Types of Therapy for Mental Illness Explained
All those with a mental illness will get some benefit from therapy, and most people who are receiving treatment for a mental health diagnosis will be advised to see a therapist at a point in their treatment. Whether you are currently taking medications or not, have a referral or not, finding the right therapy may be the turning point towards your recovery. Even if you don’t fully recover, certain types of therapy can help you to understand you, your illness, and how you can live with your diagnosis more productively.
We have come a long way from Freud’s early work on psychoanalysis, on which the concept of “talking therapy” was born. There are a growing number of therapies available, most of which will take into account the way a person thinks and/or behaves. For those of you who may be thinking of finding a therapy for your mental health problems, this article will give a brief explanation of the most commonly used.
Facts about Psychotherapy
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a broad or umbrella term which also covers other forms of therapy. Basic elements of this therapy involve looking at the way a person feels and thinks, both consciously and unconsciously. The talking sessions will look at negative beliefs, perceptions and core worries or problems. It is not that the psychotherapist can perform a cure, but that he will guide you to see how to better understand yourself and what needs to change to resolve the problems.
Psychotherapy can be carried out on a one to one basis or as a group. Some of the different types of psychological therapies are better explained separately and sometimes a therapist may use elements from more than one therapy at a time.
It is considered that this therapy works best on problems that are deep and go back for many years. Some psychotherapists are available on the NHS in the UK, but there are a growing number of private ones too.
Anyone who has a deep rooted problem that is affecting their daily life should generally hope to see some improvement with this therapy. Most, if not all mental illnesses can benefit from some form of psychotherapy.
What is Hypnotherapy?
No, being hypnotized is not about you being controlled by someone else! In actual fact, you are in complete control and can stop hypnosis simply by opening your eyes. A hypnotherapist will help or guide you into a deeply relaxed state, whereby you may be more open to suggestion. Hypnosis helps you to concentrate and focus very well on a problem, and because you don't feel side-tracked by other thoughts, you are able to use those suggestions to solve the problems. It is nothing to fear and can leave you feeling extremely relaxed for hours afterwards.
Hypnotherapy is thought to be a good therapy for:
- Anxiety related problems
Example of CBT
What is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy commonly known as CBT can also be undertaken on an individual basis or in a group setting. It is commonly used to treat or examine current difficulties and is not usually about dragging up the distant past. Again it looks at negative thoughts and how these thoughts affect your moods and behavior. It looks at how negative emotions and distorted thinking patterns are often linked, which then determines the way you react in certain situations. It helps you to break down problems into manageable pieces so that you can focus one step at a time on the problem.
Exposure therapy is a type of CBT and is primarily focused on facing a fearful situation. By modifying thinking and behavior it is extremely successful for a variety of problems, and it can be carried out alongside medication. There are now online interactive programs that use this form of therapy.
This therapy is particularly helpful for such mental health issues as:
- Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder
- Phobias such as agoraphobia
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Eating disorders
- Those with substance abuse problems
- Some psychotic disorders
- Bipolar disorder
What is Psychodynamic Therapy?
Also known as psychoanalytic therapy, and with a strong Freudian influence, psychodynamics looks at how experiences and relationships from the past, particularly childhood, may have molded current thinking, beliefs, and behavior. It hopes to unearth emotions and perceptions from the unconscious mind; such things that we may have hidden to avoid emotional pain. A patient would need to talk more openly and often deeply about their childhood, and build up a good level of trust in the patient/therapist relationship, as this is vital for progress (even more so with this particular therapy).
Psychodynamic therapy is useful for such problems as:
- Anxiety related issues, panic, general stress
- Depression including major depression
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Some eating disorders
- Personality disorders
What is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)?
As the name implies, this therapy primarily looks at how we interact and relate to others. Sometimes problems will arise surrounding our roles in life, or the changing roles that we encounter. Other times it may be general relationship difficulties or to do with the grief we feel in bereavement. A distinct problem or difficulty is unearthed and addressed, but the duration of the therapy is usually short term. Unlike some other therapies, IPT doesn’t require you to look into childhood issues or your symptoms, but focuses on the personal conflicts today that are causing problems. It may even help with a lack of interaction.
This therapy is particularly good for treating various levels of depression. It is often found that those suffering a depressive illness may encounter problems with social interaction and relationships. That said, it can also be helpful for the following:
- Social phobia
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Aspects of Bipolar Disorder
DBT Help and Resources
- DBT Self Help
Learn self-help skills from people who have been through DBT. A great site for everything DBT.
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
This is a type of CBT therapy. It focuses on people who seem to go from one crisis to another on a regular basis, and have a high emotional susceptibility. Thinking and behavior are examined and the emphasis is on changing those factors in a positive way. DBT focuses on mindfulness, tolerance, or reaction to stress (distress), the regulation of emotions, and interpersonal effectiveness which is similar to learning to be assertive in a healthy positive way. This therapy teaches specific skills to handle emotions more effectively, and is as much about changing as it is about accepting things. A solid, positive relationship with a therapist is vital and it is usually carried out in groups.
DBT is primarily used for:
- Those with suicidal tendencies
- Borderline personality disorder (personality disorders)
Role Play EMDR Session
What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)?
EMDR has a way of reproducing a similar effect to that of rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep. It looks at past traumas and how those traumas cause us to feel and think. By using eye movement and thought processes together, the goal is to desensitize and reprocess thoughts until the traumatic memory holds no negative emotions or images.
After a history is taken and the main problem established, this therapy can take as little as one session to work, though usually a few sessions are needed. A therapist needs to be sure before you start EMDR that you are able to handle the emotional aspect of the trauma sufficiently to carry on. A person must be prepared to revisit some disturbing memories!
This therapy is usually used for problems such as:
- Dissociative disorders
- Some anxiety disorders
- Traumas such as rape, abuse, witnessing violence
- Chronic stress related conditions
What is Thought Field Therapy (TFT)?
In the UK, you are unlikely to be offered this on the NHS as it is seen as unconventional, but it may be suggested to you as a therapy to try. TFT is almost traditional Chinese medicine based with a psychotherapy feel about it! You may have heard of it as the “tapping therapy”. A person must describe their specific worry or fear and then tap on certain points of the face and body (energy points). The therapist tells the patient in which order to tap and what to say whilst they are doing this. The tapping is practiced repeatedly, and the results slowly reverse negative thoughts and feelings pertaining to the worry/fear. Once learned, TFT can be used throughout life for a variety of troublesome issues that may arise.
Thought field therapy is usually used for those suffering from:
- Anxiety issues
- Fears or phobias
- Heightened emotions such as anger and guilt
- Relationship problems
What is Counseling?
Counseling and therapy are often perceived as the same thing. When seeing a counselor as opposed to a therapist, the talking sessions are intended to guide as opposed to treat your mental illness. Therapists do act as guides however, and need to be good at counseling. Counselors tend to take many other courses to widen their field of expertise and can be just as useful as “therapists”.
Many people with mental health difficulties find general counseling very therapeutic.
Always check out the qualifications and registration of any counselor or therapist when embarking on therapy.
List of Therapies and Finding a Therapist
- Types of Therapy
Comprehensive list of all therapies for your information
The list of therapies I have mentioned are the most common that spring to mind, but there are many more. If you care to follow this link on the right, you will see a more comprehensive list of therapies. There are so many, that people with a mental illness can find it all very confusing. My descriptions of each are brief but may give you an idea as to whether that form of therapy would work for you or not. People with mental illness are increasingly using therapies as an adjunct or instead of medication.