In a time when modern medicine seems overly eager to prescribe a pill for every ailment, the rising popularity of psychotherapy stands as a remarkable exception as a significant mental health treatment. Psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”) involves talking with a mental health professional in a series of sessions as an alternative, or in compliment, to medication. While some have doubted its effectiveness, research shows that at least 75 percent of people who go through psychotherapy report some benefit from it.
Psychotherapy is commonly recommended for the treatment of depression and/or anxiety; it can also help people with addictions, PTSD, existential issues, phobias, grief, life transitions, bipolar disorder, marriage or family issues, or even those who simply struggle coping with everyday life. Psychotherapy can do much more than just treat debilitating or negative issues. Because psychotherapy centers largely around self-exploration, it can be highly useful for people seeking to improve themselves and know themselves better, those wanting help reaching their goals, and those who simply want to live a life free from harmful habits and past conditioning.
Regardless of what might prompt you to seek psychotherapy, let’s discuss some of the most commonly reported benefits of this treatment.
Help for Depression
Depression can stem from many different causes, including trauma, life difficulties, abuse, genetics, chemical imbalances or a combination of these factors. A therapist can help you identify the sources of depression in your life, as well as help you train your mind toward new ways of responding to those issues. With therapy, many people find themselves better able to cope with depression without the use of drugs. In fact, an extensive study comparing cognitive therapy treatments with antidepressant medications found that both treatments had comparable short-term results, and those who received cognitive therapy had a reduced risk of relapse into depression for the long term.
Help for Anxiety
Anxiety is on the rise in America right now. A recent poll by the American Psychiatric Association showed a remarkable 5-point jump in the national anxiety score as Americans from all demographics reported feeling more anxious now than they did the year before. Additionally, two out of three Americans say they are “extremely or somewhat anxious” about their health, paying bills and keeping themselves and their family safe. About one in five has sought professional care. Psychotherapy can help patients contextualize the emotions associated with anxiety and learn to develop a healthier relationship with those emotions, so anxiety has less power to dominate or disrupt everyday existence. A therapist can also help the patients identify their common anxiety triggers and develop practical techniques for approaching those situations in a healthier way.
Help Getting “Unstuck”
Mental illnesses and other disorders tend to make us feel “stuck” in our daily lives—either feeling like we can’t move forward or getting repeatedly sidelined by our compulsions, repeating cycles and addictive behaviors. Psychotherapy can be very useful in helping patients identify the underlying causes of addictions, compulsions and other unhealthy behaviors and forms of self-sabotage. It can also help them identify and retrain unhelpful thought patterns that causes them to stay in the miserable status quo rather than finding a path forward.
Help Build Meaningful Relationships
Mental illness has a way of isolating us. Many people suffering even from mild forms of anxiety, depression or other disorders often report having difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with friends, family members and significant others. It makes sense because when we are dysfunctional internally, we struggle to relate to others externally. Psychotherapy can help identify and correct the areas of dysfunctionality in our inner life as well as our external relationships, opening up the opportunity to mend broken relationships or to begin to establish new, healthier ones.
Most of us deal with some type of personal insecurity about ourselves, and psychological issues only serve to drain our confidence further. By talking with a mental health professional, working through the causes of those insecurities and finding small victories along the way, many patients report gaining a fresh sense of confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Greater Peace and Happiness
When a person has felt overwhelmed for a long time with negative thoughts and emotions, finding relief from those emotions for the first time can be both invigorating and exhilarating. As patients learn to identify and confront these negative feelings in a healthy way, what began as initial relief can turn into a greater sense of serenity and happiness in the long run.
Mental illness in our culture has an unfair stigma attached to it, when in fact at least one in five of us struggle with some form of mental disorder. Not all of us need to treat these issues with medications; in many cases, these drugs are accompanied by powerful side-effects, and they are quite frequently overprescribed. Psychotherapy can provide a powerful, drug-free alternative to many different types of psychological issues both mild and severe, with benefits that together add up to a better quality of life overall.