For some, just the word “therapy” brings up uncomfortable feelings and images of lying on a sofa while some monotone professional asks about your childhood. Therapy has long been stereotyped as something for the weak and is sometimes seen as a farce altogether. However, those in need of help could be doing themselves a great disservice by buying into that hype.
What Is Therapy?
Therapy — formally known as psychotherapy — has come a long way since its beginning with the ancient Greeks. It has been beneficial to many for a number of years and continues to please the masses that utilize it — 20 percent of Americans, according to West Virginia University. Psychotherapy, commonly dubbed as “talk therapy,” is more than just chitchat about your feelings; it’s the application of techniques that have been studied for hundreds of years to your personal life. Therapy opens the door to healing via a fundamental conduit — the psychologist.
A skilled professional will cultivate a relationship between them and their patient that feels comfortable and safe. Patients going to therapy want to feel secure divulging their innermost thoughts and concerns, and likewise, it is the psychologist’s place to help the patient gain perspective on things that are troubling them. Often, people seek the help of a psychologist for one main reason: an objective point of view. A therapist can render an unbiased opinion on a subject that may be a point of contention among others in your life, like a spouse, parent or friend.
Who Needs Therapy?
If you’ve struggled to cope with stressors throughout your life, you may not have been given a proper example by your parents of how to do such, and a trained therapist can help to teach you new techniques and coping skills. The American Psychological Association points out several things that signal the possible need for therapy, such as:
- A consuming and longstanding feeling of helplessness or sadness
- Troubles seem to stick around even with help from friends and family in addition to your own efforts
- Trouble focusing on work/school projects and completing daily chores
- Incessant worry
- Always expecting the worst possible circumstances, causing you to feel great tension
- Poor behavior choices, like drinking or using drugs, have negative effects on your own life and people around you
If you’re feeling like you’re just not yourself or you’ve lost interest in things you once enjoyed, it might be time to explore the possibility that you’re depressed. Sometimes depression sets in for no apparent reason while other times it can follow traumas or grief-stricken events like the death of a loved one or a breakup.
Those with recurrent anxiety that hinders their lives in any way should also seek help. Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Addicts often have some or all of the aforementioned conditions on top of their addiction. For some, the denial stage of addiction can last a very long one. Don’t fool yourself into believing the myth that an addict must be willing to enter treatment voluntarily to be successful at beating their addiction and entering recovery. Many substance abusers are pushed toward treatment by their loved ones and come out of it stronger than ever.
Perhaps you’ve encountered some legal ramifications, or your friends and family have started turning their backs on you. Maybe you’re tired of being financially strapped because you spent all your cash on drugs or alcohol. You could be struggling to keep your job or already be unemployed due to recurrent absences and lack of productivity at work because of your addiction. Regardless of your story and how you got to where you are, we can help you get the assistance you need.
Sometimes other underlying issues may be the cause of an addiction to drugs or alcohol that stemmed from self-medication practices, such as a mental health disorder. In 2012, the National Institute of Mental Health accounted for an approximate 43.7 million adult Americans having at least one mental illness in the previous year. Of all who are mentally ill, 29 percent are also impacted by substance abuse.
Those with mental illness can utilize talk therapy as a means of coming to better understand their diagnosis and what they’re up against. Often, medication is necessary in conjunction with psychotherapy where mental health disorders are concerned. Most frequently, medications can stabilize you enough so you can better comprehend your feelings, which is vital for the success of talk therapy.
There are many types of therapy techniques that are used for a variety of different purposes. Everything from depression and anxiety-based disorders to religious issues, traumas and interpersonal conflicts can be mediated with the help of individual therapy. Generally, initial sessions merely allow for the therapist and you to get to know one another and touch on why you’ve come to the therapist for help.
In follow-up sessions, per My Virtual Medical Care, your therapist can assist you in prioritizing your goals, recognizing your strengths, and coping with your weaknesses when life throws you a curve ball. Some popular types of individual therapy, per the National Institute of Mental Health are:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
Proponents of psychoanalytic therapy believe a person’s actions and illnesses are rooted in their subconscious as well as derived from their upbringing as a child. The typical psychoanalyst will listen to what a patient has to say about their troubles, and they’ll look for patterns over the course of the patient’s life that may be leading them in the wrong direction. Sometimes this is as simple as pointing out the self-sabotage a person engages in when they don’t feel worthy of being loved or valued — a frequent consequence of childhood neglect. Other times, it may go deeper; patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, who have gone untreated for many years, may take a very long time to even uncover the root of what triggered their disorder if it wasn’t a memorably shocking event.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy+
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — commonly known in the psychology community as CBT — also deals with patterns but more so of thoughts than active behaviors, despite the name. Patients are often held captive in their own mind, swirling around multitudes of negative thoughts — and not because they’re obsessing, but rather because that’s the primary way they tend to think. Therapists practicing CBT believe that their patients are victims of their own irrational thought processes, creating problems for themselves where troubles don’t really exist.
CBT is highly effective but can also be very trying and not for everyone, simply because changing the way you think is a lot harder than it sounds. WebMD reiterated the results of a study on 400 patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant clinical depression which found that utilizing CBT simultaneously with medication aided in dramatically reducing the depressive symptoms patients experienced.
The typical CBT patient has ingrained their thought patterns into their daily life and undoing them often means having to face their irrational fears. Thus, CBT is a common method of treatment for people with anxiety and phobias. It is sometimes used in conjunction with exposure therapies to treat the latter. Overall, the CBT approach centers on specific problems, like avoiding triggers to use drugs or alcohol.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy+
Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a derivative of CBT that is often used for patients who engage in behaviors that harm themselves, such as cutters or people with eating disorders. It is also used in the treatment of mood disorders like borderline personality disorder, major depression, and generalized anxiety disorder, per the Linehan Institute, Behavioral Tech. While individual psychotherapy is a major player in the DBT method, skills work can be vital to its success where patients are taught concepts such as mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.
Interpersonal therapy is a common method of treatment for those with social anxieties because it focuses on just that — the distress one feels while engaged with others, whether for practical or irrational reasons. The goal of interpersonal therapy is to resolve negative emotions. When a trigger offsets such distress, a number of biopsychosocial vulnerability factors are in play aiding in determining how well someone deals with the stressor, per the International Society for Interpersonal Psychotherapy.
A 2004 article published in World Psychiatry touts the success of interpersonal therapy in treating patients diagnosed with mood disorders like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. The beginning of interpersonal therapy is one to three sessions in length and allows the psychotherapist to identify existing disorders and interpersonal contexts regarding such. Therapists pay special attention to behavioral patterns in relationships with others, but the key element in interpersonal therapy is the inclusion of time limits. Not only is the entire stretch of therapy limited to around three to four months but patients are also often given timeframes in which they must complete certain treatment efforts and reach specific goals. Often, this methodology gives those needing it a boost of motivation to overcome the lethargy their diagnosis has placed upon them.
Psychodynamic therapy allows the patient to engage in role-playing exercises. In some scenarios, the patient can place their feelings toward others onto their therapist — a tactic called transference — as a means of releasing the feelings or practicing confrontation and problem resolution, per Psychology Today.
Group therapy is much like it sounds; it is most often used for couples counseling, family-focused therapy, and group settings such as those you find in substance abuse treatment centers. With group therapy, there may be more than one psychologist present as well. Sometimes, in the case of couples counseling, partners feel better having two psychologists present — one of each gender. Other times, a situation may call for more than one psychologist due to the need for the expertise of different specialties. groups outside of substance abuse facilities also frequently offer group therapy settings.
Per Psychiatric Times, there are several beneficial types of group therapy available to patients in need, such as:
- Self-help groups
- Interpersonal group psychotherapy
- Cognitive therapy addiction groups
- Modified dynamic group therapy
The self-help group is likely the most widely recognized form of group therapy, and often it is not inclusive of professional moderators like therapists. Thus, this type of group therapy alone is not an effective course of treatment for those needing help for a mental illness requiring professional care and medication. Often, lifelong friendships are formed in self-help groups that go beyond the confines of regularly scheduled meetings.
Interpersonal Group Psychotherapy+
Interpersonal group psychotherapy uses the same techniques as the individual alternative, but applies it across the whole group, often so that everyone is on the same path to reach the same goals together. Cognitive therapy addiction groups utilize CBT and problem-solving methods to aid in equipping patients with the skills they need to tackle stressors in the future. Essentially, they’ll be prepared to actually handle their problems rather than mask them with drugs or alcohol.
Modified Dynamic Group Therapy+
Modified dynamic group therapy (MDGT) is a great approach for those who are struggling with the ability to regulate themselves. For some, breaking bad behaviors is easier said than done; sometimes the thrill one gets from trying to get away with something they know is wrong can seem addictive in and of itself. MDGT helps patients with these issues by easing them into confronting their guilt and embarrassment over their lack of self-control while working on ways to develop regulatory behaviors.
Engaging with peers who have like problems will often boost the self-esteem of MDGT patients and helps them to accept responsibility for their actions — which are often characteristic of self-sabotage, per Psychiatric Times.
Support groups are vital for some who need the continued reassurance and accountability that other recovering peers can offer. Popular groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are not successful for everyone, but for those who do stay sober via these methods, support groups can play a big part in their recovery. Here at Black Bear Lodge, we offer outpatient and residential support group options, as well as continued support group meetings post-treatment.
The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s Treatment Improvement Protocol notes the use of CBT/problem-solving as being one of the top group therapies recommended for use in the treatment of substance abusers. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods are no different for group therapy than they are for individuals.
The Pros and Cons
WebMD notes that while individual therapy is great in instances of underlying mental illness, group therapy is often a better option when it comes to beating addiction because substance abusers need the peer support that comes from others battling the same demons they are. Those with interpersonal struggles or social anxiety may benefit more from the semi-forced contact that comes with group therapy, whereas individualized treatment may only further isolate them.
Those suffering from illnesses and mental health disorders are often more comfortable in group therapy settings, as they feel their peers are all equal to them, putting them at ease when talking about their problems. Obviously, the biggest upside to group therapy is the ability to connect with others that know what you’re going through, which is something we as human beings naturally crave. Likewise, you will be able to learn from the experiences of others. Sometimes all it takes is hearing someone else’s story – someone who has taken the path you’re on – to stop you from continuing down it.
According to About.com, group therapy can be less expensive than alternative options too. Appalachian State University touts that just the act of listening, for those who are shy or don’t have as much to say, can teach you a lot in a group therapy setting that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Likewise, shyness can be a double-edged sword that also hinders some from participation in group therapy activities and makes them more anxious and self-conscious than they were to begin with. It isn’t for everyone, making individual therapy a better option for said personality types.
Of course, it is possible that you could clash with others in your group, and when that happens, everyone sometimes pays the price. Those with intense issues stemming from situations such as childhood sexual abuse may not feel comfortable talking to a room full of strangers. Those with suicidal tendencies aren’t great candidates for group therapy either and should seek individualized treatment. People who take advantage of both individual and group therapy may benefit the most, such as in cases of DBT treatment, and this includes substance abusers and those struggling with mental health issues. Generally, the pitfalls of one type of therapy can be outweighed by the other in most respects, leaving you with a pretty even keel of positive reasons to engage in both.
What many fail to realize is that therapy takes time to produce results in most cases.
Much of the success that people have would not have been possible without the therapy professional getting to know their patient and developing a foundation for a trusting relationship with them.
Thus, many patients try therapy and give up too soon because it isn’t working as quickly as they had hoped. When you embark on either individual or group therapy, do so with the understanding that good things come to those who wait; it won’t be an overnight process.
Psychology Today states more than one in three people who need therapy aren’t getting the help they need, but you don’t have to be one of those people. Our state-of-the-art facility boasts some of the best therapeutic interventions you could ask for. While you might think talking to friends and family will suffice, that won’t be enough on its own. Our trained therapists are here to help you get on the path to wellness. We aren’t going to judge you; you’ll find encouragement here. There’s no better time to pick up the phone and speak with an admissions coordinator about the resources waiting for you at Black Bear Lodge.