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  • Writer's pictureEugene Roginsky

Understanding Psychotherapy: A Guide to Mental Health Treatment

A Guide to Mental Health Treatment

Understanding Psychotherapy:

A Guide to Mental Health Treatment

Psychotherapy, known colloquially as ‘talk therapy’ or ‘counseling’, wields significant influence in fostering mental and emotional wellness.

Drawing from my experience as a licensed psychotherapist based in Lincolnshire, IL, I have seen firsthand the profound changes it can enact in individuals' lives.

This guide delves into the core aspects of psychotherapy, encompassing its diverse modalities, advantages, and insights into what individuals can anticipate during therapy sessions.

For psychotherapy to be effective, it has to be a collaborative process between a licensed therapist and a client based on trust, safety, and treatment planning, that aims to address psychological, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

Through a series of structured sessions, therapists help clients explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, gain insight into underlying issues, and develop coping strategies as well as solutions to improve the client’s quality of life.

Psychotherapy can be conducted with individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Many psychotherapeutic approaches exist, each one characterized by its distinct theoretical foundation, historical development, and therapeutic methods.

Below, I introduce several therapeutic modalities individuals might encounter when exploring a clinician’s background. It is important to note that many more psychotherapeutic approaches and modalities exist than I briefly discuss in this article. Therapists may also decide to use an integrative approach to treatment to adjust to the client’s unique needs.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT is a goal-oriented, evidence-based therapy that focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors. One way of seeing CBT, is as a family of therapeutic modalities (such as Schema Therapy that is also happens to be a blend of Gestalt, Attachment Theory and Object Relations Theory, and Reality Therapy or Choice Therapy created by Dr. William Glasser MD) and interventions, each with specific goals and strategies. Multiple theorists have contributed to CBT over the years.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapists hold the belief that through restructuring unhelpful beliefs and fostering the development of adaptive coping strategies, clients can acquire the capacity to alter their reactions to stressful circumstances, leading to enhancements in their overall well-being

Psychodynamic Therapy:

Psychodynamic Therapy explores the influence of unconscious processes and early life experiences on current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It includes the work of Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalytic Therapy, as well as contributions done post Freud, like the work of Alfred Alder and his development of Adlerian Therapy.

In Psychodynamic Therapy, through open-ended discussions and exploration of interpersonal dynamics, clients gain insight into underlying conflicts and patterns and work towards resolving unresolved issues.

Narrative Therapy:

This therapeutic approach avoids psychiatric diagnosis. It is considered to be one of the Humanistic Therapies but is frequently incorporated by clinicians from a wide variety of schools of thought. Narrative Therapy focuses on understanding, describing, interpreting, and most importantly restructuring the client’s perception of their life narrative. Socio-cultural issues are also examined as they may contribute to the client’s narrative. Narrative Therapy pays close attention to the client’s self-talk and examines how the problem influences the client, how the client influences the problem, and what will the future bring as a result. Narrative Therapy works well with other approaches to treatment including CBT. In Narrative Therapy, the person is not considered the problem, the problem is the problem.

Humanistic Therapy:

Humanistic Therapy emphasizes personal growth, self-actualization, the goodness of people, and the importance of the therapeutic relationship. Therapists provide a supportive and nonjudgmental space for clients to explore their feelings, values, and goals, empowering them to make positive changes and live more fulfilling lives. A few types of Humanistic Therapies include Person-Centered Therapy developed by Dr. Carl Rogers, Existential Therapy, Logotherapy, and Gestalt Therapy.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy:

Mindfulness-based therapies such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) incorporate mindfulness practices to help clients cultivate present-moment awareness, acceptance, and self-compassion. By learning to observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment, clients can reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, and improve emotional regulation.

Family Therapy:

Family therapy focuses on improving communication and resolving conflicts within family members. By addressing relational dynamics and exploring family systems, members’ roles, and patterns, therapists help families develop healthier ways of relating to one another and navigate challenges more effectively. A few family therapy modalities include; Family Systems Therapy, Narrative Family Therapy, Supportive Family Therapy, and Functional Family Therapy. It is important to note that Family Therapy can be a component of individual therapy. Therapists and their clients may decide to incorporate family members into the therapeutic process or utilize family sessions to educate family members about mental health conditions.

Couple’s Therapy:

People seek out couples therapy to work through issues that are impacting their relationships. Couple therapists may select techniques from a wide variety of therapeutic modalities such as the Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Imago Therapy, Choice Therapy, and CBT for Couples, just to name a few. When working with couples, the therapist can be a teacher of emotional regulation and effective communication strategies. The therapist can be someone who offers observations of behavioral patterns, interpretation of behavior, and a facilitator of change. There are many tools the therapist will implement, and homework assignments are frequently utilized.

Trauma Therapy:

Trauma Therapy specializes in addressing the psychological and emotional effects of trauma, such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or complex trauma. Therapists use specialized techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) to help clients process traumatic memories and develop coping skills for managing symptoms. Trauma Therapy is most efficient when combined with CBT and Mindfulness Therapies.

Benefits of psychotherapy include:

  • Improved emotional regulation and coping skills

  • Enhanced self-awareness and insight

  • Increased self-esteem and confidence

  • More effective communication and interpersonal relationships

  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions

  • Overcoming fears and phobias

  • Defeating negative, limiting beliefs

  • Relief from pain due to grief and loss

  • Deeper knowledge of diagnosed mental health condition(s)

  • Greater resilience and ability to navigate life's challenges

  • Improved job performance

What to expect from therapy sessions:

  • Confidentiality and privacy

  • A safe and nonjudgmental environment

  • Collaborative goal-setting and treatment planning

  • Regular assessment of the treatment plan’s effectiveness

  • Active participation and engagement in the therapeutic process by both the client and therapist

  • Regularly scheduled sessions

  • Depending on the therapist’s training or the client’s needs, homework assignments or exercises to be done between sessions can be given to clients (dialogue training, emotional regulation techniques, relaxation techniques, etc.)


In summary, psychotherapy serves as a crucial resource for enhancing mental and emotional wellness while effectively addressing diverse psychological obstacles. By familiarizing oneself with the various forms of psychotherapy, their advantages, and the anticipated therapy process, individuals empower themselves to make informed choices regarding seeking support, thereby initiating a path towards healing and personal development.



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