Psychotherapy is a type of treatment where scientifically validated procedures are used to help people manage their thoughts and feelings, and develop healthier habits. It provides a supportive environment for the person to speak openly about their problems and share their emotions with a therapist who is non-judgmental. The treatment helps the person change their unhealthy thoughts and behaviour patterns and learn skills to cope with life situations. Psychotherapy aims to help individuals understand and overcome difficulties through various strategies such as effective communication, problem-solving, decision making, assertive skills training, relaxation techniques, etc.

A person who undergoes psychotherapy learns to:

  • Resolve conflict
  • Release stress due to personal or professional reasons
  • Cope up with major life changes like divorce, loss of job or death of a loved one
  • Reduce negative and unhealthy behavior such as anger, aggressiveness, and other behaviors that impair social and personal relationships

In some conditions, psychotherapy can be as effective as medication. However, depending on the severity of the condition, experts will decide what is best for the person. Psychotherapy can also be a part of the overall treatment plan that includes medication and other treatment options.

What are the different types of Psychotherapy?

There are different types of therapies and the mental health professional decides which type of therapy is best for the person, depending on the nature of the problem. For example, behaviour therapy may be good for treating obsessive compulsive disorder, cognitive behaviour therapy may work well for a person with depression, and so on. Few therapies are given below:

Behavior Therapy

Focuses on helping the individual understand their thoughts and behaviour, here and now behaviour, identify negative patterns in their thinking and then learn to replace them with positive thought patterns. This therapy has a structured approach with a focus on helping the person improve their behavioural patterns and respond to situations in a more adaptive way. Example, behaviour modification for people trying to quit tobacco use

Cognitive Therapy

Deals with emotions and thoughts, which in turn lead to actions, through specific principles of learning such as providing reinforcement, rewards, punishments, planning change through behaviour control, relaxation training, skills training, and assertiveness skills training. This therapy aims at correcting inaccurate beliefs and thoughts that result in negative emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. Example, people with depression can be treated with cognitive therapy.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

A structured therapy that focuses on helping the person improve interpersonal relationships. Example, marital conflicts, parent-adolescent relationship, etc

IPT is a time-limited treatment with three phases: initial, middle and a terminal phase.

  • In the initial phase, the therapist completes a standard clinical interview and determines the suitability of IPT to the person. The therapist reviews the person’s patterns in relationships, capacity for bonding, and particularly evaluates current relationships.
  • In the middle sessions, the therapist and person address the relevant problem areas with key IPT techniques
  • In the terminal phase, the therapist and person review the progress in the problem areas and plan for future problems.

Treatment also includes working on problems related to grief or bereavement (death of someone important), role dispute (struggle with a spouse or a relative), role transition (some other important life change).

Psychodynamic therapy

Also known as insight-oriented therapy, psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious thought processes that manifest in a person’s behaviour. The therapy helps the person become self-aware, and understand how past events have influenced their present behaviour. This self-evaluation helps them examine negative experiences and unresolved conflicts in past or present relationships, which have resulted in the present dysfunctional behaviour.

Family therapy

Helps people overcome issues with family relationships. For example, the wife may be suffering from depression because of marital problems. The therapist evaluates the relationship and past events that have caused this emotional problem. The therapist identifies patterns of dysfunctional communication within the family, and they are taught how to listen with empathy, ask questions, and respond in a rational way without getting angry or defensive. This therapy is also effective in cases where families have to be involved in the patient’s treatment, or in the case of a dysfunctional family, where family members may be contributing to the patient’s current condition

Group therapy

This is provided to a group of people (6-12 members) who may be dealing with the same type of problem. The therapist suggests this type of therapy for a person depending on the nature of the problem

Group therapy is beneficial in many ways

Participants have the opportunity to interact with others who are facing similar issues. They can try out role play and give feedback to others or receive feedback and insight from other group members. This therapy is effective in cases of addiction or drug abuse, where shared information may help motivate people in the group


How long should I take therapy?

It may take a few days or weeks or at times, months to help you overcome the problem with the help of psychotherapy. For major mental health issues, therapy may continue for more than a year. The number and frequency of sessions depend on

  • Severity of the symptoms related to the mental health condition
  • Duration of symptoms or the existence of the problem
  • Your motivation to participate and overcome the problem
  • Support of your family members, which is important in many forms of psychotherapy
  • Your regularity and adherence to the therapy

Will my information be confidential?

All your conversations with the therapist are confidential. However, in specific cases when the therapist senses that there may be a threat to life or health of self or others, then the information may be shared with family members and other experts, who will be involved in providing the necessary treatment.

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