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Home > Psychiatry & Mental Health > Psychological Therapies
What is psychotherapy?

There are different types, but they are all 'talking treatments' in which you talk with another person. It can help you to overcome:

  • stress
  • emotional problems
  • relationship problems
  • troublesome habits
  • problems, such as hearing voices.

Psychological therapies are best used in congunction with medication and other indicated treatment modalities in order to obtain the best outcome.

The person carrying out the treatment is usually called a therapist, while the person being seen is the patient or client.

Most psychotherapies can be done one-to-one or in groups. Some can now be done online on the internet.

What types of psychotherapy are there?

Psychodynamic (psychoanalytic) psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy gives you a regular time to think - and talk – about the feelings you have about yourself and other people (especially your family and those you are close to). You discuss:

what's happening in your life at the moment - how you do things and the part you play in things going right or wrong for you

what has happened in the past

how the past can affect how you are feeling, thinking and behaving right now.

The therapist will help you to make these connections between the past and the present. He or she will often comment on what happens in the sessions as you talk together. This can help to show how some of the things that you feel, do and say are not driven by your conscious thoughts and feelings, but by unconscious feelings from your past. And if it is happening in the therapy sessions, it will also be happening in your day-to-day life. When you understand these connections better, you can make decisions based on what you want or need now, not what your past experiences drive you to do.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy usually involves regular, 50-minute meetings. These can be weekly or more often if needed. If you have a more straightforward problem, you may only need a few weeks or months of therapy. If your problems are more complicated – or long-standing – you may have to carry on for several months or longer. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Behavioural psychotherapy helps you overcome problems by changing how you behave. For example, you may need to overcome a fear, or phobia. The therapist will help you, very gradually, to spend more and more time in the situation you fear – and will help you to feel comfortable and relaxed in that situation.

Cognitive therapy focuses more on the way that what you believe and think can keep problems going. It helps you to test any unhelpful beliefs by talking about them, and then developing ideas that are more helpful for you. You then try these out in between sessions and so develop more helpful ways of thinking and acting. It can take account of what has happened in the past, but mainly looks at the present and future.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combines these two techniques. It is structured, usually aimed at a particular problem and is fairly brief (6-20 sessions). It's a bit like being coached – you have a number of exercises to do between sessions. In a way, you learn to become your own therapist. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends CBT as a treatment for a wide range of problems. 

Family and Marital Therapy

Your problems may not just be yours – there may be problems in your marriage, relationship or family. So, family and marital therapies:

involve everybody concerned

look at the relationships involved

look at how everybody involved thinks about how they get on.

In marital therapy, a therapist or pair of therapists meet with a married or committed couple, so that they can work on their problems together.

In family therapy, the family are asked to come to sessions that are led by one or two therapists. These sessions are often observed by other therapists or recorded. This can help the therapists and family members to reflect on what has happened during the discussion. Systemic psychotherapy works with a family's strengths to help family members think about (and try) different ways of behaving with each other.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT)

Like CBT, this is usually quite short, often about 16 sessions. The therapist helps you to:

Describe how your problems have developed from the events of your life and your personal experiences.

Look at the ways of coping you have developed to deal with these problems.

Think of ways of changing your ways of coping so that you feel better and can cope more easily.

The therapist puts this all into writing after your first few sessions. At the end of treatment, the therapist gives you a final letter which summarizes your difficulties and the ways you have worked out how to cope better.

Client Centred Therapy

Client Centred Therapy is a form of psychotherapy developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940's. 

The epitome of this therapy is a comfortable, non-judgemental atmosphere which is developed by the therapist who shows genuiness and empathy to the client.

Unconditional Positive Regard is the most important tool a therapist would use in client centred therapy.

This method strives to develop faith in one's own decision making skills, and also one's thoughts and feelings. 

It is now most popularly used in many mental health settings. 

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is an experiential form of psychotherapy which emphasizes on personal responsibility and also focuses on the individual's experiences at the present. The past and the future is not given too much importance. 

Relaxation Techniques 

Relaxation techniques are used in counseling and psychotherapy to help a client feel comfortable and relaxed.

There are a number of techniques that are used and all these have their unique benefits. 

Some Relaxation Techniques are:

1. Meditation

2. Progressive Muscular Relaxation

3. Breathing techniques

4. Deep muscular relaxation

5. Yoga

These techniques are not limited to the counseling room but could be practiced at home as well. 

Counseling

This is often provided in primary care, at your GP's surgery. It is usually fairly short, and aims to help you to be clearer about your problems – and by being clearer, to come up with your own answers. It is often used to help someone cope with recent events they have found difficult. It does not aim to help you change as a person, as most of the other therapies described here do.

 
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NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Resource Centre - Colombo 08
No. 96/20, Kitulwatta Road,
Colombo - 08.
Sri Lanka
Tel +94 112 685 960 / +94 114 339 606-7
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NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL HEALTH
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No. 115/2, Galkanuwa Rd.
Gorakana, Panadura.
Sri Lanka
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