Psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy, or simply, therapy., is the branch of medicine that doesn’t make use of medicines though medication is frequently used along with it.

In mild cases of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, it works wonders when used alone. In moderate to severe cases, it has to be accompanied by the use of medication.

There are different types of therapy, each having its own indications and uses vis-à-vis the type of mental disorder, its severity, and the state of the patient.

If correctly approached by a trained expert, psychotherapy can cure and bring the patient back to his original state of mind.

What is psychotherapy? Definition

Psychotherapy is therapy (healing) of the psyche (mind).  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it now as

“The treatment of disorders of the mind or personality by psychological methods”.

Psychotherapy is a field of healthcare, which focuses on mental and emotional health. It helps treat mentally disturbed people cope with their daily life and handle the situation, which has brought them this condition.

It could be a loss of a job leading to financial difficulties or the loss of a dear one, a broken marriage or relationship – the list is endless.

Psychotherapy raises your stress threshold and makes you a mentally stronger person. It will help you regain your sound mental condition.

It basically involves sessions of talk therapy with an expert psychologist who is educated and trained in this faculty of medicine. Therapy can produce long-term mental and physical health improvements and help you fight emotional stress better.

There are several approaches to psychotherapy and each has an indication of its own. However, cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common type of psychotherapy used.

Are psychotherapy and counseling the same?

Both psychotherapy and counseling are often used together when indicated.

The difference between psychotherapy and counseling is a rather “grey” area and both are often mistaken for as the same. But, there is a subtle difference.

Counseling usually refers to a short-term consultation while psychotherapy typically is a longer-term treatment.

Counseling is a short-term treatment that centers on behavior while psychotherapy focuses on working long-term and draws results from the approach to the foundation of the emotional problems.

Uses of psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is useful for people who experience mental health challenges, emotional disturbances, and psychiatric disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder (manic depression).

Those who experience the following may benefit from psychotherapy.

  • You feel an overpowering and lingering sense of helplessness and sadness.
  • Your problems do not improve despite your own efforts and those of family and friends.
  • You cannot concentrate on any work.
  • You cannot carry out your everyday activities.
  • You worry a lot and always expect the worst outcome.
  • You are constantly on edge.
  • Drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, or being violent are harming you and others

Average length and number of therapy sessions

Many counselors and psychotherapists will ask you to come for weekly sessions. This can vary as per the need of your emotional condition and the type of therapy to be used.

Each session usually lasts for 50 minutes to one hour. It can again vary in duration till the therapist feels he has achieved the goal of the session.

The number of sessions will vary as per the type of therapy.

  1. Brief counseling offers emotional support for that difficult period.
  2. Short-term psychotherapy will require 6 to 15 weekly sessions to address the specific disturbing issue that has bothered the patient. The therapist goes in-depth to diagnose the problem and aims to address it.
  3. On-going therapy does not have any fixed number of sessions because it is an ongoing process and addresses long-term and ingrained character constitution.

Does psychotherapy work for everyone?

Research indicates that psychotherapy is effective against a variety of mental and behavioral health issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar and across a wide spectrum of population groups.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than a quarter of American adults in the United States suffer from depression, anxiety, or some other mental disorder in any one given year.

Statistics declare that approximately 75 percent of people who undergo psychotherapy have benefitted from it.

It is the elderly people who often go into mental detraction, psychotherapy works wonderfully well for them in both sexes.

On average, it works better than many medical treatments if the technique adopted is correct and is conducted by a trained psychologist.

Psychotherapy teaches mentally disabled patient life skills, the results of which tend to last longer than pharmacological treatments and without any harmful side effects.

Research shows that combining medication with psychotherapy is often most effective in treating moderate to severe cases of depression and anxiety.

Can psychotherapy be harmful? If so why?

If you are on therapy, what is the worst that can happen? The immediate reaction will be that the mental condition will not improve.

However, that is not so. Psychotherapy has harmed people – in the sense that their mental condition has got worse.

Research shows that, on average, about 10 percent of patients on psychotherapy actually get worse after starting therapy.

This could be due to a variety of reasons. The most common being:

  • The patient did not attend follow-up sessions regularly.
  • A wrong and underqualified person doing the job.
  • The psychologist and/or the counselor have misdiagnosed or underestimated the magnitude of the problem.
  • The wrong type of psychotherapy was applied to the patient.
  • The condition also required the use of medication, which was not advised.

However, if 10 percent of the patients get worse, it means that 90 percent of the people improve with psychotherapy. This is a strong point for people to look at psychotherapy in a positive manner.

Common types of psychotherapy

In treating mental conditions such as depression, there are various types of therapy techniques used in giving psychotherapy to a patient and each of these forms has its approach and indications. Some of these therapies have been around for a while and new ones are being added over time.

The right approach to therapy for a particular patient is decided upon by the treating psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

Basically, it means that a particular type of therapy that may suit you, may not suit another depressed person.

The various types of therapy or psychotherapy are important tools in the hands of the treating psychotherapist to treat his patient. Before starting his psychotherapy, he has analyzed the depression of his patient and finalized on the type of therapy for his patient.

Below are the various options for his approaches to therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) | Behavioral Therapy | Cognitive Therapy

CBD is the most common approach used and conducted over a preset number of sessions. These are usually 6 to 8 sessions over a period of 10 to 12 weeks.

This type of therapy helps you to focus and identify your own unhealthy thoughts and negative behavioral attitude, which could have contributed to your depression.

These are then replaced with healthy and positive ones. This therapy helps you change the way you think, feel and behave presently.

For example, it helps you become active in a situation where you were previously feeling hopeless.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

This type of therapy helps the depressed individual to focus and see the type of relationship he or she has with people he knows, such as his family members, friends, and colleagues.

It helps to improve interpersonal skills or communication skills and improve those relationships.

Therapy increases the self-esteem, which the patient had lost. IPT is used where the cause has been a conflict in a relationship, an event of mourning, or social isolation. It is given over a period of 3 to 4 months.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy aims at identifying the root cause of your depression, which may be related to mental trauma or an unresolved cause stemming from childhood.

Here, the patient is encouraged to talk about such nagging and disturbing events and experiences. This type of therapy could take weeks, months, or years.

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling involves a one-on-one discussion between the patient and a qualified, trained, and professional therapist with a good deal of experience in treating depression and other such mental conditions.

The therapist helps the patient understand depression and its causes. He then explains new strategies to manage stress and depression.

These one-to-one sessions make the patient open up even more and this helps to identify the specific causes and triggers that make the depression worse. These sessions help the patient to improve relationships, keep good and healthy habits, get good sleep and take treatment as advised.

Family Therapy | Family Counseling

Depression in a family member affects the whole family. And, though the family members try in their own nonprofessional way to talk to the patient, it often worsens the depression.

Counseling the whole family about depression makes the family members get the right insight into the problem. They treat the patient rightly taking care to see that he or she follows up with the treatment.

Counseling with the whole family encourages the members to talk about their stresses and problems and they feel better talking openly with the therapist.

This form of therapy helps them to improve the way they interact with the patient and with each other thus resolving any conflicts.

Group Counseling

This approach to therapy involves therapy by the therapist with a group of two or more patients who suffer from depression.

This exchange of history, symptoms, and experiences among the participating members makes each of them aware that they are not alone and that there are other people struggling with depression problems and feeling the same.

Group counseling aims at lifting the social isolation, which you so often see with depression.

Facts to Know about Psychotherapy

It does happen that sometimes the depression is resistant to treatment and therapy. It is important that this does not deter you and you continue to pursue the treatment. Knowing the following points will help.

  • If you have been comfortable with your previous therapist, it will be better that you follow up with him if he is well-qualified and experienced. The previous history of psychotherapy will be helpful to him as he already is aware of your case and will be able to work out better.
  • You could change to a new therapist if you have not been comfortable with the previous one. Check out his credentials before seeking his help.
  • Give therapy time to work and religiously follow the advised routine, and sessions, and follow up with your therapist regularly.
  • Follow-up sessions help the psychiatrist to become aware of the changes that have developed after the end of psychotherapy.