Individual therapy is a joint process between a therapist and a person in therapy. Common goals of therapy can be to inspire change or improve one’s quality of life. People may seek therapy for help with issues that are hard to face alone. Therapy can help people overcome obstacles to their well-being. It can increase positive feelings, such as compassion and self-esteem. People in therapy can learn skills for handling difficult situations, making healthy decisions, and reaching goals. Many find they enjoy the therapeutic journey of becoming more self-aware. Some people even participate in ongoing therapy for self-growth.
WHEN IS IT BEST TO SEEK THERAPY?
It could be time to seek therapy if an issue causes distress or interferes with your daily life. Distress can mean negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or even a bodily sensation such as pain or fatigue. It is important not to wait until symptoms become severe before going to therapy. It may be best to seek therapy if you are often unhappy or feel overwhelmed and hopeless about issues in your life. Therapy can also help if you cannot focus on work or school, experience addiction, or feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
- Some people may avoid treatment, and there are many reasons for this. Some of these reasons include:
- Worry about the stigma that can come with mental health care
- Feelings of shame when speaking about past hurts
- Not wanting to acknowledge that anything is wrong
- Fear that discussions in treatment will not stay confidential
- Money issues
However, statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) show mental health issues are common in the United States. In fact, 1 in 5 adults may be affected. It may help to remember that therapists are trained professionals who provide support and maintain confidentiality. They are used to helping people work through painful or embarrassing issues.
A trained therapist can help people make lifestyle changes. They can also help identify underlying causes of symptoms and provide strategies for changing unwanted thoughts and behaviors. Therapy can equip people with the skills to manage symptoms, reduce stress, and improve their quality of life.
WHAT CAN PSYCHOTHERAPY HELP WITH?
Therapy can help treat mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral issues. Concerns that may be discussed in therapy include, but are not limited to:
- Relationship or marriage challenges
- Career problems
- Family issues
WHO PROVIDES INDIVIDUAL THERAPY?
Many kinds of mental health professionals provide therapy. The standards for becoming a therapist usually depend on a state’s licensing board. Therapists often have a master’s or doctoral degree. They may also have specific training in psychological counseling. Students working toward an advanced degree may provide therapy with direction from a licensed supervisor. Therapists can have many titles. These are based on their level of education, training, and role. They can work as licensed professional counselors (LPC), certified rehabilitation counselors (CRC), psychologists (Ph.D./ Psy.D.), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), psychiatric nurses, or psychiatrists.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING INDIVIDUAL THERAPY
The first session of therapy often focuses on gathering information. A therapist speaks with the person in treatment about their past physical, mental, and emotional health. They also discuss the concerns bringing the person to therapy. It can take a few sessions for a therapist to have a good understanding of the situation. Only then can they address concerns and determine the best course of action.
The person in therapy can also use their first session to decide if the therapist’s style is a good fit for their needs. Finding a therapist you are comfortable with is vital to successful treatment. It is important to talk about the type of therapy to be used, treatment goals, session length, and how many sessions are needed.
Many therapists encourage people in treatment to do most of the talking. At first, it may be hard to talk about past experiences or current concerns. Sessions may stir up intense emotions. It is possible to become upset, angry, or sad during treatment. However, therapists can help people build confidence and become more comfortable as sessions progress.
Therapists might assign “homework” to help the people in their care build on topics discussed in therapy. Individuals in treatment can also ask questions at any point in the process. As time passes, people in therapy may develop a more positive mood and healthier thinking patterns.
People in treatment can expect confidentiality during therapy sessions. But, a therapist may break confidentiality if someone is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others. Therapists may also do this if required to by federal or state law. Many therapists explain the limits of confidentiality and provide written guidelines during the first therapy session.
HOW PSYCHOTHERAPY WORKS
There are many forms of therapy. Some types of treatment work better than others when handling different issues. It is common for therapists to combine ideas from different approaches when addressing a person’s needs. Some of the therapy modalities used at Intown Counseling & Wellness include, but are not limited to:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular and effective types of therapy. This approach helps people look at the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Then, people can replace negative thinking patterns with positive ones. The belief behind CBT is that healthy thoughts often promote positive feelings and productive actions.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Can help people cope with stress, improve emotional regulation, and work on relationships. It includes 4 basic concepts including 1.) Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment, 2.) Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it, 3.) Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others and Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change. The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, DBT therapists accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals. In addition, all of the skills and strategies taught in DBT are balanced in terms of acceptance and change. For example, the four skills modules include two sets of acceptance-oriented skills (mindfulness and distress tolerance) and two sets of change-oriented skills (emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness).
Psychodynamic therapy: Can help people understand unconscious experiences and how they may affect behavior.
HOW LONG DOES INDIVIDUAL THERAPY LAST?
Individual therapy sessions often last from 50 to 60 minutes. How often sessions occur and how long they are depend on many factors, including:
The mental health condition addressed and its severity
The amount of time the person in therapy has had the issue
How much the issue affects day-to-day life
How much distress the issue causes
How quickly the person in therapy improves
Some concerns can be addressed through short-term therapy over a few weeks. However, chronic or more complex concerns can require long-term treatment. Sometimes, it may take more than a year for noticeable progress to be made.
EFFECTIVENESS OF INDIVIDUAL THERAPY
Even if therapy cannot cure a condition, it can help people develop healthy coping skills. The determination to be active in therapy and heal is essential for meeting therapeutic goals and fostering a positive therapeutic relationship. Finding the right therapist is also crucial to the treatment process.
Research shows that therapy may result in fewer relapses of common conditions, including moderate depression and anxiety. Furthermore, it indicates that the positive effects of good therapy extend beyond treatment. Many people report improved conditions long after therapy has ended. Therapy is often more effective than psychotropic medication or medical treatments alone. When used on their own, those treatments may cause harmful side effects. Many therapeutic approaches are also evidence-based. This means they have been subject to research studies and clinical observations to test their effectiveness.
Finding a therapist you are comfortable with and cooperating with them can help you get the most out of treatment. When a person in therapy is open and honest, therapists generally are better able to address each issue and adjust the treatment approach as needed. Going to therapy might feel difficult on some days. But, it is important to attend each session and complete any homework assigned.