Coping with Mental Health: Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

What is psychotherapy (talk therapy)?

Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy, counseling, or simply “therapy.” Psychotherapy is used to help with a wide range of mental health conditions or emotional problems.1

Therapy sessions

Therapy sessions can be for:1

  • Individuals
  • Groups
  • Families
  • Couples

Adults and kids may benefit from therapy. Sessions usually last between 30 minutes to an hour and are held once a week or more, as needed. Therapy is an interactive treatment – both you and the therapist participate. A trusting relationship is vital for therapy.1

Therapy may be short-term (a few sessions) or long-term (months or years), depending on your needs and conditions. You and your therapist work together to plan the overall goals of your therapy.1

Teletherapy is also available. This type of treatment may be helpful to decrease the time spent away from home or your work. This may include phone, text, or online therapy. Teletherapy is sometimes preferred by those who cannot drive to an office.2

Types of therapy

There are many types of therapy. Two of the most common types of talk therapy are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of therapy that is effective in the treatment of many mental health conditions. In many studies, CBT has been shown more effective than other treatment types or prescription drugs for some conditions. CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns into positive, healthy ones. CBT focuses our attention on our negative thoughts and asks us to question and change them.3

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of therapy that helps build new skills to manage painful emotions or heal relationships. DBT focuses on:4

  • Mindfulness
  • Improving how you cope with a negative emotion
  • Regulating emotions
  • Ways to talk to others

Who provides therapy?

Many different professionals can provide therapy, including:5

  • Psychiatrists are doctors that can provide therapy and can also prescribe mental health medicine as needed.
  • Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty such as counseling or education. They are trained to assess, diagnose and treat mental illness.
  • Psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners may hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. Nurse practitioners assess, diagnose, and provide therapy for mental health conditions or substance use disorders. In some states, they are also qualified to prescribe and monitor drugs.
  • Licensed clinical social workers hold at least a master’s degree in social work and are licensed by the state. These professionals may work in various settings, including schools, hospitals, clinics, and other agencies. Social workers help people with problems in their everyday lives.
  • Licensed professional counselors hold at least a master’s degree. Counselors may provide therapy but cannot prescribe drugs.
  • Licensed marriage and family therapists hold at least a master’s degree and are licensed by the state. These therapists help people manage and solve problems in their clients’ relationships.

What should you look for in a therapist?

Therapy often involves being vulnerable. You will need to have trust in your therapist. Your primary care doctor may be a good person to help you find a therapist. Some laws require mental health services to be covered by insurance. You may need to reach out to your insurance provider to see which therapist is covered under your plan. Your job may offer assistance in finding a provider as well.1

Online locators for therapists in your area

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Written by: Katie Murphy | Last reviewed: March 2021