How many different therapies are you aware of? How many do you think would be suitable for you? Do you know how many different therapies are available to you?
Therapy is a fairly broad term that seems to get thrown around these days. Unless you are in the field of mental health you may not be aware of all the different kinds of therapies available and more importantly which ones are most suitable to you.
Some therapies can be combined or followed one after the other to get the best results, it's not one size fits all and you might find a therapy you respond to but not a counsellor you bond with. That doesn’t mean you should give up or worse not start at all.
Before I start delving into the world of therapy there are a couple of things to think about first.
1. Am I ready for therapy?
Talking therapies are not for everyone at every stage. I was diagnosed at 16 and was in and out of therapy for a couple of years after, but I was unresponsive to the treatment and because of that experience I wrote off talking therapies for 13 years and branded them as “didn’t work”. They aren’t a miracle, no counsellor will wave a magic wand and fix you, you get out of it what you put in and if you aren’t ready to make that commitment, therapy is not likely to help right now.
2. My doctor said...
When it comes to your mental health, it’s crucially important to do your own research, not only into your specific mental illnesses but also the different therapies available. CBT is often “prescribed” through the NHS and although it’s an excellent treatment for some, that’s not always the case and you might respond better to something different. If you don’t feel like CBT is right for you right now, you should speak to your doctor about alternative treatments.
3. Can I afford therapy?
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, private therapy doesn’t come cheap. It’s a long-term investment and sometimes the costs associated can be quite a shock, especially if you’ve never tried therapy before. You don’t need to add more stress to your life worrying about funds, you could save up for the treatment prior to jumping in, or find a therapist you like and give them a call and explain your finances. Therapists are people, after all, they will understand and give you their best advice going forward. Another option is local charities and free counselling, this can be restrictive in terms of age and availability however there is no harm in enquiring and seeing what is available in the local area.
This type of therapy focuses primarily on the root causes of mental illness and the trauma which may have occurred in the early stages of life to cause them. It is always beneficial to start with this kind of therapy, thus you can develop a clearer understanding of how the condition started before learning how to manage or recover from it.
You will have to do a lot of the work yourself though! This type of therapy can be very emotional and intense; the therapist will likely be patient-led and therefore want you to commit and contribute in order to move the process on. You’ll likely need to do a lot of self-reflection away from the sessions and journalling can be a huge benefit to the process as a way of communicating with your therapist as well as recording those moments of self-reflection, memories and weekly events you might want to touch on in at your next appointment.
A great place to start and build a foundation for recovery and management
Requires commitment and self-reflection
Can be highly emotional and intense
Appropriate and advised for all mental illnesses but particularly beneficial for those which have been “triggered” and have less of a genetic component such as Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, Phobia or eating disorders.
Ideally requires 20+ sessions
CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT is an effective way to manage mental illness. It is often the NHSs “prescribed” form of therapy as its effectiveness can be more accurately tracked. This type of therapy looks at mental illness as a negative cycle of thoughts and aims to break that cycle but teaches you alternative ways of thinking and thinking more positively in general. Even though this form of therapy is highly recommended and effective, it can be short-term if not sorted out privately. CBT can be useful initially to control your symptoms and get you in a better state of mind prior to long-term therapy such as psychodynamic or after long-term therapy while you are re-discovering yourself and learning more about how your mental illness affects you.
NHS's preferred method of therapy can be free if referred
Breaks negative cycles and enforces new ways of thinking positively
Short-term therapy 6-18 sessions unless undertaken privately
Doesn’t solely concentrate on root causes or trauma
Advised for many mental illnesses but specifically Anxiety and Depression
NLP – Neurolinguistic Programming
NLP is a form of therapy that looks into personal development and encourages you to gain insight into your own mind, your behaviours and why you act the way you do. It will challenge the way you think about yourself and what you want going forward. NLP is similar to CBT as your therapist will help you implement new ways of thinking and “re-program” those responses.
NLP therapists will often empower their clients to find the answers to their problems themselves and help them work towards a goal or aspiration. This is a very logical approach to therapy and will be best suited for someone with a logical mind and who is keen to develop themselves personally and commit to that process of change.
Focuses on self-analysis and thought emotion and behaviour
Requires openness to change
Approaches the mind like a computer to be “reprogrammed”
More flexible attendance but still requires regular commitment and ongoing treatment
The idea of hypnosis or hypnotherapy can be daunting and quite frankly a little scary. If you have a mental illness that is centred around the idea of losing control, this form of therapy could be liberating or just too far out of reach. I was once told that if you believe that hypnosis won’t work, it won’t. You really need to go into this with an open mind, it is a process like any other and not a quick-fix solution. This form of therapy requires trust and focus on increased relaxation and a changed sense of reality and therefore you become more open to suggestions and more likely to change your behaviour or mindset. It is worth thinking about the effects of this type of therapy before jumping in, you may experience intense emotion, relive memories or experience more physical effects such as dizziness and nausea. Speak to your therapist first about your concerns.
Not a quick fix
Can have side effects
More flexible commitment
Best for mental illnesses and disorders without a strong genetic component such as PTSD, Phobia, Anxiety, Depression
Not suited for personality disorders or psychosis.
Not a preferred method of therapy as per the health service
ERP – Exposure and response prevention
This type of therapy is behavioural and therefore centred around altering negative behaviours. This therapy works towards an end goal and focuses on exposing the individual to their fears and concerns to build up a form of resistance. This therapy is primarily used for OCD, Phobia, PTSD and Anxiety. You must be willing to offer your therapist an insight into your life and behavioural patterns so a certain level of trust is required. You also need to be a place for which you want to get better, this is not an easy form of therapy and requires strength of body and mind.
Primarily suited for behavioural-related mental illness, OCD specific
Will require commitment and time
Focuses on a single goal, motivation is essential
EMDR – Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing
EMDR is a form of therapy which focuses on side eye movements and communication in order to trigger past memories and emotional responses which may be contributing to mental illness. Similar to REM (Rapid eye movement) experienced when we sleep, the subconscious mind is brought forward in the process of EMDR. This therapy helps you evaluate and work through negative experiences and traumatic events, which is why it is primarily used for PTSD sufferers although it can be used for anyone who has experienced trauma and will help you learn to see how your past has affected your present. Through EMDR you may gain a wider insight into the circumstances which have affected your mental health and take a different perspective on them. You must be willing to commit to the process, it is not a short-term therapy and can be intense and emotional.
Requires long-term commitment
Primarily for those who have suffered trauma contributing to their mental health
Can be extremely intense and emotional
Focuses on long-term changes in perspective
Meditation isn’t always considered a form of therapy because it doesn’t involve direct interaction with a single person or really any form of give-and-take communication. Meditation is not something that can just be “done” it does need to be learnt, but it can be learnt in one on one sessions or in a group setting. Guided meditations can be very confrontational and you need to be willing and open to the process going in. There are many misconceptions surrounding meditation, taking a course in guided meditation will teach you the behaviours you need to implement in your daily life. This form of therapy will encourage you to take time for yourself, adapt to a new, healthier lifestyle and give you a calmer sense of being and an overall better foundation of self-development and care. You may however still need some sort of communication therapy in order to deal with the mental illness and its causes, but meditation can be very useful during the process and long after.
Can be done in groups or one on one
Great to accompany with talking therapy
Focuses on relaxation, calm and personal development/lifestyle
Don’t need regular appointments only the fundamentals and willingness to learn
Suitable for anyone
Mindfulness is a type of meditation therapy. Again, it requires learning but is easily accessible through online workshops and apps. There are many guided tutorials about mindfulness so beginning the process is simply down to you. This therapy encourages focus. Focus on moments, places, things within your orbit and your present feelings without judgement or opinion. This therapy reduces stress and teaches you grounding in moments where anxiety may be high, removing the chaos and noise from a situation and allowing yourself to be in the moment.
Can be done anywhere with free resources available to learn
Accompanies talking therapy
Suitable for anyone
Reduces stress and encourages grounding in moments of heightened stress and anxiety
Just like how everyone learns in a different way, everyone will have a different approach to therapy. Creative therapy uses music, dance or art to help treat certain mental illnesses. This type of therapy can be especially useful to those who have difficulty verbally expressing how they feel; creative arts are used as a form of communication and the therapist will be specially trained to pick up on cues in what they have created or expressed; furthermore, how and why they have created it. This therapy can be beneficial to improve communication skills as a whole while being treated for their mental health. This approach won’t be appropriate for everyone and consideration needs to be taken as to whether it’s a right fit. Although this seems like a “fun” form of therapy it may not be beneficial if only approached as such and tends to be more widely used for dementia, chronic illness, substance abuse, abuse or mental illness and subsequently selective mutism.
Encourages verbal communication skills and expression through an art form
Consideration and further research required in case it’s not applicable
More commonly used for conditions affecting memory, abuse, physical illness or mutism.
What about personality disorders and psychotic disorders?
So I appreciate I haven’t touched on a form of therapy that speaks to specifically personality disorders so I will address that briefly now.
Personality disorders/psychotic include but are not specific to:
Borderline personality disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder (no psychotic component)
These disorders tend to have a stronger genetic link – although this is not an absolute statement, due to their nature of affecting behaviour and mood it is often advised that the first course of action be medication. These conditions can be accompanied by others such as anxiety, depression and OCD so talking therapies that look more closely at breaking negative thought cycles can be beneficial alongside stabilising medications. CBT is often advised as the most effective form of talking therapy for these conditions as it encompasses both active management of the condition through positive changes in thought while including analysis into triggers and causes through specialist exercises.