Also called talk therapy, this is an approach for treating mental health issues by talking with a psychologist, psychiatrist or another mental health provider.
Psychotherapy is an approach for treating mental health issues by talking with a psychologist, psychiatrist or another mental health provider. It also is known as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy or, simply, therapy.
During psychotherapy, you learn about your specific issues and how your thoughts, emotions and behaviors affect your moods. Talk therapy 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. The type that's right for you depends on your situation.
Psychotherapy can help treat most mental health issues, including:
Not everyone who benefits from psychotherapy is diagnosed with a mental illness. Psychotherapy can help with the stresses and conflicts of life that can affect anyone.
For example, psychotherapy may help you:
In some cases, psychotherapy can be as effective as medicines, such as antidepressants. But depending on your situation, talk therapy alone may not be enough to ease the symptoms of a mental health condition. You also may need medicines or other treatments.
Psychotherapy generally involves little risk. But because it can explore painful feelings and experiences, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. A skilled therapist who can meet your needs can minimize any risks.
Learning coping skills can help you manage and conquer negative feelings and fears.
Here's how to get started:
Before seeing a psychotherapist, check the person's background, education, certification, and licensing. Psychotherapist is a general term rather than a job title or an indication of education, training or licensure.
Trained psychotherapists may have different job titles, depending on their education and role. Most have a master's or doctoral degree with training in psychological counseling. Medical doctors specializing in mental health are known as psychiatrists. They can prescribe medicines, and some may provide psychotherapy.
Examples of psychotherapists include:
Make sure that the therapist you choose meets state certification and licensing requirements. The key is to find a skilled therapist who can match the type and intensity of therapy with your needs.
At the first psychotherapy session, the therapist usually gathers information about you and your needs. You may be asked to fill out forms about your physical and emotional health. It might take a few sessions for your therapist to fully understand your situation and concerns and determine the best course of action.
The first session is also an opportunity for you to interview your therapist. You'll be able to see whether the therapist's approach and personality are going to work for you. Make sure you understand:
Ask questions anytime during your appointment. If you don't feel comfortable with the first therapist you see, try someone else. Having a good fit with your therapist is critical for effective treatment.
You'll likely meet your therapist weekly or every other week for 45 minutes to one hour. These sessions could be held in the therapist's office, or you could meet during a video visit. Psychotherapy also can take place in a hospital if you've been admitted for treatment. In the hospital, psychotherapy focuses on safety and becoming more mentally and emotionally stable.
Some types of psychotherapy work better than others in treating certain disorders and conditions. Your therapist will consider your situation and preferences to determine which approach or combination of approaches is best for you.
Some psychotherapy methods proven effective include:
Online apps are available that use several methods.
Psychotherapy formats include individual, couple, family or group sessions. These formats can be effective for all age groups.
For most types of psychotherapy, your therapist encourages you to talk about your thoughts and feelings and what's troubling you. Don't worry if you find it hard to open up about your feelings. Your therapist can help you gain more confidence and comfort as time goes on.
Because psychotherapy sometimes involves intense emotional discussions, you may find yourself crying, becoming upset or even having an angry outburst during a session. You also may feel physically exhausted after a session. Your therapist can help you cope with these feelings and emotions.
After a session, your therapist may ask you to do specific activities or practice what you learned. Over time, discussing your concerns can improve your mood and change the way you think and feel about yourself. It also can improve your ability to cope with problems.
Except in rare cases, conversations with your therapist are confidential. But a therapist may break confidentiality if there's an immediate threat to safety or when state or federal law requires reporting concerns to authorities. Your therapist can answer questions about confidentiality.
The number of psychotherapy sessions you need and how frequently you need to see your therapist depends on factors such as:
The length of psychotherapy sessions also can depend on the method used. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy consists of a shorter course of treatment. But dialectical behavior therapy can take longer. Your therapist can help you understand how long treatment will take.
It may take only weeks to help you cope with a short-term issue. Or treatment may last a year or longer if you have a long-term mental health issue or other long-term concerns.
Psychotherapy may not cure your condition or make an unpleasant situation go away. But it can give you the power to cope in a healthy way and feel better about yourself and your life.
To get the most out of psychotherapy, take these steps: