family, or a group, using a range of techniques to address mental health issues or problems people may be struggling to manage.
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy comes in many forms, but at its core, a therapist and client have sessions in which the client talks about their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in a safe, guided setting while the therapist uses a range of techniques to help them to overcome personal issues, deal with stress, and manage mental health conditions. Therapists are licensed mental health care professionals including counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, or psychiatrists. The therapist and client develop a relationship and work over a period of time to address the treatment goals they establish at the outset.
The goal of psychotherapy is to reduce the symptoms of psychological distress, change negative behavior and thought patterns, and guide individuals through difficult periods or transitions in life with support from a professional trained in mental health and psychology.
One of the main benefits of psychotherapy for people dealing with these conditions, especially in the case of co-occurring conditions, is that it provides them a safe space to explore emotions, thoughts, and feelings without fear of judgement or retribution for anything they may say during a session. All conversations between a therapist and client are protected by confidentiality and HIPPA laws, except in the case that a client is threatening self-harm or to harm others, in which case the therapist is required by law to disclose this information.
What Conditions Can Psychotherapy It Treat?
Psychotherapy works to help people uncover and modify ways of thinking and behaving that are interfering with their ability to function in daily life, establish healthy relationships, and reach their potential in different areas of their life. It can teach people healthy ways to cope with stress and recover from past traumas, and it can help them to overcome phobias and fears. Often, psychotherapy is the first line of treatment for mental health conditions, and in many cases, is combined with medications to treat symptoms and improve quality of life for people with chronic mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
Psychotherapy can be used to help treat many conditions including:
- Substance Use Disorders
- Behavioral Addictions (gambling, sex addiction, codependency, etc.
- Eating Disorders
- Personality Disorders (borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder)
- Bipolar Disorder
Psychotherapy’s effectiveness in addressing and improving the condition of people dealing with these mental health disorders varies depending on the frequency of the sessions, the relationship between therapist and client, the type of therapy used, and the individual’s desire to change or improve. There is also the aspect of cost—insurance does not always cover psychotherapy as a medical intervention—so it can be difficult for some people to maintain therapy because of finances. However, in most places, there are options for more affordable therapy and even free therapy for those who cannot afford it, and insurance can sometimes cover at least part of the cost if it is considered necessary for treatment of a condition.
Types of Psychotherapy
There are many types of psychotherapy and techniques that a therapist may incorporate into their sessions with clients. Some of the varying types of psychotherapy people may do are:
- Individual therapy, in which they meet one-on-one with the therapist.
- Couples therapy, in which partners meet together with a therapist to address relationship issues Family therapy, in which a family will attend sessions to work on family dynamics.
- Group therapy, in which a therapist guides a group of people working on common healing goals through a group support session.
Each therapist will have a specialty and training background based in certain types and techniques of psychotherapy. Some common types of therapy include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, draws on cognitive and behavioral approaches to address problematic patterns of thought and behavior that cause emotional distress and negative consequences in the client’s life. The goal of CBT is to help the person recognize and understand why they think and behave these ways in order to change it.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is based on finding a balance between opposites that was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder in which people are extremely sensitive in social interactions, causing uncontrollable negative emotions. DBT teaches people to regulate emotions, deal with stress, practice mindfulness in difficult situations, manage negative feelings, and improve communication skills.
Psychoanalysis is at the foundation of modern therapeutic approaches and is associated with the methods of Sigmund Freud. Psychodynamic therapy, also known as psychoanalytic therapy, works on uncovering childhood experiences and relationship dynamics that subconsciously affect thoughts and behaviors. The therapist helps the client to become aware of these subconscious thoughts and feelings to change negative patterns of behavior or thought.
In addition to these core types of psychotherapy, there are other methods such as psychodrama, art therapy, sound or music therapy, hypnotherapy, EMDR, and animal-assisted therapy. All of these other psychotherapy approaches involve a therapist who is guiding an individual or group to heal from underlying traumas, mental health conditions, and personal problems they are working to recover from.
How is Psychotherapy Helpful for Addiction and Substance Abuse
For people struggling with substance abuse and addiction, psychotherapy can play a critical role during treatment. Oftentimes, people develop addictions because of an underlying mental health condition or past traumas that lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse. During treatment, psychotherapy can help them to recognize the thoughts and behaviors that may trigger their desire to use substances, and it may uncover undiagnosed or inadequately treated mental health conditions or negative thought patterns and traumas that may be causing or exacerbating their substance use.
DreamLife Recovery offers varying types of psychotherapy to address the full spectrum of needs that clients may have during treatment. Each individual may respond differently to the psychotherapy approaches, which is why offering a range of options is important. DreamLife Recovery has a team of clinical psychologists and therapists on staff who work closely with clients to determine what types of psychotherapy they may benefit from most during their addiction recovery program, to ensuring that they leave with the tools necessary for maintaining sobriety after treatment.