(Counseling; Emotion-Based Psychotherapy; Individual Therapy; Psychosocial Therapy; Talk Therapy)
Michael Jubinville, MPH
Psychotherapy is a broad term. It's a range of types of therapy such as:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
—Changes how you think and feel about facing certain problems.
- Interpersonal therapy—Helps how you relate with the people in your life.
- Psychodynamic therapy—Looks at what happened when you were a child, your conflicts, and thought patterns about yourself.
The core is the relationship between you and your therapist. The goal is to make you feel and work better.
Managing Mental Health Concerns
Mental health concerns may be caused by a combination of physiological and emotional triggers. Psychotherapy can help patients cope by decreasing the effects of emotional triggers.
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Reasons for Therapy TOP
Psychotherapy is used for many mental health problems such as:
Mental health problems can cause problems with your work, social, and home life. The goal is to lower your chances of:
- Emotional pain
- Having conflicts with people in your life
- Doing poorly at work
- Sleep problems
- Substance or alcohol use
If left untreated, mental health problems can lead to suicide.
Psychotherapy can also be helpful for life changes such as:
- Dealing with the loss of a loved one
- Coping with a serious illness or traumatic event
By working with your therapist, you will gain insight and coping skills.
Possible Complications TOP
During therapy sessions, you may feel upset or uncomfortable. This is because you will be facing difficult feelings and events. If you have a phobia, you may be slowly exposed to this fear. This can cause worry.
It may take some time before you find someone who you are comfortable with. It's common to have to try more than one. Seek out other people to give you references.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Therapy
When you find a therapist, check their background and credentials. Make sure you’re covered by your health plan. If you don't have it, check your state's website. You can find information on services that are available to you. Coverage in some companies may be different for mental health.
Before you go:
Make a list of questions you would like to ask such as:
- What approach they use and how successful it might be
- How long the sessions will be and how many you will need
- What your goals should be
- Think about what you would like to talk about
Description of Therapy
During the first session, you will be asked questions. These will ask about your background, family, mental health, and problems you’re having. It may take many sessions to find the best way to treat you.
You will be asked about your thoughts and feelings. You will talk about how you react when things happen to you. At first, you may not want to talk so much about yourself. Over time, you will see the benefits.
During your session, you may feel emotional. This is normal. After the session, you may feel tired.
What you talk about is private. There are only a few cases where the therapist must share information with the police such as:
- You are going to harm yourself or someone else
- You harmed another person such as a child, an elder adult, or someone with a disability
Psychotherapy can also be for you and:
- A spouse or partner
- Your family
- A group
How Long Will It Take? TOP
You may have one session a week for about an hour. The number of sessions depends on the reason you're there. Short-term therapy may take a month. In some cases, you may need to go for a year or longer.
It takes time and hard work before you start to feel better. Results differ for each person. But, most will see good changes after a few sessions.
Post-therapy Care TOP
You will have homework. This is a way for you to work on the skills that you learned during the sessions.
Call Your Therapist TOP
If the thoughts, feelings, or other problems that led you to seek therapy are coming back or getting worse. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call your therapist or emergency medical services right away.
American Psychiatric Association
Mental Health America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Finding a therapist who can help you heal. Help Guide website. Available at:
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/finding-a-therapist-who-can-help-you-heal.htm. Updated April 2018. Accessed September 4, 2018.
Individual therapy (psychotherapy). Good Therapy website. Available at:
https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/modes/individual-therapy. Updated February 13, 2018. Accessed September 4, 2018.
Psychotherapy. Mayo Clinic website. Available at:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/about/pac-20384616. Updated March 17, 2016. Accessed September 4, 2018.
Psychotherapy for children and adolescents: Definition. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at:
https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/What-Is-Psychotherapy-For-Children-And-Adolescents-053.aspx. Updated February 2017. Accessed September 4, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 9/4/2018