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Psychotherapy / Talk Therapy - How Does Psychotherapy Work?

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What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that is advised for individuals with mental problems or inability to cope with life. In psychotherapy, the counselor or therapist talks to the patient to help them get hold of their life. It is also known as counseling, talk therapy or psychosocial therapy.


In a mental illness, a personís actions and mood are often affected by an altered thought process. Negative thoughts make it difficult to have a positive outlook on life. However, most individuals are unable to understand this. If they are aware of this and are taught how to react, they may be able to cope with many difficult situations. Psychotherapy is a process where the thought process of the patient is influenced by talking to the psychologist.

Though psychotherapy is useful in several patients, not all patients benefit with it. Medications are sometimes prescribed along with psychotherapy to help to make the patient more responsive to psychotherapy.

Talk Therapy

Which Patients Benefit from Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy can be used for several conditions that affect the mind and interfere with daily living. These could be temporary conditions like stress, problems with relationships, or even trouble with sleeping. In addition, it is also effective in serious mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and manic depressive psychosis. Talk therapy for conditions like schizophrenia may be more difficult. People who are addicted to smoking, alcohol or drug intake may also benefit from psychotherapy.

What is the Difference between Individual and Group Therapy?

Psychotherapy can be carried out on a one-on-one basis between the therapist and the patient. This is called individual therapy. Group therapy may include a couple, a family, or a group of individuals suffering from the same condition. Counseling for marital relationships will require the couple to be present together. If one member of the family suffers from a mental illness, it is sometimes useful to counsel the family as well, so that the family members know how to react to the patient and help them with the problem. Family therapy is also used to help family members deal with stress associated with the ailment of the relative. This approach is useful in the treatment of mental disorders in children. Patients with addictions are often counseled in groups. Here, patients can share their experiences with others and learn from others as well.

Family Therapy Helps Family Members From Stress

What are the Techniques Used in Psychotherapy?

Techniques for psychotherapy vary with the type of mental illness and the expertise of the psychotherapist. There are several types of psychotherapy, some of which are listed here:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy where patients are made aware of their unhealthy and negative thoughts and beliefs. They are then suggested ways to deal with them and convert them into more healthy and positive thoughts. The change in the way of thinking causes a change in the way one acts and results in a more positive attitude towards life.

CBT is used for a wide variety of conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, eating disorders etc. In depression, CBT helps to convert negative thoughts into more positive thoughts. People with anxiety may be exposed to the anxiety-causing situation in an artificial environment during a CBT session so that they become less anxious when exposed to the particular situation in a natural environment.

  • Dialectic Behavior Therapy:

In this type of therapy, therapists agree with the patients that their behavior is valid, but at the same time encourage them to change the behavior to a healthier one. This type of treatment is used in patients with suicidal tendencies.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy:

Psychodynamic therapy addresses unconscious conflicts of the patient. Patients are made aware of their unconscious thoughts that determine their actions. They are taught how to deal with these to lead a better life.

Psychodynamic Therapy Treats Depression
  • Interpersonal Therapy:

Interpersonal therapy helps a patient in building and maintaining relationships. It teaches patients how to deal with other people. A slight variation of this type of therapy is interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), which may be used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. In this therapy, the patient is encouraged to follow a certain routine and improve relationships with others

How is Psychotherapy Used in a Child?

Counseling in a child requires special consideration. Since children cannot communicate their feelings, the approach is different as compared to adults. In addition, parents have to also participate in the psychotherapy to learn to handle the child.

The relationship between a therapist and the patient is important for successful treatment. While patients should open up will all their problems, therapists should respect the patientsí trust and maintain confidentiality. Some people may not experience the benefits of psychotherapy immediately and may even feel worse in the first few sessions. This may tempt them to stop it. However, many people do benefit from psychotherapy, which should be offered to patients with conditions affecting the mind.

Psychotherapy Used in Child

Health Tips

There are several other tips that can be adopted to improve mental health. These include:

  • Take up hobbies in the arts like music, painting, etc. to divert attention. Such hobbies help to deal with depression
  • Keep a pet animal, which will provide company and help to relieve stress
  • Get involved in community activities to interact with others, make yourself useful, and feel a sense of achievement
  • Make time for activities that you enjoy


  1. Psychotherapies - (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/index.shtml)

Latest Publications and Research on Psychotherapy / Talk Therapy

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