Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a type of therapy that focuses on an individual’s current problems. Rather than delving into past traumas, a psychotherapist will help patients identify and reframe negative patterns of thought and behavior.  Psychotherapy is a valuable treatment for emotional and mental health issues and helps individuals improve their well-being through various approaches.

What Is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is talk therapy that can treat many mental health problems and emotional issues. Psychotherapy is performed alone or in conjunction with prescription medication.

You will develop a therapeutic relationship with your counselor through regular therapy sessions. The goal of this therapeutic relationship will open up a dialogue that helps you identify and overcome problematic thoughts and behaviors.

Your psychotherapist should be a licensed mental health professional. Various healthcare professionals can become psychotherapists, including:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Family therapists
  • Licensed counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychiatric nurses

Psychotherapy can treat various issues, from situational emotional distress to severe mental disorders. Different types of psychotherapy are also often used to treat individuals recovering from substance use disorder.

Psychotherapy and Addiction

If you or your loved one seek help for addiction, then your treatment plan will likely contain some form of psychotherapy. Treatment for substance abuse and substance use disorder often incorporates psychotherapy to help recovering addicts identify potential substance use triggers and learn better ways of dealing with problems that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.

Psychotherapy is usually offered at most treatment centers, both at the inpatient and outpatient levels. For inpatient treatment, psychotherapy will often take place in the form of group therapy and individual counseling and will typically be part of a patient’s daily schedule.

Outpatient centers will also usually provide some form of group therapy and may also include one-on-one counseling.

Psychotherapy and Mental Health Care

Psychotherapy is frequently used to treat the following mental health conditions:

  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Types of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can come in a few different forms. Each of these psychotherapy formats serves different purposes.

The various types of psychotherapy are:

  • Individual therapy: One-on-one sessions between you and a psychotherapist
  • Group therapy: A small group of individuals with a common issue, led by a single therapist
  • Family therapy: Family members (2 or more) work with a therapist to improve the family dynamic
  • Couples therapy: Two partners work with a psychotherapist on relationship concerns

Psychotherapy Techniques

There are many techniques encompassed under the umbrella of psychotherapy. Each type of therapy has a different approach, and what you choose might depend on your particular issues.

Each therapist is different, so there are variations within each technique. However, generally speaking, here is a list of the most common psychotherapy techniques and what you can expect.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy focuses on helping patients identify cognitive distortions negatively impacting their daily lives. Cognitive distortions are unhealthy thought patterns or biases, such as black-and-white thinking or jumping to conclusions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works by developing a positive therapeutic relationship between the patient and the psychotherapist. The therapist will help patients recognize unhealthy thinking and behavioral patterns through their sessions and help shift them into more positive habits.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT aims to teach people how to live in the moment rather than dwelling in the past. DBT combines helpful strategies like mindfulness and acceptance to help patients acknowledge their current reality and work towards a healthier future.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy tends to be a long-term therapy process. Patients work with their therapist to uncover unconscious emotions and discover how these feelings are impacting their daily behavior. Patients in psychodynamic therapy will use these self-discoveries to develop better coping mechanisms and improve behaviors that may be causing problems in the present.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy helps patients identify and improve their interpersonal relationships, particularly relationships that negatively impact their lives. During treatment, patients may practice social skills through role-playing and other exercises.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy focuses on helping patients learn to be comfortable being their true selves. Humanistic therapy can be ideal for improving self-esteem and supports patients in recognizing what makes them unique.

Psychoanalytic Therapy

Psychoanalytic therapy is a form of psychotherapy developed from Sigmund Freud’s practice of psychoanalysis. Sessions usually involve the examination of the patient’s subconscious thoughts and how they impact a person’s conscious thoughts and daily behavior.

What to Expect

Psychotherapy sessions can be one-on-one with a therapist or might take place in a small group setting (such as group or family therapy). Sessions generally last 50 minutes and occur once per week for the duration of treatment.

Because psychotherapy helps patients work through difficult emotions and discover negative mental or behavioral habits they might have, sometimes sessions can be challenging. However, these tough sessions don’t mean the therapy isn’t working. In fact, it’s more likely the opposite is true!

By working through and overcoming the difficult feelings that come up through therapy, you can make incredible, lifelong changes to improve your life with the help of your therapist.

Benefits of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy offers many benefits, including:

  • Helping improve your self-esteem
  • Teaching you new, healthy coping skills
  • Improving your social and communication skills
  • Developing healthier thinking patterns
  • Increasing awareness of negative throughs and behaviors
  • Providing deeper insight into your life and your inner self
  • Building stronger family bonds

How to Find Psychotherapy Treatment Options Near You

You can review the website for any local mental health group to find a psychotherapist in your area. You can also check your health insurance directory to get referrals for local psychotherapists in your network.

Are you considering psychotherapy for addiction? Look at the SAMHSA program locator (or call 1-800-662-4357) to find out what recovery programs are available in your area. Be sure to ask ahead of time to see what types of psychotherapy any particular treatment center offers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychotherapy

Is psychotherapy helpful for treating addiction?

Yes, psychotherapy is especially helpful in treating substance use disorder. Two of the most common types of psychotherapy used for treading addiction include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

What is the best psychotherapy for substance use disorder?

The most common types of psychotherapy used in treating substance use disorder are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

How does psychotherapy help with addiction recovery?

Often, addiction arises due to poor coping skills and other internal issues and often occurs alongside mental health disorders. Psychotherapy helps recovering addicts learn better ways of dealing with their problems and addressing these issues.

Instead of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, addicts in recovery can use the tools they learn through psychotherapy to make healthier choices and build better lifestyle habits.

Is psychotherapy expensive?

The cost of psychotherapy sessions will vary based on the type of therapy selected (e.g., individual VS group therapy) and other factors, such as the clinician’s expertise.

Depending on your insurance plan, health insurance may mitigate some or all of the expense of psychotherapy sessions.

How does psychotherapy work?

There are many different approaches to psychotherapy, but the overall goal is to help patients recognize maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. In turn, patients and their therapists will work together to reframe these negative beliefs and habits into more healthy, productive daily behaviors.

Reviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Addiction Guide and ensures the quality of our website’s content and messaging.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

4 references
  1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). What is psychotherapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/psychotherapy

  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2016, March 17). Psychotherapy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/about/pac-20384616

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Psychotherapies. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies

  4. What is psychotherapy? Psychiatry.org – What is Psychotherapy? (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy

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