Coping with Mental Health: Psychotherapy
What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy as a discipline can be roughly divided into two groups: insight based therapy, and behavioral based therapy. Insight based therapy generally focuses on thoughts and emotions and their relationship to past development and learning. The goal is to better understand yourself, your motivations, and your way of experiencing others and the world. Understanding allows you to work towards personal goals and changes, as well as greater coping with mental health conditions. Behavioral based therapies in contrast are generally present focused. They include plans for behavioral change with exposure to new experiences, homework assignments like journaling and trying new adaptive behaviors, the learning of coping skills (mindfulness for example), and modifying your thoughts and feelings to be more in tune with your circumstances. Likewise behavioral based therapy is targeted at improving coping with mental health conditions and/or meeting personal goals. A commonality between both groups is that the relationship a client has to the therapist is one of the most important variables for improvement. If you don't get along with your therapist, therapy is far less likely to be successful regardless of the type of therapy implemented.
Some therapists practice "eclectic psychotherapy" meaning they blend different schools of thought to suit an individual's needs.
Where to begin if seeking psychotherapy?
If you are seeking psychotherapy for help with mental health, it is important to understand the many varieties of services. You can find mental health professionals in hospitals, in clinics, in private practice, through social programs, at colleges and universities, and online.
You will first need to assess which type of service is most suitable for your circumstances. If you are a student for instance, you may consider your campus mental health and counseling services for easy access, cost, and familiarity with student life. If you are an adult suffering from a mental illness or think you might be, discussing your mental health with a primary care physician and requesting a referral, or speaking to your insurance company to determine what type of professional services are covered under your plan and available in your area, are good places to start. If you live with a physical health condition, ask your treating doctor for a referral to a professional who will understand the complications of illness and mental health. Many hospitals and clinics offer qualified services of this kind.
The primary goal is to find a service that is targeted towards your specific needs. Psychotherapists are trained broadly, but often specialize in specific areas like adolescence, sexuality, autism, depression, health, or ageing for example. Email or call to ask if your mental health needs can be addressed by the services offered. Be prepared to do a bit of searching and interviewing.
After finding a mental health professional, expect the first meeting to be a general assessment. You may fill out a questionnaire, provide your personal and family medical and mental health history, or verbally answer many questions. The initial meeting is a time for the professional to assess your situation, possibly diagnose your condition, and formulate a treatment approach. It is also a time for you to assess the professional and get answers to any of your questions.