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Psychotherapy is a type of talking therapy used to help treat many mental health conditions and emotional problems.

The therapy often involves talking to a specially trained psychotherapist one-to-one, with a partner or in a group.

What's discussed in the sessions is confidential and aims to explore problems and concerns.

Some forms of psychotherapy use art, music, drama or movement as part of the therapy.

Psychotherapy often involves a programme of regular sessions with the therapist.

Access to psychotherapy services can be through a referral from a GP or arranged privately.

How does psychotherapy help?

Psychotherapy helps people with a mental health disorder:

  • Understand the behaviours, emotions, and ideas that contribute to his or her problem.
  • Understand and identify the life problems or events -- like a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job or a divorce, that contribute to their problem and help them understand which aspects of those problems they may be able to solve or improve.
  • Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
  • Learn coping techniques and problem-solving skills.

Types of therapy

Therapy can be given in a variety of formats, including:

  • Individual: This therapy involves only the patient and the therapist.
  • Group: Two or more patients may participate in therapy at the same time. Patients are able to share experiences and learn that others feel the same way, and have had the same experiences.
  • Marital/couples: This type of therapy helps spouses and partners understand why their loved one has a mental disorder, what changes in communication and behaviours can help, and what they can do to cope.
  • Family: Because the family is a key part of the team that helps people with mental health problems get better, it is sometimes helpful for family members to understand what their loved one is going through, how they themselves can cope, and what they can do to help.

Approaches to therapy

While therapy can be done in different formats -- like family, group, and individual -- there are also several different approaches that mental health professionals can take to provide therapy. After talking with the patient about their disorder, the therapist will decide which approach to use based on the suspected underlying factors contributing to the condition.

Different approaches to therapy include:

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is based on the assumption that a person has a developed a mental health problem because of unresolved, generally unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood. The goal of this type of therapy is for the patient to understand and cope better with these feelings by talking about the experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is administered over a period of three to four months, although it can last longer, even years.

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy focuses on the behaviours and interactions a patient has with family and friends. The primary goal of this therapy is to improve communication skills and increase self-esteem during a short period of time. It usually lasts three to four months and works well for depression caused by mourning, relationship conflicts, major life events, and social isolation.

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