What Are the Types of Therapy for Mental Health Disorders?
Read on to learn about the different types of mental health therapy and what therapy might be best for you or your loved one.
What Is Mental Health Therapy?
Mental health therapy has evolved and grown into a robust field with many effective approaches to treatment. Different types of mental health therapy can be catered specifically to a particular mental illness, or a therapist can take a more general approach to help a client deal with everyday stressors and events. Choosing the right mental health therapist depends on your goals, preferences, and needs — and can make all of the difference in getting effective mental health treatment.
Mental health therapy is a tool used by psychologists, counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists. Also known as “talk therapy” or psychotherapy, it is designed to help people deal with mental health concerns by sharing their struggles with a professional who can help them learn how to manage their problems.
Mental Health Therapy Overview
Mental health therapy services can be provided in person at counseling offices or specialized mental health facilities. They are also increasingly available via confidential video conferencing software.
With 21% of adults in the United States experiencing a mental illness each year, the need for quality mental health services is strong. Most mental health disorders are highly treatable, and people who are suffering from distressing or disruptive symptoms can find immense relief by working with a mental health therapist.
Does Mental Health Therapy Work?
Mental therapy is effective in treating most mental illnesses. Recent studies have shown that psychotherapy is just as effective as medication for treating depression, cutting depressive symptoms by an average of 50%. Also, combination therapy, where psychotherapy is combined with antidepressant medications, was shown to reduce depressive symptoms by 66%.1
Therapy for mental health is similarly effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Talking to a professional about fears, anxieties, stress, and trauma can substantially reduce symptoms from these events. A therapist can guide a patient in learning how to cope with these problems in a healthy manner. Research has also shown psychotherapy to be an effective tool for helping people with substance use disorders, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and a wide range of mental illnesses.2
Mental Health Therapy Formats
Mental health therapy comes in a variety of formats that target specific domains of mental health. Some of the most common types of mental health therapy formats include:
Understanding the Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Therapy Type
Each format has a particular set of strengths. For instance, individual therapy can provide in-depth, personalized support. The therapist pulls at the underlying causes and symptoms of a client’s mental health disorder and provides targeted treatment unique to their specific struggles.
Group therapy, on the other hand, focuses on building peer support and providing social proof that healing and recovery are possible. Then there’s family therapy and couples therapy, which specifically target how stress, miscommunication, and mental illness affect relationships. The goal of these therapy formats is for people to learn to heal their relationships and build them back stronger and healthier.
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What Are the Types of Therapy for Mental Health Disorders?
Over the years, the styles of psychotherapy have changed dramatically. Psychotherapy began in earnest with Sigmund Freud. Freud called his practice of talking to patients to help resolve their problems “psychoanalysis.” This practice has since evolved into targeted, evidence-based treatments with specific protocols and goals.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is perhaps the most common style of psychotherapy. Originally developed to help people with major depressive disorder, CBT has since proven effective at helping people with other conditions and personal challenges.
The core tenet of CBT is that thoughts, emotions, and actions all affect each other. Practitioners of CBT believe that clients can change the way they think through targeted exercises, therapy, and practice. This is called “reframing,” and it plays a pivotal role in the CBT process.
For example, a person who is depressed may have thoughts like, “I’m no good at my job. I shouldn’t even bother to show up since I won’t be helpful.” A CBT therapist may ask their client to practice reframing a thought like this: “Maybe I’m not always perfect at my job, but I do provide a valuable contribution. The only way I can improve is to keep showing up and making an effort.”
By reframing the thought into an action-oriented behavior and by taking away the negative self-talk, the client may begin to feel less depressed and see their actions and moods improve as a result.
CBT focuses on helping people resolve their problems quickly, effectively, and in a targeted fashion. It often includes worksheets and practice exercises for people to complete outside of therapy sessions. Many people who struggle with mental illness find significant improvements through cognitive-behavioral therapy.3
CBT: an Inside Look
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy is another form of therapy originally developed to treat depression. IPT is relatively new, and it focuses on how external events can lead to internal changes that affect mood and behaviors.
For example, somebody who has recently lost a loved one may be feeling depressed, having trouble sleeping, or experiencing significant weight changes.
An interpersonal therapist would focus on finding the event that caused the change in circumstance and helping their client work through the transition. In the case of a lost loved one, a person may be experiencing “complicated bereavement,” which can affect their mood and behaviors.
The psychotherapist would then focus on helping the client heal from the bereavement, fully process the situation, and come to terms with their new reality. Interpersonal therapists focus primarily on external events rather than intrinsic components of mental illness.4
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT was developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan to help people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Based on the foundation of CBT, DBT adds two critical components: mindfulness and acceptance.
Sometimes, thoughts simply can’t be changed. Learning to accept them — without feeling the need to act upon them — can be dramatically helpful. Mindfulness helps in this regard as well, as it helps people recognize that they are not their thoughts, and that action isn’t always required.
DBT has expanded far beyond its initial scope. It has become an evidence-based therapy used to treat many other mental illnesses and stressors, and numerous substance use and eating disorder treatment centers have incorporated DBT into their programming.5
Other Types of Therapy for Mental Health Disorders
While CBT and DBT are two of the most common ways of treating mental health disorders, there are multiple other areas of practice as well. These will be detailed below.
Developed by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis was the very first form of psychotherapy. Psychoanalysts think that mental illness and stress come from a conflict between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. By bringing the desires of the unconscious to light, they believe that undesirable behaviors and stress can be relieved.
Psychodynamic therapy builds upon the foundation of psychoanalysis and takes it further. This form of therapy is the ultimate depth-work as the therapist and client dive into deep-seated beliefs, values, and emotions that guide everyday life.
People undergoing psychodynamic therapy can build self-awareness and understand why they behave the way they do. Therapy helps them resolve past conflicts, manage stress, and develop new skills for dealing with confrontations.6
Psychodynamic Therapy: an Overview
Supportive therapy is a style of psychotherapy used in several different approaches. Fundamentally, the goal of a supportive therapist is to be an advocate, cheerleader, and coach for their clients. A supportive therapist is always in your corner. They are there to hear and understand your problems and provide helpful solutions or coping skills.7
Animal-assisted therapy makes use of the numerous benefits of human-animal interaction. At the most basic level, shifting one’s focus onto animals can be a simple and pleasurable experience. This can be profoundly beneficial when people are wrought with unpleasant feelings, pain, or mental distress.
Animals can provide companionship, alleviate loneliness, and even help improve physical conditions such as hypertension or heart disease. Animal-assisted therapy takes many forms, including equine therapy, service dogs, or even emotional support pigs. Usually, the animal is paired with a therapist who will guide the interaction while helping the client recognize their positive reactions and process their emotions.8
Art and Music Therapy
Music and art therapy for mental health focus on creative pursuits to improve patients’ engagement with therapeutic practices. Some people are resistant to traditional psychotherapeutic approaches, but incorporating music or art in a therapeutic setting can help these patients become more involved in treatment.
Play therapy includes a wide range of therapies intended to help children and adolescents. At a young age, many children aren’t able to focus or participate in traditional therapy, but by incorporating play, therapists can work to understand their mental health struggles, behavioral difficulties, or life challenges.
Mental Health Disorders That Therapy Can Help With
Most mental health disorders can be treated with psychotherapy. While some people may never achieve full remission from a disorder, they can find substantial relief from their symptoms and improve their functioning and quality of life.
Just some of the disorders that can improve with mental therapy include:
Mental health disorders are not rare, as 8.4% of adults in the United States experience depression,9 19.1% have an anxiety disorder,10, and 15.4% have a substance use disorder.11
How to Get the Most Out of Mental Health Therapy
Getting the most out of your mental health therapy takes effort both inside and outside of the therapy room. The key elements to getting the most out of your therapy include the following:
To achieve success, you must be active in the therapy process. It’s not enough to simply show up and hope that things get better.
Mental Health Therapy Benefits
Therapy for mental health can have a drastic impact on changing your life for the better. Crucially, therapy is about more than just improving the symptoms of mental illness; a psychotherapist can serve as a coach, mentor, advocate, and cheerleader for all aspects of your life.
Understanding Behaviors and Emotions
Understanding your emotions and behaviors is often the focus of therapy. Many people don’t fully understand why they act the way they do, and they are at a loss for why they react to certain situations with anger, fear, or anxiety.
Working with a mental health therapist to uncover the root cause of these reactions can help you progress in treatment and find relief.
Identifying Life Events
Identifying major life events that shape your behavior is part of the therapy process. For example, somebody struggling in romantic relationships may be acting that way because they have never had an example of a healthy adult relationship to follow.
By identifying the life event that led to problematic behaviors, you can find an explanation for your actions and work to improve them in the future.
Regaining a Sense of Control
Sometimes, the symptoms of mental illness can make people feel as though they’re not in control of their own lives. The symptoms of anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders can be too powerful to fight alone.
Working with a mental health therapist helps people regain control. While it is not always possible to eliminate every symptom of a mental health disorder, a therapist can show you how to create more control, continue your life despite hardship, and thrive in ways you’d never expected.
Improving Communication Skills
Poor communication skills are the source of most interpersonal conflicts. Learning to practice healthy communication can heal relationships that have been damaged in the past.
A therapist can help you understand your communication style as well as those of others. Specialized therapists, such as marriage and family therapists or group therapists, can help people communicate better. In this way, people can learn communication skills in therapy, then transfer those skills to the real world.
How to Choose a Therapist
Finding the right therapist can play a major role in whether you see results. When meeting a new therapist, ask yourself a few questions:
If you don’t feel comfortable, choosing a different therapist may be the best thing you can do.
Several other factors contribute to choosing the right therapist as well. Some factors to consider include cost, experience, availability, insurance, and their treatment approach.
How to Choose a Therapist
Find Mental Health Therapy Near Me
Mental health counseling is available across the United States in many different formats and treatment methods. You can seek treatment at an inpatient mental health center, at an outpatient facility, in private practice, or even via teletherapy. When you’re ready to seek treatment, make sure to choose the right level of care for your particular needs.
Does Medicaid Cover Mental Health Therapy?
Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, all Medicaid plans offer some coverage for mental health treatment. Some states also cover treatment for substance use disorders. But just having Medicaid isn’t enough; you need to ensure that your therapist takes Medicaid if you want your therapy to be covered.
What to Expect During Your First Appointment
Your first appointment with a mental health therapist is typically intended to help the psychotherapist gather information, get to know you, and see whether the two of you are a good fit. Your therapist will likely ask you several questions about your treatment history, what you’re struggling with, and what you hope to get out of treatment.
This first appointment is also a great opportunity to ask the therapist questions that are important to you. A few questions to ask your therapist might include:
Their answers will help you get a better expectation of what’s going to happen in therapy and whether your therapist will be a good fit.
Call a Professional Therapist at Ripple Ranch
Ripple Ranch is an addiction treatment center located in Spring Branch, Texas. Our treatment team knows the value that therapy can have in helping people recover from addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses, and we strive to bring the best evidence-based practices to all of our clients.
If you’re struggling with substance use and are ready to start your journey to recovery, reach out to one of our professional therapists today.