Individual Therapy / Psychotherapy

An image of a young woman sitting on a chair speaking while receiving individual therapy.
Psychotherapy is a general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider.

During psychotherapy, you learn about your condition and your moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy helps you learn how to take control of your life and respond to challenging situations with healthy coping skills.

There are many specific types of psychotherapy, each with its own approach. The type of psychotherapy that's right for you depends on your individual situation. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy or, simply, therapy.

Psychotherapy can be helpful in treating most mental health problems, including:
  • Anxiety disorders , such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Mood disorders , such as depression or bipolar disorder
  • Addictions , such as alcoholism, drug dependence or compulsive gambling
  • Eating disorders , such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Personality disorders , such as borderline personality disorder or dependent personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia or other disorders that cause detachment from reality (psychotic disorders)

Not everyone who benefits from psychotherapy is diagnosed with a mental illness. Psychotherapy can help with a number of life's stresses and conflicts that can affect anyone. For example, it may help you:
  • Resolve conflicts with your partner or someone else in your life
  • Relieve anxiety or stress due to work or other situations
  • Cope with major life changes , such as divorce, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job
  • Learn to manage unhealthy reactions , such as road rage or passive-aggressive behavior
  • Come to terms with an ongoing or serious physical health problem , such as diabetes, cancer or ongoing (chronic) pain
  • Recover from physical or sexual abuse or witnessing violence
  • Cope with sexual problems , whether they're due to a physical or psychological cause
  • Sleep better , if you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep (insomnia)

Getting the most out of psychotherapy
Take steps to get the most out of your therapy and help make it a success.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable with your therapist. If you don't, look for another therapist with whom you feel more at ease.
  • Approach therapy as a partnership. Therapy is most effective when you're an active participant and share in decision making. Make  sure you and your therapist agree about the major issues and how to tackle them. Together, you can set goals and measure progress  over time.
  • Be open and honest. Success with psychotherapy depends on your willingness to share your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It  also depends on your willingness to consider new insights, ideas and ways of doing things. If you're reluctant to talk about certain  things because of painful emotions, embarrassment or fears about your therapist's reaction, let your therapist know.
  • Stick to your treatment plan. If you feel down or lack motivation, it may be tempting to skip psychotherapy sessions. Doing so can  disrupt your progress. Try to attend all sessions and to give some thought to what you want to discuss.
  • Don't expect instant results. Working on emotional issues can be painful and may require hard work. It's not uncommon to feel  worse during the initial part of therapy as you begin to confront past and current conflicts. You may need several sessions before  you begin to see improvement.
  • Do your homework between sessions. If your therapist asks you to document your thoughts in a journal or do other activities  outside of your therapy sessions, follow through. These homework assignments can help you apply what you've learned in the  therapy sessions to your life.
  • If psychotherapy isn't helping, talk to your therapist. If you don't feel that you're benefiting from therapy after several sessions, talk  to your therapist about it. You and your therapist may decide to make some changes or try a different approach  that may be more  effective.
Source: Mayo Clinic –Retrieved from:

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