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Guide to Psychiatry and Counseling

Types of Psychotherapy continued...

Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies. The idea behind this kind of therapy is that people's lives are affected by unconscious issues and conflicts. The goal of the therapist is to help the person bring those issues to a conscious level where they can be understood and dealt with. This may involve analyzing dreams or exploring a person's personal history. 

Behavioral Therapy. This approach to therapy focuses on learning and behavior in an effort to change unhealthy behavioral patterns. Some therapists try to help patients learn new associations by using a system of reward and punishment to bring about certain behavioral changes. Another approach might involve a controlled series of exposures to a phobia trigger to desensitize a person to an unreasonable fear. 

Cognitive Therapy. The emphasis in cognitive therapy is on a person's thoughts. The idea is that dysfunctional thinking is what leads to dysfunctional emotions or behaviors. The goal is to help the person recognize unhealthy thinking patterns and to recognize and change inaccurate beliefs. 

Humanistic Therapy. This approach to therapy is based on the idea that people are capable of making rational choices and developing their maximum potential. This approach to therapy is often client centered, with the client being seen as the authority on what is going on inside.

Integrative or Holistic Therapy. This approach relies on integrating multiple approaches to therapy based on the client's individual needs. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy is a combination of the two individual therapies and focuses on both thought and behavior.

Getting Started With a Mental Health Professional

Finding the right mental health professional and the right approach to therapy is as important as finding the right medical doctor. Whether you are planning to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist or another type of mental health professional, you should start with a phone call to the professional. Ask about the professional’s approach to dealing with mental issues and how he or she generally works with clients. Ask about whether or not he or she accepts insurance and how payments are handled. You might describe your reason for wanting to make an appointment and ask if he or she is experienced in dealing with such issues. If you are comfortable talking with him or her, the next step is to make an appointment.

At your first office visit, the mental health professional will want to talk with you about why you think you need to come to therapy. He or she will want to know about what your symptoms are, how long you've had them and what, if anything, you've done about them in the past. He or she will probably ask you about your family and your work as well as what you do to relax. This initial conversation is important in developing the appropriate approach to treatment. Before you leave the office, the mental health professional should describe to you the plan for treatment and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have.

It will likely take several weeks before you become fully comfortable with your therapy. If you still aren't feeling comfortable after two or three visits, let the mental health professional know and explain why you feel that way. The two of you need to work together as a team in order to get the most out of your treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on December 22, 2013
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