Defining the Many Forms of Talk Therapy

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the treatment of mental health disorders by psychological rather than medical means. Psychotherapy is an interactive experience with a trained professional, working on understanding and changing behavior, thinking, relationships, and emotions. This means a trained therapist will work with your thoughts, training you to have new, healing thoughts as well as gain deep insights about self, others, environment, and more. This treatment may go hand in hand with taking prescribed medicine from a psychiatrist or not depending on situation and preference of each individual.

Types of Talk Therapy

There are numerous approaches for what is known as talk therapy. These types include:

  • Psychoanalytic Therapy 
  • Humanistic Therapy 
  • Behavior Therapy 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 
  • Group Therapy 
  • Family Psychotherapy 
  • Recreation Therapy  

The primary goals of psychotherapy are to know yourself better, to alleviate emotional pain or confusion, to assist you in developing a more complete understanding of your psychological issues, to establish more effective coping mechanisms, and to foster a more accurate understanding of your past and what you want for your future. A therapist will use many different modes to accomplish the goal of healing. So don't be surprised to try more than one method of talk therapy.

Psychoanalytic Therapy - A Freudian Approach

Psychoanalytic therapy is a mental health treatment based upon the theories of Freud. Sigmund Freud believed that mental problems were rooted in early childhood and not inherited traits. Freud theorized that behavior and thought were influenced by irrational drives of the unconscious mind. With this approach, psychologists investigate the interaction of unconscious and conscious elements in the mind, bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind by techniques such as dream interpretation and free association. This approach stresses that our behavior is determined by our unconscious desires.  

With psychoanalytic therapy, therapists work with you on a one-on-one basis, practicing in-depth talk therapy which aims to bring your unconscious and buried thoughts to the surface in order to examine them. The therapists then works with you to help you understand how these unconscious thoughts affect your thinking, behavior, and current relationships.

Two techniques used in psychoanalytic therapy are free association and dream interpretation. Free association uses spontaneous word association in which the therapist says a word to a client. The client then responds with the first word that comes to mind. Therapists then look to patterns of responses and explores these patterns with the client. Dream interpretation studies the symbols in your dreams to look for repressed feelings. The therapists helps the client to understand the meaning and significance of these symbols. 

Humanistic Therapy - Maslow's Approach

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs and his self-actualization process is the basis of humanistic therapy. The philosophy of humanistic therapy is that people have free will, are inherently good, and are self-motivated to improve.

The reason people seek improvement is to reach self-actualization. With this approach, conscious desires control our behavior. The aim of humanistic therapy in mental health treatment is for the patient to develop a stronger and healthier sense of self through meeting his or her hierarchy of needs, referred to as self-actualization. 

Humanistic therapy is less about what clients actually do in therapy sessions and more about the beliefs held by the client. Humanistic therapists believe that everyone has the potential to grow given the right resources. The therapeutic relationship is very important in humanistic therapy. Therapy sessions are generally led by the client and what the client would like to achieve rather than controlled by the therapist.

Behavioral Therapy - Skinner and Pavlov's Approach

Behavioral therapy is based upon the theories of Ivan Pavlov's classical conditioning model and B. F. Skinner's operant conditioning model.  

Pavlov performed a study with dogs in which a neutral stimulus, a bell ringing, was used to create the conditioned response of the dogs salivating after the continued exposure of the bell ringing and presentation of food simultaneously. In Pavlov's experiment, the dog began salivating upon hearing the bell ringing, even when food was not presented. Pavlov referred to this process as classical conditioning, a learning process that occurs when 2 stimuli are repeatedly paired; the first stimulus begins to elicit the response of the second stimulus, when only the first stimulus is presented.

Skinner's operant conditioning theory argues that changes in behavior are the result of our response to environmental stimuli. According to Skinner, our behavior is controlled by positive and negative reinforcement found in our environment. 

Behavioral therapy focuses on factors which reinforce our behaviors. This is really useful with behaviors we want discontinued or with behaviors we would like to practice more. Therapists work with patients to reinforce positive behaviors that we want to continue, while not reinforcing behaviors we want to discontinue.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - A Modern Approach

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the treatment of mental health disorders in which negative patterns of thought about the self and world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression. This therapy is short term and can be easily monitored to see if the patient is improving. The main philosophy of CBT is this: It isn't so much what happens to us in our life, but how we think about what happens to us in our life that matters.

CBT focuses on negative beliefs and could use one of many techniques to change these negative beliefs into positive beliefs. One such technique is thought tracking. With thought tracking, you keep a record of your thoughts to bring the unaware automatic thoughts into awareness in order to change them into positive beliefs. Another exercise is writing self-statements to counteract negative thoughts. With this technique, patients are encouraged to challenge their negative beliefs, such as: "I am not good enough." And encouraged to retrain their beliefs into positive statements, such as: "I am more than enough." 

Group Therapy - A Modern Approach

Group therapy consists of group discussion usually organized by a trained counselor, therapist or psychologist who directs the group throughout these discussions. Group therapy is a form of counseling where a small group of people meet regularly to discuss topics with a trained mental health professional in order to better understand their feelings and thoughts. Groups promote social skills, provide support, and offer feedback. 

Family Psychotherapy - A Modern Approach

With family psychotherapy, family members meet together for organized discussions with a trained counselor, therapist or psychologist who directs the discussion of these sessions. Family psychotherapy helps family members to improve their communication with each other. It also works to resolve conflicts between family members.

 
Recreation Therapy - A Fun Approach

Recreation therapists work with people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses. They plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs, using a variety of methods, including art, drama, music, dance, sports, games, water activities, and community outings to help maintain or improve a patientís physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Recreation therapy assists clients in developing skills, knowledge, and behaviors for daily living and community involvement. It promotes rehabilitation, independence, health and wellness, with an added play element, which is catered to each individual's needs and interests. With recreational therapy, play is considered therapeutic.

Therapists incorporate specific interests and community resources into therapeutic goals to achieve optimal outcomes to transfer to their real life situations. From team sports, to arts and crafts, to music, to hiking, to gardening, to bowling, a recreation therapist fuses goal-oriented leisure and healthcare. The ultimate goal of recreation therapy is to facilitate full and maximum involvement in community life.

Recreation therapy is the purposeful use of recreation and activity to improve the following needs of clients:

  • Physical
  • Cognitive
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Leisure

According to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association, recreation therapy is a service used to "restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person's level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition."

Therapists look at the strengths and values of a person and make recommendations for that person which best suit his or her needs. When participating in recreation therapy, therapists will meet you exactly where you are and help you to build stronger life skills, such as social skills. Therapists work to help people engage in daily activities and help ease the burden of social isolation.

Recreational therapy includes the following activities:

  • Team sports
  • Arts and crafts
  • Music
  • Hiking/Nature walks
  • Gardening
  • Bowling
  • Playing card games
  • And so much more

A recreational therapist will combine goal-oriented play activities and healthcare to help build or rebuild necessary life skills. 

Have You Tried Talk Therapy? How Has It Helped You?
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