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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
For those suffering from any number of mental health conditions, online therapy can be a powerful tool to work through problems and emotional difficulties.
Also called psychotherapy, or talk therapy, this form of treatment can help people better handle daily life and relationships, whether a traumatic experience or loss (such as the death of a loved one or breakup anxiety) and overcome medical conditions like depression or anxiety.
Just under 20 percent of American adults undergo mental health treatment each year.
This includes about 15 percent who take prescription medication for their mental health and about nine percent who see a mental health professional for counseling or therapy.
About 75 percent of people who receive therapy report having benefited from it.
Therapy sessions can be done in a family, couple, group or individual setting, and can benefit both kids and adults. Most sessions occur weekly, for upward of 50 minutes.
Some issues are shorter-term and may be helped with just a few sessions. More complex and longer-lasting issues may take months or years to work out.
The treatment plan — including frequency of sessions and length of treatment — is often agreed to between patient and therapist.
In each session, you will be able to talk freely and openly with your therapist, who is there to be nonjudgmental, objective and neutral as you work together to identify your behavior and thought patterns that may be contributing to your mental health condition.
You’ll also spend time working to change them so you can feel better.
The type of therapy involved in your treatment plan will likely depend on your needs and types of issues you’re experiencing. They include:
This form of therapy centers around identifying and then changing harmful or ineffective thinking and behaving, and replacing them with more correct thoughts and healthier behaviors.
Your therapist may want you to practice what you learn in your sessions in between visits.
Dialectical behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), helps patients regulate emotions.
Therapists often use it to treat those with chronic suicidal thoughts and people with borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and PTSD.
This treatment for short-term issues helps patients understand issues that are impeding their happiness.
This can include unresolved grief, conflicts with significant others, issues at work and problems relating to others.
The goal is to help them learn to express emotions in healthy ways, and how to improve communication and the way in which they relate to others.
Therapists that practice this form of therapy believe that behavior and mental wellness are influenced by childhood experiences, as well as repetitive thoughts or feelings that a patient might not be aware of.
In this type of therapy, a patient works to be more self-aware and to change ingrained patterns in order to be more in control day-to-day.
There’s also psychoanalysis. In this more intensive form of psychodynamic therapy, patients and therapists meet three or four times a week.
Here, therapists encourage patients to develop their own resources for feeling better. This helps them deal with issues stemming from their mental health conditions.
In theory, encouraging people to develop their own resources helps build self-esteem, strengthen coping mechanisms, improves community and social functioning and may even help reduce anxiety.
Unlike doctor’s appointments you may be used to, in which your provider examines you and gives you an assessment of your health, psychotherapy is a more collaborative process between you and your therapist.
Called a therapeutic alliance, this relationship involves the two of you working together to reach your goals.
There are ways to get the most out of each therapy session. They include:
It can be difficult to talk through some issues with your therapist no matter how objective and nonjudgmental they are. It’s important to remain active and engaged to get the most out of each session.
You and your therapist will want to identify what is bothering you and agree to the length of your treatment plan and set a timeline for meeting your goals.
You may consider asking your therapist to recommend books or websites that can aid in your treatment outside of your sessions.
Take note of your thoughts and behaviors in between sessions and apply what you’ve learned in them to real-life situations you encounter.
It can be difficult to tell if therapy is an effective treatment. Unlike alleviating a headache or recovering from the flu, fixing mental health issues and personal problems can be a gradual process.
The good news is there are certain things you can ask yourself to gauge whether or not you’re getting better.
You might start by identifying with your therapist what a good result is as you begin therapy and frequently measuring if you are getting closer to meeting it.
Checking in with yourself regularly to see if you are making changes in your everyday life is another way to mark success in therapy.
You might also talk to your therapist about steps to recovery so you have a tangible gauge to work from.
If you aren’t feeling yourself, dealing with trauma or loss, experiencing depression or anxiety and can’t shake these feelings, talking to a healthcare professional about entering therapy might be an appropriate tool in your quest to feeling your best.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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