Individual therapy—also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy, or counseling—is a collaborative process between therapist and client that aims to facilitate change and improve quality of life. Therapy can help people confront barriers that interfere with emotional and mental well-being, and it can also increase positive feelings such as compassion, self-esteem, love, courage, and peace. Many people find they enjoy the therapeutic journey of becoming more self-aware, and they may pursue ongoing psychotherapy as a means of self-growth and self-actualization.
In general, the goal of therapy is to talk through mental health issues and help clients heal, grow, and move toward more productive, psychologically healthy lives. Good therapy is client-driven, and specific goals for therapy will be determined by you and your therapist.
Individual therapy sessions typically last between 45 and 50 minutes. The frequency and duration of therapy will depend largely on your needs, treatment goals, and progress. Many concerns are readily resolved with short-term therapy, and other chronic or more complex concerns require long-term commitment before improvement is realized.
Ultimately, the individual’s desire and determination to heal play an essential role in whether therapy is successful. Research has shown that psychotherapy results in fewer relapses of common conditions such as moderate depression and anxiety, and that the positive effects of good therapy extend well beyond treatment. In fact, many clients report improved conditions long after therapy has ended. In general, psychotherapy is often more effective than psychotropic drugs or medical treatments alone, which may cause harmful side effects. In addition, many therapeutic modalities are evidence-based, meaning they have been subject to research studies and clinical observations, and they have been analyzed for effectiveness.
Marriage counseling helps couples of all types recognize and resolve conflicts and improve connection in their relationships. In couple therapy, the relationship is the client. The attachment perspective gives the couple’s therapist a meaningful and effective map to the drama of distress between partners. It guides the therapist in the pivotal moments in a couples interactions and why they matter so much; it offers the therapist a guide to each partner’s deepest needs and strongest emotions.
When the practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy or EFT, is successfully implemented, each partner becomes a source of security, protection, and contact comfort for the other. Each partner can then assist the other in regulating negative affect and constructing a positive and potent sense of self. The goal of EFT is to reprocess experience and reorganize interactions to create a bond between partners, a sense of secure connectedness. The focus is always on attachment concerns involving safety, trust, and contact. Once a couple has created a more secure bond, even when they become distressed and vulnerable, conflict and insecurities become more clear and less onerous which leads to healing. The healing process is made up of bonding events which creates a new cycle of closeness and affirmation.
As children and adolescents grow, they are constantly in the process of developing the social skills and emotional intelligence necessary to lead healthy, happy lives. When teens experience emotions or engage in behaviors that interfere with their happiness and ability to thrive, they may benefit from meeting with a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor. Parents and their teen often attend therapy sessions together, as therapy can be a safe space in which to address the thoughts, feelings, and emotions experienced by all members.
Adolescents become more independent and begin to form identities based on experimentation with new behaviors and roles. Puberty usually occurs during this stage of life, bringing with it a host of physical and emotional changes. Changes during these often volatile adolescent years may strain parent-adolescent relationships, especially when new behaviors go beyond experimentation and cause problems at school or home, or if emotional highs and lows persist and lead to experiences such as anxiety or depression.
Transitions for adolescents through the family life cycle can be stressful because they challenge attachment bonds between family members. Open communication and the processing of primary attachment emotions are crucial when family systems change. When family members are insecurely attached, such open communication is difficult, and people tend to get stuck in absorbing states of secondary defensive affect. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) can be particularly helpful by encouraging family members to express primary emotions. This expression then fosters renegotiation of bonds and the clarification of attachment needs and concerns.
Family therapy or family counseling is designed to address specific issues that affect the psychological health of the family, such as major life transitions or mental health conditions. It may be used as the primary mode of treatment or as a complementary approach.
Ideally, our families are those whom we can always rely on for support, from whom we draw strength and feedback, for whom we feel love and concern, and with whom we feel close and comfortable, openly sharing thoughts and feelings. In reality, few families meet this expectation 100% of the time, and in some cases, a person’s family is far from ideal, associated instead with stress, misunderstanding, anger, disconnection, and unmet needs. From our family of origin, we develop our expectations of others, communication skills, outlook on life, ability to give and receive love, and coping skills, among myriad other traits, and chronic family problems can have lasting effects.
Family problems from mild to severe will challenge every family at some point. These can result from behavioral and mental health issues in the family or from specific stressful events. Common family problems include:
- Financial Issues
- Substance Abuse
- Behavioral issues and academic concerns in children and adolescents
- Mental Health Concerns
- Separation, divorce, or blended family adjustments
- Chronic Illness
Whatever the source, distressing family dynamics can greatly interfere with the functioning of every family member, including extended family, although those living in the same household are likely to be impacted more significantly than those who live apart. When family members do not get along, the tension can impact each family member’s mental and physical health, relationships, and even his or her capacity for routine tasks. Evidence of family problems can materialize through repeated family conflicts, dramatic behavioral shifts in children and adolescents, mood swings, and depression. Fortunately, resolving family issues require the cooperation of everyone in the family, and this provides a great opportunity to strengthen family ties and interactions
Families can benefit from therapy when they experience any stressful event that may strain family relationships. The goal of family counseling is to promote understanding and collaboration among family members in order to solve the problems of one or more individuals. For example, if a child is having social and academic problems, therapy will focus on the family patterns that may contribute to the child’s acting out, rather than evaluating the child’s behavior alone. As the family uncovers the source of the problem, they can learn to support the child and other family members and work proactively on minimizing or altering the child’s unwanted behavior.