Do you ever feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed and unable to deal with life’s problems? If so, you are not alone.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that nearly 1 in 5 adults living in the US suffers from depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. Many others struggle to cope with a severe illness, the death of a loved one, stress, relationship woes, job loss, weight loss, quitting smoking, substance abuse, and other issues.

Often, these problems can become frustrating and debilitating, so people need help to deal with them.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the treatment of mental health disorders. A trained mental health professional provides the therapy and helps the individual explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a safe space. Psychotherapy seeks to improve the individual’s health and well-being.

When paired with medication, psychotherapy is one of the most effective ways to promote recovery from mental illness. There are many types of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Exposure Therapy, and Psychodynamic Therapy.

Here we look at psychotherapy, how and why it works, and if it can help treat depression.

 

How Does Psychotherapy Work?

Psychotherapy treatment works successfully when three factors work together:

  • Evidence-based treatment that is tailored to the individual’s problem
  • The clinical expertise of the psychologist
  • The individual’s traits, values, culture, and preferences

Often, when people start psychotherapy treatment, they feel that their problems will never end. Psychotherapy helps them understand that they can change their stressful situation by taking action.

It helps them make improvements in their lives that, in turn, enhance healthy behaviors. It can help people improve relationships, perform better at school or work, express their emotions, or think more positively.

Specific problems respond best to a particular style of therapy. Nonetheless, the therapeutic alliance and relationship of the individual with their psychologist remains critical for better and faster recovery.

 

Why Psychotherapy Works

When an individual is in the wrong place mentally, psychotherapy is one of the primary sources of solace and comfort that the modern world offers them.

From a distance, psychotherapy appears as if it only has drawbacks. It usually has a difficult time proving its efficacy in clinical trials. It also takes up a lot of time and often requires around two weekly for a few years. Psychotherapy is also one of the most expensive treatment options available to people.

Moreover, it calls for active engagement and sustained emotional effort from individuals.

But despite all of its drawbacks, psychotherapy is a highly effective treatment in most cases. It alleviates mental illness for three main reasons:

 

Unconscious Thoughts And Feelings Become Conscious

Psychotherapy is based on the premise that we experience mental illness, suffer from a breakdown, or develop fears or phobias due to past experiences.

Sometime in the past, we have been through situations that were so troubling or traumatic that they stripped away our rational faculties and had to be submerged in our unconsciousness.

For example, we cannot recall the actual dynamics of our relationship with an abusive parent, or we fail to observe our behaviors and responses every time someone tries to get close to us. We become victims of our unconscious and cannot understand what we long for or are scared of.

In such cases, we cannot treat the problem only through rational discussion, as we cannot grasp the causes of our emotional pain and distress in the first place.

Psychotherapy is a powerful tool that helps us become aware of our behavior patterns and where they stem from. It offers a space where we can safely share whatever comes into our heads.

The psychologist is nonjudgmental, and their purpose is to work through the problem with you, so they will not be bored, surprised, or disgusted. Psychotherapists will protect your identity and maintain client confidentiality. As a result, any intimate, emotional, or private details will not go outside the counseling center.

Psychotherapy causes important ideas, thoughts, and feelings to surface from the unconscious. We can then heal through exposure, interpretation, and contextualization. We may become aware of thoughts and feelings that we were unaware of before the therapy session started.

 

Transference

Transference describes how an individual will behave toward a psychologist once therapy starts. It is often in ways that reflect aspects of the individual’s most important and traumatic past relationships.

For example, a person with an abusive or punitive parent might feel that the psychologist must find them disgusting or boring. Or a person who needs to cheer up a depressed parent regularly might think they must put up a happy facade whenever depressing topics crop up.

We transfer in this manner all the time—even outside therapy. But our transference is usually not noticed or dealt with properly.

Psychotherapy sessions can teach us to observe our behaviors and impulses and fathom their reasons. It can then help us change our behavior accordingly in healthy directions.

 

The First Good Relationship

Many of us are deeply damaged by our past bad or traumatic relationships. When we were younger and defenseless, we may have lacked the luxury of talking to trustworthy people who listened to us, helped us set the proper boundaries, and made us feel worthy and good about ourselves.

However, when we discover psychotherapy, an experienced psychologist might be the first genuinely supportive and reliable person we have met. They become the good parent or friends that we needed but never had.

With them, we can regress to stages of our life that were sad or traumatic and relive them with the proper support.  We can express our needs and emotions at every step, and the psychologist will help us cope with them healthily.

This one positive and healthy relationship then serves as the model for other relationships outside therapy. The psychologist’s wise, intelligent words become part of our inner dialogue. We can finally heal through this kind of regular, repeated exposure to rationality and compassion.

 

Can Psychotherapy Help With Depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders around the world. It is a long-term mood disorder that manifests as chronic misery or sadness. It hinders one’s quality of life and often involves sleep issues, changes in appetite, and feelings of apathy, anger, loss, or guilt.

Psychotherapy can help people cope with depression. Recent research has shown that this treatment can effectively treat certain mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, grief, and trauma.[1] 

Most people who undergo psychotherapy notice an improvement in their health and well-being[2] and can function in their lives better.

Psychotherapy treatment for depression relies on emotional support and trust. An experienced therapist offers people a comfortable, safe, and private healing setting. The therapist and patient work together to examine the causes and solutions to the latter’s concerns.

The therapist can also help patients discover and build new ways of thinking and responding. This way, psychotherapy can help depressed individuals return to socializing with their loved ones and the activities they enjoy most.

Some types of depression that therapists treat include the following:

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Its symptoms of persistent sadness and loss of interest are severe enough to affect daily life. This is the most commonly diagnosed type of depression.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, affects people during the year’s colder months. Changes in the seasons trigger it. It appears during late fall or early winter. It usually goes away during the early days of spring and summer.

 

Dysthymia

Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder is a chronic form of depression that lasts for at least a few years. Although it lasts long, its symptoms are milder than a major depressive disorder.

 

Conclusion

Psychotherapy may not work for everyone as the individual must be in the right frame to receive treatment. They must approach the therapy as a collaborative effort and stay open and honest with their therapist. They must also follow the prescribed treatment plan and give the treatment process enough time and attention to get the most out of psychotherapy.

Most importantly, they need to find a good therapist whose hands they can place their mental health. Also, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), building a solid therapeutic relationship with your therapist can result in better long-term mental health outcomes.

 

 

References

 

Citations

  1. Peter Fonagy, 2015, The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapies: An update. World Psychiatry, Volume 14, Issue 2

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wps.20235

  1. John C. Norcross, 2011, Psychotherapy relationships that work: Evidence-based responsiveness — 2nd edition. Oxford University Press

https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199737208.001.0001