Mental and emotional health are equally as important as physical health – but are often neglected and stigmatised.
Various forms of talking therapy can help you stay mentally well, especially if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health symptoms.
What is talking therapy? | What are the benefits of talk therapy? | Types of talk therapy? | Finding the right mental health professional? | Find a talking therapist?
What is talking therapy?
Talking therapy – also known as counselling, mental health therapy or talk therapy – is an umbrella term for a branch of healthcare that aims to relieve mental and emotional distress. Talk therapy is provided by mental health professionals – including mental health nurses, counsellors, social workers, life coaches, psychologists, psychotherapists, marriage and family therapists, and psychiatrists.
Talk therapies such as counselling and cognitive-behavioural therapy involve speaking to a trained professional in a confidential, safe environment and exploring your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Therapists listen and offer support without judgment and without telling you what to do or how to feel. They also develop treatment strategies to help you learn the skills needed to live a happier life.
It’s suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds and is available for individuals, couples, families, and groups.
Talking therapy is used for a variety of mental health conditions
Counsellors and psychologists work with people suffering from a range of issues, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Low self-esteem
- Anger issues
- Sleep disorders
- Behavioural challenges
- Suicidal thoughts
- Chronic illness
However, you don’t need to struggle with any of these to benefit from talk therapy. Talking to a professional about your troubles is also a form of self-care, which may prevent mental health issues from arising.
What are the benefits of talk therapy?
Talk therapy gives you the tools to set goals, manage stress, and change your unhelpful behaviour and thinking patterns.
Some of the benefits associated with talk therapy include:
- Understanding your mental health diagnoses and learning to manage symptoms
- Working through traumatic events
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Learning healthy coping techniques
- Improving decision-making and problem-solving skills
- Improving relationships
- Dealing with addiction
- Improving communication skills
- Improving self-esteem and confidence
- Resolving family and relationship conflict
- Healing from grief
- Feeling more empowered
Talk therapy is a brave step towards improving your overall health and happiness!
Types of talk therapy
Let’s explore some of the most common forms of talk therapy:
Psychological counselling is a short-term form of talk therapy that helps you process emotional issues and events in a confidential environment. A trained counsellor offers support and guidance without judgment. Counselling is helpful for people dealing with indecision, family difficulties, grief, infertility, illness, trauma, and more.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a skills-based therapy that involves learning about the link between feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. CBT therapy teaches you to identify the harmful beliefs, thought patterns, and behaviours affecting your daily life.
It also gives you the tools and coping mechanisms needed to improve your day-to-day functioning. You learn to interrupt and replace unhelpful thoughts and actions.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioural therapy combines talk therapy and stress reduction techniques to improve communication and emotional regulation. Instead of focusing on changing negative thoughts and feelings, DBT involves learning to accept and manage these issues.
Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy
Psychoanalytic therapy – or psychoanalysis – believes all thoughts and behaviours stem from the unconscious mind. Therapists trained in psychoanalysis ask patients specific questions to uncover unconscious memories, beliefs, and patterns that may be to blame for anxiety, depression, addiction, phobias, and other forms of distress. The idea is to bring these things to the conscious mind and resolve them. It’s a long-term therapy, and patients commonly have sessions three times per week for several months and even years.
Psychodynamic therapy is an offshoot of psychoanalytic therapy. It also involves exploring the connection between the unconscious mind and your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. It finds the root cause of emotional distress – which is often believed to have occurred in childhood – and resolves it. However, psychodynamic therapy is less intensive.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy is a form of trauma therapy commonly used to treat PTSD. An EMDR therapist helps patients process and heal from trauma, difficult memories, and overwhelming emotions using a sequence of repetitive eye movements. This process can help the brain reprocess events, so they have less of an emotional impact. In doing so, patients achieve emotional healing by creating new associations in their brains.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
IPT is a talk therapy that focuses on your relationships with other people – friends, family, romantic partners, colleagues, etc. You are encouraged to speak openly about the problems in your relationships that may be contributing to depression and other emotional symptoms. In addition, you can explore how your mental state is impacting your relationships.
Family therapy addresses and resolves problems that arise within the family system. It helps work through difficult conversations, resolve conflict, work through negative patterns, and learn to communicate healthily.
Seeing a couple’s counsellor is a helpful way to resolve conflict, have challenging conversations, and learn healthy communication skills. It is also great for happy couples who want to build stronger relationships.
Group therapy is a supportive environment where people experiencing similar mental health conditions, emotional distress, or addictions can connect. It may involve 5-15 patients and is typically facilitated by 1-2 therapists. Therapists guide sessions and ask questions while creating a safe environment.
Group therapy allows people to get support from a therapist and their peers. It’s common to address illness, addiction, eating disorders, and grief in group therapy.
Mindfulness-based stress-reduction therapy
Mindfulness-based therapy encourages you to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment using mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, and some aspects of cognitive-behavioural therapy. It helps you stay present and manage your emotional responses from moment to moment. It’s useful if you’re struggling with chronic illness, stress, anxiety, or depression.
Finding the right mental health professional
You can search through our Treatwiser directory to find a qualified talk therapist in your area who is registered with the relevant professional bodies. Alternatively, you can ask your GP or trusted family and friends for a referral. Some forms of talk therapy are available on the NHS – particularly in the case of depression and other mental health conditions.
Once you’ve narrowed the list down to a handful of therapists, we suggest contacting each one and asking the following questions before booking an appointment:
- What is their treatment approach?
- What are their qualifications?
- What is their area of speciality?
- Do they have experience treating people with your condition/issue?
- Are the rates affordable to you?
- Are they covered by the NHS or your medical insurance?
- Is the practice accessible to you?
- Are telehealth appointments available?
For talk therapy to be effective, you must be engaged and committed to the process. Ensure you have the time and the willingness to attend your sessions, be honest, and put in the work. It’s not a quick fix, and the road may be challenging at times.
To get the best results from therapy, you need to feel completely comfortable with your therapist. Don’t lose hope if it takes a few attempts to find the right fit!
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