The Right Therapy: Exploring Options for Effective Mental Health Treatment

mental health treatment
Understanding the benefits of different types of psychotherapy can help you make the best mental health treatment decisions. | Image Source: Unsplash user Michelle Spencer

Imagine that you are lost in a foreign city. You don’t speak the language and flag down someone on the street, hoping they understand English. “I need to get to the subway. Can you give me directions?” you ask. They nod and respond in a language you don’t understand. “I’m sorry, I can’t understand you. Could you tell me in English?” you ask. They nod and again explain how to get to the subway in words you don’t recognize as they gesture wildly, hoping you’ll catch on. The answer is right in front of you, but because you don’t speak the language you remain lost.

Many people in individual psychotherapy have similar experiences; they are seeking help but are unable to access answers because the therapeutic modality does not speak to them in a useful and relevant way. Finding the right kind of therapy is essential to allowing you to engage in a productive healing process that addresses your unique symptoms in a way that is meaningful to you. However, even people who have been in mental health treatment for years are often confused about what exactly the right therapy is. By understanding the philosophies behind different types of individual psychotherapies and selecting the modalities that speak to you, you can optimize your ability to restore emotional and behavioral well-being.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy invites you to explore how your unconscious mind, interpersonal relationships, and early childhood experiences inform your psychological state. As Dr. Jonathan Shedler writes, “The essence of psychodynamic therapy is exploring those aspects of self that are not fully known.”[1. https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-65-2-98.pdf] Also referred to as insight-oriented therapy, this deeply self-reflective therapeutic modality allows you to identify how unresolved conflicts create dysfunctions that manifest in your present emotional and behavioral symptoms. As you gain a deeper understanding of yourself within the context of a trusting therapeutic alliance, you also activate the internal resources to disrupt self-destructive behaviors and find resolution to inner turmoil. Research indicates that psychodynamic therapy is highly effective for alleviating symptoms of a wide range of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders, which are “notoriously difficult to treat.”[2. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/01/psychodynamic-therapy.aspx]

But psychodynamic therapy is not only about addressing specific symptoms; successful treatment should also “foster the positive presence of psychological capacities and resources,” such as enhanced self-esteem and awareness of your strengths, increased distress tolerance, a more nuanced understanding of yourself and others, and an expanded capacity for creating fulfilling relationships. As such, this form of therapy can be a powerful part of mental health treatment by attending to a full spectrum of emotional and behavioral needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a goal-oriented therapeutic modality that focuses on immediate, practical resolution to specific, contemporaneous problems. Rather than exploring the history of your emotional and behavioral symptoms, CBT provides structured guidance to identify and disrupt negative thoughts and behaviors and replace them with realistic, healthy, and positive alternatives. To facilitate this process, your therapist will use a variety of tools such as role-playing, journaling, and visualization to help you break away from damaging cognitive and behavioral patterns. For many, CBT can be remarkably empowering, helping you develop the skills to take control of your own psychological health and heal from even deeply ingrained patterns of suffering.

While originally developed for people experiencing depression, CBT has been found to be highly effective for the treatment of all types of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, impulse control disorders, and eating disorders, particularly when integrated within a comprehensive mental health treatment plan.[3. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)62246-1/abstract] If you are experiencing a high level of acute symptoms that must be addressed immediately to preserve your safety or that interfere with your ability to effectively engage in deeper self-reflective exploration, CBT is often the best treatment choice in early recovery. However, CBT can be used throughout treatment for both immediate and long-term healing.

Relational Therapy

Relational therapy is a broadly applicable psychotherapeutic practice rooted in an understanding of humans as innately social beings whose interpersonal relationships have a profound impact on psychological wellness. Often, psychological distress is an expression of unresolved relational experiences and “inhibits the present self from full expression.”[4. http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/relational-psychotherapy] By exploring the nature of your social interactions and connections, the influence of sociocultural factors, and the impact of formative childhood experiences, you can gain a deeper understanding of your emotional and behavioral patterns and learn how to relate to both yourself and others in a healthy and fulfilling way. The client-therapist relationship is a central component of this process; by creating a safe, supportive, and trusting therapeutic alliance, you are able to participate in and observe how a positive relationship functions and benefit from the security and confidence it instills. Ultimately, relational therapy is designed to allow you to more fully express your authentic self while empowering you to form more meaningful and productive relationships.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an innovative therapeutic modality that seeks to create positive behavioral change while enhancing self-acceptance through self-reflective and skill-based intervention. This form of psychotherapy is structured around four modules:

  • Mindfulness: You learn to nonjudgmentally observe and participate in your present environment, allowing you to understand and accept your current state of being while decreasing emotional volatility.
  • Distress Tolerance: Using specialized techniques, your therapist will help you develop healthy responses to stressors and gain control over your emotional and behavioral reactions to uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and situations.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: DBT teaches you how to participate in fulfilling, mutually beneficial relationships and cope with interpersonal conflict with honesty, respect, and fairness.
  • Emotional Regulation: By exploring your emotional states and needs, you can begin to deepen your understanding of how emotions function in your life and validate your emotional experiences. Simultaneously, you develop new skills to form healthy, positive emotional responses to alleviate distress and fortify your well-being.

While DBT was originally developed for women experiencing suicidal ideation and self-harm, it can be a vital part of mental health treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders and is considered the gold standard for Borderline Personality Disorder treatment. For many, DBT offers what they have not been able to find in other forms of psychotherapy: a path to both transformation and acceptance. As Will Lippincott wrote about his own experience with DBT, ” I found that just taking anxiety down a degree or two gave me a measure of control over my decision making in the presence of intense emotion. The lesson was profound. I couldn’t eliminate anxiety from my life, but I could learn how to tolerate it, and cope without making the situation worse.”[5. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/16/no-longer-wanting-to-die/]

Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment

Truly effective mental health treatment is only possible when you are engaged in therapies that are meaningful and relevant to you. At Bridges to Recovery, our highly trained clinicians draw from a comprehensive range of modern, evidence-based psychotherapies to tailor a treatment plan specifically designed for your unique needs, ensuring that you are able to rapidly alleviate distress. For most of our clients, this involves the integration of multiple therapeutic modalities to engage you in an immersive healing process in which all aspects of your emotional and behavioral health are attended to. By thoughtfully layering and combining therapies, you are not limited to a single modality, but can benefit from precisely the therapeutic interventions that will be most effective for your particular situation, and address your needs at various stages in the healing process; your needs may change significantly during your time in residential mental health treatment and it is imperative that your care is continuously modulated to meet you where you are at a specific point in time. With the support of compassionate therapists with the expertise to deliver the highest level of psychiatric care using the best therapies available, you can find true relief from psychological suffering and create true, lasting wellness.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive mental health treatment for people suffering from a range of mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance and process addictions. Contact us for more information about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start on the journey toward healing.