Therapy for Mental Health: The Right Approach

Therapy for Mental Health: The Right Approach

Choosing to prioritize your mental health and well-being by starting the therapy is a major step, whether you are dealing with diagnosed mental illness, everyday life stressors, relationship problems, or any other mental or emotional health concern. Keep reading to know more about therapy for mental health.

Therapy for Mental Health

It’s important to know that you are not alone in considering therapy. According to 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19% of adults receive mental health treatment, with almost 10% receiving counselling or therapy.

However, the process of deciding what type of therapy is right for you, finding a suitable provider, and covering the cost can all pose significant challenges in accessing quality care. In this guide, we’ll explore what you need to know to overcome these obstacles and get the help you need.

What Is Therapy for Mental Health?

Therapy is a form of mental health treatment that involves engaging in conversations with a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another qualified practitioner.

Its primary objective is to help individuals comprehend their thought processes, moods, emotions, and behaviours, and how they may be causing them distress or hindering their daily functioning.

Through therapy, individuals can learn and develop healthy coping mechanisms that enable them to respond better to life’s challenges.

Lynn Bufka, PhD,  defines therapy as a private and supportive space where individuals can communicate openly with a mental health practitioner who remains objective, neutral, and non-judgmental. While therapy usually involves working with individuals, it can also extend to couples, families, or groups.

What Are the Different Types of Mental Health Therapy?

Mental health practitioners use various evidence-based therapies and techniques to assist their patients, often employing a combination of approaches to achieve the best outcomes. Some of the most common and research-backed approaches include:

Supportive psychotherapy: This form of talk therapy aims to alleviate emotional distress and symptoms by providing reassurance, reeducation, advice, and encouragement of desirable behaviour. It typically incorporates several therapeutic strategies.


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a widely-used form of talk therapy that focuses on helping individuals become aware of their inaccurate or negative thinking patterns, enabling them to view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in healthier ways.

By understanding how thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are connected, individuals can detach their thoughts from their actions. Therapists may assign homework to help individuals practice new behaviours or ways of thinking.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

This form of therapy involves discussing negative patterns of behaviour and feelings that stem from past experiences with the goal of resolving them.

Through deep exploration of their past and present lives, individuals can learn to analyze their unconscious emotions and motivations and how they shape their thoughts and actions.

Therapists help individuals understand how their subconscious thoughts are impacting their conscious thoughts and behaviours, and they can piece together how past experiences influence their present lives.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

(DBT) is a form of psychotherapy that is similar to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) but has a few key differences. While CBT focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, DBT places more emphasis on managing distressing thoughts and feelings.

Additionally, DBT places a stronger emphasis on behavioural change, working with patients to improve negative behaviour patterns. DBT is often used to help people with various mental illnesses, particularly those with a borderline personality disorder.

This therapy is particularly effective for individuals who may experience intense emotions and thoughts of self-harm when faced with major stressors. Patients typically meet regularly with their therapists and are assigned homework between sessions.

Exposure Therapy

This is a type of CBT commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, PTSD, and phobias. During treatment, patients work with a therapist to identify their triggers and gradually face their fears through controlled exposure.

This could include imagining feared scenarios, virtual reality simulations, or real-life exposure. Through repeated exposure, patients become desensitized to the feared stimuli.

Mindfulness-based Therapy

(MBT) is a form of therapy that helps patients focus on their present thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and environment, with the goal of being mindful, open, curious, accepting, and compassionate.

According to a 2021 review, MBT can be effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, insomnia, and psychosis.

By staying focused and aware of their feelings, patients can better understand and manage their emotions. For instance, a therapist may ask a patient to slowly eat a raisin and pay attention to the texture, taste, and any other sensations they experience as a way to practice mindfulness. Regular therapy sessions are typically part of both exposure therapy and MBT.

Does Therapy Work?

Numerous studies have shown that talk therapy can have a significant positive impact on mental and emotional health. For instance, a comprehensive analysis of 270 studies found that psychotherapy was effective in treating depression, sometimes even more so than other forms of treatment.

Similarly, a large meta-analysis of psychodynamic therapy showed that this type of talk therapy helped patients with depression, social anxiety, and social phobias over the long term.

Moreover, research has shown that talk therapy can be beneficial for individuals struggling with a range of mental health issues such as anxiety, panic disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

One review concluded that therapy can have long-lasting effects, fostering inner strength and encouraging patients to live “richer, freer, and more fulfilling lives.”

Additionally, therapy can also help individuals who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Studies have found that therapy sessions can reduce the likelihood of subsequent mental health conditions following a major loss. Overall, these findings suggest that talk therapy can be a valuable tool for improving mental and emotional well-being.


Getting Started With Therapy

When starting counselling, it’s important to approach it with the same level of seriousness as any other healthcare appointment. Even if you’re participating in online therapy, try to avoid showing up in your pyjamas and make an effort to come prepared with notes on topics you want to discuss, rather than indulging in the happy hour beforehand.

It’s important to stay engaged with the process between sessions as well. Your therapist may ask you to document your thoughts or triggers, or even take up journaling. Completing these exercises and following through on assignments will help reinforce what you’re learning in your sessions.

To get the most out of therapy, it’s crucial to be open and honest with your therapist. Your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings and provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not will be essential to your success.

Keep in mind that building a rapport with your therapist may take some time. It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit uncomfortable during your initial sessions.

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