Psychotherapy: Why it’s done and the types
Psychotherapy is a general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider.
During psychotherapy, you learn about your condition and your moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy helps you learn how to take control of your life and respond to challenging situations with healthy coping skills.
There are many types of psychotherapy, each with its own approach. The type of psychotherapy that’s right for you depends on your individual situation. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy or, simply, therapy.
Why it’s done
Psychotherapy can be helpful in treating most mental health problems, including:
- Anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder
- Addictions, such as alcoholism, drug dependence or compulsive gambling
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
- Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or dependent personality disorder
- Schizophrenia or other disorders that cause detachment from reality (psychotic disorders)
Not everyone who benefits from psychotherapy is diagnosed with a mental illness. Psychotherapy can help with a number of life’s stresses and conflicts that can affect anyone. For example, it may help you:
- Resolve conflicts with your partner or someone else in your life
- Relieve anxiety or stress due to work or other situations
- Cope with major life changes, such as divorce, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job
- Learn to manage unhealthy reactions, such as road rage or passive-aggressive behavior
- Come to terms with an ongoing or serious physical health problem, such as diabetes, cancer or long-term (chronic) pain
- Recover from physical or sexual abuse or witnessing violence
- Cope with sexual problems, whether they’re due to a physical or psychological cause
- Sleep better, if you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep (insomnia)
Types of psychotherapy
There are a number of effective types of psychotherapy. Some work better than others in treating certain disorders and conditions. In many cases, therapists use a combination of techniques. Your therapist will consider your particular situation and preferences to determine which approach may be best for you.
Although many types of therapies exist, some psychotherapy techniques proven to be effective include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
- Dialectical behavior therapy, a type of CBT that teaches behavioral skills to help you handle stress, manage your emotions and improve your relationships with others
- Acceptance and commitment therapy, which helps you become aware of and accept your thoughts and feelings and commit to making changes, increasing your ability to cope with and adjust to situations
- Psychodynamic and psychoanalysis therapies, which focus on increasing your awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviors, developing new insights into your motivations, and resolving conflicts
- Interpersonal psychotherapy, which focuses on addressing problems with your current relationships with other people to improve your interpersonal skills — how you relate to others, such as family, friends and colleagues
- Supportive psychotherapy, which reinforces your ability to cope with stress and difficult situations
Psychotherapy is offered in different formats, including individual, couple, family or group therapy sessions, and it can be effective for all age groups