Does Therapy Work? What Therapists Wish You Knew
It would be nice to get a clear answer to the question, "does therapy work?" A simple yes or no, and all of our problems would be solved.
Unfortunately, our mental health, not to mention psychotherapy, is not as easily resolved. Therapy is a large field of science. Because of mainstream media, many consider talking therapy to be the only type of therapy module. However, there are multiple areas of study, numerous medications, and considerable outcomes.
So, to answer your question of "does therapy work," we'd have to ask in return, "which therapy did you get?"
An Overview of Different Types of Therapy
Dictionary.com defines therapy as the treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process. It also states therapy as a curative power or quality, psychotherapy, or any act, hobby, task, program, and so forth that relieves tension.
While this definition is easy enough to understand, it only scratches the surface of its treatment. Different types of therapy include:
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Humanistic therapy
Each of these is separated into subtypes. Your goal is to find a therapy that best works for you.
Psychodynamic therapy is one of the more common forms of treatment. Your therapist explores ways to connect with your subconscious mind by examining your relationships, thought patterns, and emotions.
This is a long-term approach to treat your mental health and can go on for years. Nevertheless, be assured that many people find improvements through psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic therapy work well for people who experience:
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
- Somatic experiences
Behavioral therapy focuses on those behaviors and actions from our life that may affect our life negatively. In this treatment model, you spend less time talking and more time working through those behavioral patterns.
Behavioral therapy is the best choice if you experience:
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- Substance abuse disorder
- OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
- Defiant or oppositional behaviors
- Behavioral issues that result from emotional difficulties or communication challenges
To address your issue, the therapist may utilize one of the three subtypes of behavioral therapy, such as systemic desensitization. This uses relaxation techniques while exposing you to your fear source. They may use aversion therapy, in which they'll teach you to associate your negative behavior with something else that's unpleasant. Or they may use the flooding technique, in which they'll help you face your fears directly.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term treatment. This form of treatment is similar to behavioral therapy. But here, your therapist also addresses other feelings or thoughts that put you in distress. Their goal is to get to the thought pattern that prompts your mental illness.
CBT is often used to address issues, such as:
- Eating disorders
- Mood disorders, such as bipolar disorders or depression
By combining various treatment models with CBT, your therapists try to explore ways to replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive and accurate ones. CBT does not focus on past events. Instead, it targets existing changes and symptoms.
Your therapist may use various subtypes of CBT for your particular treatment. But most commonly, therapists use rational emotive therapy, which makes you aware of irrational beliefs and replaces them. Or they use dialectical behavioral therapy, in which your therapist will help you learn to accept and deal with the distressing situation you may be in.
Humanistic therapy is based solely on your needs and experiences. The approach focuses on the worldview you have and allows you to create your true self's best life. Humanistic therapy does not force you to face your fears, but it does help you speak through the heart, allowing you to work through the problems yourself.
Your therapist does step in when needed, but you're the one calling the shots. Your therapist is there to listen to you and help you work through your journey. Humanistic therapy has several subtypes, such as person-centered therapy, in which your therapist helps you accept and empathize with yourself. They allow you to overcome the physical and emotional distress you go through when others disapprove of you and your choices.
Gestalt therapy helps you overcome and resolve issues that may be hindering your personal growth. They could be family-related or relationships that didn't pan out. Gestalt therapy uses movement and visualization to act out the scenarios as you could have conducted them.
Your therapist may also opt for existential therapy. They help you accept life’s responsibilities and what you can do to make your life more fulfilling. This therapy subtype works well for people with severe depression who cannot find greater meaning in life.
Will Therapy Work for Me?
As you know by now, therapy does not employ a one-size-fits-all approach. There are so many forms of treatment and so many professional therapists who can help you. The best chance you have when choosing the right therapy option is to find the right therapist who can help you.
Acknowledging and knowing that you want therapy is the best step you can take to improve your mental health. Do not second-guess your decision. Yes, you may feel nervous or uncomfortable talking to a stranger about your problems, but remember, a therapist is not your friend or family member. These people are professionally trained to help you understand your mental capabilities and move on from problems that may be stopping your personal growth. Your therapist is your secret keeper. They are the ones who can help you improve. Seek help, and don't stop until you find the right person.
If you're not sure whom you should go to, look online for recommendations. Search your city or state for a well-reviewed therapist using the database provided by the American Psychological Association. Send them an email or contact them for an appointment. If they're booked full, look for your second option. Do not lose hope until you find the right professional.
With all this information, we haven't answered your question, "does therapy work?"
The answer to that is yes, but only if you use the right type of therapy. Therapy does not end your despair or mental illness in a couple of sessions. But it can improve your quality of life if only you do your best to give your therapist a chance.
You may feel scared, and that is okay. So, take a deep breath. Then take another, and give it a chance. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the right therapist and some well-meant words.