Psychotherapy 101: Part 1
ther·a·py /ˈTHerəpē/ noun Treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder. Psychotherapy traditionally means the treatment of a mental health concern or diagnosis by psychological rather than medical means (medication for example). There are a variety of psychotherapies or frameworks, some of which are outlined below. It is important to know what type of framework your therapist is using in their practice so that you can be part of your treatment/care decisions. Most psychotherapists use an integrated approach that combines various aspects of multiple therapeutic approaches. A customized approach is then formed based on the client’s needs and preferences.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy for several disorders. It can help to reduce distress and improve your ability to function.
CBT teaches you to examine and change the way you:
- think (cognitive)
- act (behaviour) and
- feel (emotionally and physically)
The concept behind CBT is that our thoughts about a situation, how we feel, and how we behave are all related. CBT can help you become more aware of your thoughts, actions and feelings so you can view difficult situations more clearly and respond more effectively.
What types of challenges are best suited for CBT?
CBT is an effective treatment for a wide range of challenges, including:
- chronic pain
- eating disorders
- low self-esteem
- anger management
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder and symptoms
This type of therapy focuses on how early childhood and relations with others can affect our development. It is based on the idea that the unconscious holds onto painful feelings and memories that are too difficult for the conscious mind to process. Many people develop defences such as denial to hide these memories and experiences from themselves. The aim of psychodynamic therapy is to bring the unconscious mind into consciousness. It helps people to experience and begin to understand their true, deep-rooted feelings in order to deal with them.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on:
- increasing self-awareness
- examining thoughts and feelings
- becoming more resilient
- being adaptable
The goal of this therapy is to lessen the most obvious symptoms and help you live your life.
What types of challenges are best suited for Psychodynamic therapy?
This therapy is effective for a wide range of mental health symptoms, including:
- physical symptoms that are caused by stress
Narrative therapy is a form of counselling that views people as separate from their problems. This allows clients to get some distance from the issue to see how it might actually be helping them, or protecting them, more than it is hurting them. With this fresh perspective, people feel more empowered to make changes in their thought patterns and behaviour and “rewrite” their life story for a future that reflects who they are, what they are capable of, and what their purpose is, separate from their problems.
Narrative Therapy focusses on:
- creating positive and empowering narratives
- changing patterns of thoughts and behaviours
- exploring meaning in experiences
- challenging us to live authentically according to our values, not our problems
- strengths based approach
- empowering us to be the expert of our own lives
What types of challenges are best suited for Narrative Therapy?
- grief and loss
- family relationships
- intimacy issues
Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose and in the present moment. The goal of mindfulness is to focus less on reacting to something or someone and more on observing and accepting without judgment. It teaches you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and to accept them, but not attach or react to them. This practice helps you to notice your automatic reaction and to change it to be more of a reflection.
Research shows mindfulness helps to:
- change negative behaviours
- manage difficult emotions
- reduce suffering
- improve self-awareness
- increase empathy
Mindfulness practices can be used with different types of therapies. For example, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with the practice of mindfulness.
What types of challenges are best suited for mindfulness-based therapies?
Mindfulness therapies are effective treatments for:
- personality disorders (combined with other treatments)
- depression (combined with other treatments)