Therapists often have a whole litany of fancy and confusing words for how they treat their patients. ‘Blended’, ‘integrative’, or ‘eclectic’ often crop up in the vocabulary. But what therapists really do best is talking.
‘Talking is the best medicine’ is a common phrase used to encourage loved ones and prevent them from bottling up their emotions. But talking therapy is actually a little more complex and comprehensive than you might first have imagined. Talking therapy isn’t simply talking about what’s bothering you, but a tool to understand more about yourself by discussing your past and your future.
What is talking therapy?
There are so many different aspects of talking therapy, each subtly different and designed to treat a variety of different cases and conditions. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggests that time should be taken to determine which talking therapy is best suited to a particular condition.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a great method to overcome negative thought patterns by understanding how you think in order to break the cycle. Typically, CBT is used to treat one specific incident or thought pattern preventing you from doing something, like a fear of flying for example, rather than your general mood and how you feel.
CBT takes a more structured approach in which you talk about your specific problems and goals with your therapist. Sessions tend to focus more on the present and the future, rather than the past, looking at how you think and act going forwards and the changes you can implement. CBT tends to be a more short-term course of treatment, with consistent sessions over 6 to 12 weeks. Sessions are either one-to-one or in small groups, where talking is emphasised and prioritised.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behaviour therapy is an extension of CBT, specifically designed to help people who struggle with overwhelming emotions. DBT teaches people how to experience emotions in real-time, cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve relationships.
DBT is all about understanding how two things that are seemingly opposite can coexist. For example, accepting yourself for who you are AND changing your behaviour might seem contradictory, but DBT teaches you that both goals are possible. The emphasis in DBT sessions is to understand and accept difficult emotions and learn new skills to manage them, whilst also being able to make positive changes in your life.
Psychodynamic therapy looks into how someone’s childhood experiences and unconscious mind can influence their current behaviour. Early traumas or the unconscious can directly affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, relationships, and actions. Unlike CBT or DBT, psychodynamic therapy focuses more on your past than your present and future, as well as unpacking any thoughts or feelings that you’re unaware of influencing your decision-making.
This therapy is often carried out over a longer period of time, ranging from months to years, and involves a lot of talking with your therapist and understanding how your unconscious makes associations. Psychodynamic therapy is a generally one-to-one session, given the personal nature of the conversations.
Humanistic therapy observes the individual as a whole rather than just the pain points. The aim of this therapy is to help you grow and live your life to the fullest and be true to yourself. It’s based on the belief that we as people are all capable of growth and development, but that past experiences have created roadblocks. Humanistic therapists will create a safe environment, so the patient feels comfortable being vulnerable and talking through their problems. Humanistic therapy treats a wide range of mental health conditions and is particularly effective when dealing with chronic or long-term issues. Person-centred therapy, Gestalt therapy, and transactional analysis are all examples of humanistic therapy.
Who can benefit from talking therapy?
Short answer- anyone! The beauty of talking therapy is its versatility, with so many different approaches all centred around the concept of talking it out. Whether you are suffering from a short or long-term condition, a chronic phobia limiting your daily activities or fulfilling your goals, or working to overcome traumas there will be a talking therapy best suited for you. Even if you’ve found yourself feeling a little bit down recently, talking about it is always a good idea to understand what might be causing your negative emotions as well as relieving the burden you’re carrying around.
Picking the right talking therapy
Because there are so many different types of talking therapy to choose from, it can be hard to know which one might help your situation the most. A therapist might combine different types of talking therapy in order to best treat a condition, whilst others might require a more rigorous and structured approach to talking therapy, such as someone battling with a drug or alcohol addiction for example.
Ending up with the right talking therapy is important, however, a good and trusting relationship with your therapist is a higher priority than settling on a particular approach. When you talk about your past experiences and your emotions, it requires a trusting and safe environment in order to feel comfortable enough to lay yourself bare like that. Without that kind of relationship, consciously or subconsciously you are less likely to reveal details needed to work past the problem and the talking therapy might not be as effective. So don’t let the choice overwhelm you and let the therapist find the best therapy for you.
The benefits of talk therapy
There are so many benefits of talking therapy for your mental health and lifestyle. Talk therapy provides a safe environment for you to work through your past traumas and understand them, as well as learning how they impact your day-to-day life, even when you might not think they do! Talking can help you learn more about yourself and how your brain works, without even realising you’re doing it. Moreover, talk therapy will help you heal from past traumas and other mental health conditions, and providing you will useful tools to manage stress and anxiety in your daily life. Studies have shown that using talk therapy can reduce the long-term risks of mental health conditions, so it’s supporting your mental and physical wellbeing.
Like a lot of therapies, you have to commit to improving your mindset and mental health in order to see the results and be willing to open up to your therapist. Without doing so, they will only be able to understand a small portion of what is causing you to feel the way you do. As we mentioned before, the relationship and dynamic between you and your therapist will also play a big part in how effective talk therapy treatments are. Choose someone who makes you feel safe and comfortable and allows you to talk about whatever you need to, without judgement.
Oh and another big bonus point for talk therapy… it can be done entirely online! Studies showed that it was just as effective online as it was in face-to-face sessions, making it easily accessible for everyone.
We all go through rough patches. Talk therapy can help you make sense of negative emotions, understand past traumas, teach coping mechanisms, and reduce the symptoms of long-term mental health conditions. If you think talk therapy might be just what you need, there are a lot of different options available for getting the conversations started. The NHS will refer you to a good therapist, so why not make an appointment with your GP? Or reach out to some of the wonderful associations that offer talk therapy, like Mind or Rethink. Even just starting a simple conversation with someone over the phone can help to take the weight off your shoulders and clear your mind.
Do you think someone in your network needs to talk? Reach out and send them some daily positive affirmations and let them know you’re here to talk. By downloading the Morale app, you can help to boost their mental health and remind them that they are not alone. No one should suffer in silence, so let your loved ones know that they can come to you to talk if they ever need to with a few positive words to improve their mindset. The app is available for download from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
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