Elements of Psychotherapy

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Elements of Psychotherapy

A variety of different types of psychotherapies and interventions have been shown to be effective for specific disorders. For example, the treatment approach for someone who has the obsessive-compulsive disorder is different for someone who has bipolar disorder. Therapists may use one primary approach or incorporate other elements depending on their training, the condition being treated, and the needs of the person receiving treatment.

Elements of Psychotherapy
Elements of Psychotherapy

Elements of psychotherapies may include:

  • Helping a person become aware of ways of thinking that may be automatic but are inaccurate and harmful (for example, someone who has a low opinion of their abilities). The therapist helps the person find ways to question these thoughts, understand how they affect emotions and behavior, and change self-defeating patterns. This approach is central to a type of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Identifying ways to cope with stress and developing specific problem-solving strategies.
  • Examining a person’s interactions with others and offering guidance with social and communication skills.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and breathing exercises.
  • Exposure therapy for people with anxiety disorders. In exposure therapy, a type of CBT, a person spends brief periods in a supportive environment, learning to tolerate the distress caused by certain items, ideas, or imagined scenes cause. Over time, the fear associated with these things may dissipate.
  • Tracking emotions and behaviors to raise awareness and the impact of each on the other.
  • Supportive counseling helps a person explore troubling issues and provide emotional support.
  • Creating a safety plan to help someone who has thoughts of self-harm or suicide recognize warning signs and use coping strategies such as contacting friends, family, or emergency personnel.

Note that there are many different types of psychotherapy. Other therapies are often variations on an established approach, such as CBT. There is no formal approval process for psychotherapies like there is for the use of medications from the Food and Drug Administration.

However, for many therapies, research involving large numbers of patients has provided evidence that treatment is effective for specific disorders.

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