Coping With Mental Health: Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2022 | Last updated: September 2022

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 from 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 (online therapy) is also available. It may be a good option for many people because less time is spent away from home, school, or work. Online therapy may include phone calls, texts, or video conference. Teletherapy is sometimes preferred by people who cannot drive to an office, or who do not have a therapist close by.2

Types of talk therapy

There are many types of therapy. Two of the most common 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 mental health 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 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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