Treatment varies by individual and diagnosis. You should work closely with your mental health professional to determine the right course of therapy for you.
What Is Therapy?
Therapy is the attempt to remediate a health issue, after an initial assessment and diagnosis. Therapy can either be short term, which might address a specific issue or temporary problem within the confines of a finite period of time, or long term where the timeline is not quite as defined. For the purposes of this page, we will use the term therapy to refer to psychotherapy, which address a person's mental health.
One can see a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker, depending on the circumstances of the problem one needs to address. The personality of each practitioner is unique (they are humans, after all!) and areas of expertise vary, so it is essential to find a therapist that you feel hears you, has experience in working with your problems, and responds appropriately. Many people who are successful in therapeutic treatments see a few different therapists before they find one that suits their personality, sensitivities and needs.
Evidence-based practice, a relatively recent trend, monitors the success of the myriad of services available in healthcare, including mental health therapeutic services. Evidence-based results tend to help weed out unsavory practitioners and practices based more on traditions ("that’s the way we’ve always done it"), rules of thumb, and folklore.
Some people require medications to address chemical imbalances in their system or to allow them to stabilize their mood in order to facilitate the therapeutic process. Talk therapy may accompany drug therapy, or can be undertaken without the use of drugs. Each person’s situation and needs are so different than the next; a person who requires medical treatment (i.e. medications) is no less awesome than a person who requires talk therapy alone. The important thing is to access help that works for you, free of stigma or judgment.
Definitions of Services:
Psychiatry is the area of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and emotional disorders and illnesses, as well as substance abuse.
Psychiatrists are fully-qualified medical doctors who seek extensive training and perform a residency to specialize in the assessment and treatment of various psychological disorders. Their professional status as physicians (identified as an MD or DO degree) qualifies them to prescribe medication, a service that psychologists cannot provide.
Many psychiatrists, though not all, lean toward a biological or disease model of mental illness. Patients may see a psychologist for talk therapy while working in tandem with the psychiatrist who provides medical treatment (i.e. prescription medication).
Psychology is the scientific study of the mind, in an attempt to better understand behavior and mental processes using research, generally established principals, and example cases.
Psychologists are not required to have a medical degree, but instead acquire a Master's Degree and license to practice (although they may choose to further their areas of interest by completing a PhD), and are usually unable to prescribe medication. Most rely on a variety of talk therapy methods to assist a person in addressing mental illness. Most are seeking to better understand the role of mental functions in behaviors, both individual and social, while also recognizing and understanding the physiological and neurobiological processes that underlie certain specific behaviors.
Social work is designed to help people learn to cope with and solve issues that occur in everyday life. People facing a disability, life-threatening disease, or a social problem such as inadequate housing, unemployment or substance abuse may find the services of a social worker helpful. Social workers are also called into family situations where there are serious domestic conflicts, often involving abuse of a child or spouse.
Social workers are required to complete an education with a Bachelor's Degree and cannot prescribe medication.
Common Talk Therapy Types:
There is a wide variety of approaches and theories for talk therapy. Many therapists use a combination of therapy types to treat a patient depending upon the clinician's specialty, the patient's history, and the particular issue being addressed.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on adjusting the thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving abilities of the client. It combines a therapy that is concerned with thinking, reasoning, or remembering with therapy that is concerned with behavior, and focuses on solving problems like depression and anxiety by changing thought patterns and dealing with the present rather than working through issues from the past.
Empirical evidence has shown this treatment approach is an effective way to address many mental health issues or disorders.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a subtype of CBT. Dialectical simply refers to two things being true at the same time. The individual accepts oneself as one is, but by learning better coping strategies for stress or other negative thoughts and behaviors, one can become a better person. Originally developed for use with Borderline Personality Disorder patients, DBT has become more widely used for self-harm and self-destructive behaviors. DBT can be especially helpful for those who have problems regulating thoughts and emotions.
Psychoanalysis seeks to understand the symptoms of the patient through discussions of thoughts and dreams with the idea that unresolved problems or traumas are causing emotional upheaval. This type of therapy also involves assessment of a patient's past and personality. The therapist uses this information to interpret the patient's problem in the hopes that identification and discussion will lead to resolution of the problematic feelings or behaviors.
Developmental Psychology is mainly concerned with the development of a person’s mind through their life span, and seeks to better comprehend how people come to perceive, understand and act one way or another within their family, community and world, and how that changes as the person ages. Categories of focus include intellectual, cognitive, neural, social, and moral development.
Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses upon personal responsibility, and a person’s experience in the present moment. Also taken into consideration in this form of therapy are therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of the client’s life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation.
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is the use of horses in conjunction with other therapies. Patients learn how their actions and emotions affect others through the horses’ reactions. Horses have been proven to respond to human emotions. By learning to change their own behavior, patients learn the horses will respond more effectively. This helps the patients to understand how their actions and emotions affect those around them. EAP has been used to help those suffering from behavioral issues, ADD, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication issues. As with all therapies, a licensed medical professional is with the patient, along with a horse professional.
Expressive Therapies integrate the arts with psychotherapy. Patients are encouraged to use dance, drama, music, poetry, literature, and visual art to explore their issues and identify ways of coping with them. Expressive therapists usually hold a Master's Degree in Counseling, along with a specialization in an artistic area of expertise. Expressive therapies are particularly effective with young patients.
Group therapy is a form of treatment where a small group of people meet regularly to talk, interact, and discuss problems with each other. One or two therapists act as moderators and guides, offering a topic for discussion and keeping the sessions safe, respectful, and on track.
Members of the group are expected (or learn) to be open and honest in sessions where they discuss the problems that have led them into therapy. The others are invited to comment and bring their own experiences and thoughts into the conversations.
Participants are thought to gain from this form of therapy through practicing empathy and offering advice to others, which may lead to learning to accept empathy and receive (and reject) advice as appropriate.
Support groups are similar to group therapy, except they are usually run by non-professional individuals who are usually experienced in the issues a group focuses on, such as an addiction, a physical or mental illness, or a troubled family member.
Online supportive communities, forums and groups are newly available as a mode of therapy. Some individuals find it easier to participate within the confines of a group in a more accessible, anonymous, and safely moderated fashion. Band Back Together could be filed in this category.
Psychiatrist appointments are generally made by a General Practitioner’s referral, while psychologists are often contacted privately and directly by the client. Fees are either paid by the patient or through extended health benefits. Most countries have an association that can help with finding a psychologist:
In the United States, social workers can be found using the following services:
Again, in the US, evidence-based research of various treatments are available in a searchable format through the NREPP.
Psychology Information Online - This is a self-help site with information about various psychology concepts and practices.
The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies offers information for students, educators, and therapists about mental health, as well as a service to help find a therapist.