ABCs of Mental Health Care
print Types of Psychotherapy
In family therapy, a person's symptoms are viewed in the larger context of the family. Just as a certain department in a business can suffer due to problems in another department, a person with depression might be responding to larger family issues. For example, a depressed adolescent's symptoms might be related to her parents' marital problems.
Special techniques of family therapy include:
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the relationships of the client and attempts to improve communication patterns and how people relate to others to lead to positive outcomes. This type of therapy is similar to psychodynamic psychotherapy, which focuses on the individual, including the unconscious, and uses the therapeutic relationship as an instrument of change and growth.
Techniques of interpersonal therapy include:
For example, growing up, Roger's mother was not a nurturing woman. She was very involved in community affairs and often neglected Roger's needs. When choosing a wife, Roger chose a woman who was attentive and nurturing. However, when it was necessary for her to work outside their home, old feelings of hurt and rejection were rekindled in Roger, feelings originally experienced in relation to his mother. Therapy helped him to recognize how his relationship with his own mother affected his reaction to his wife working outside the home.
Group therapy provides treatment in a format where there is one therapist and six to eight participants with related problems. The participants improve not only from the interventions of the therapist, but also from observing others in the group and receiving feedback from group members. The group format, while not providing the one-on-one attention of individual formats, has several advantages.
Similar to family therapy, group therapy is a style that can incorporate any of the psychotherapy schools. The advantages of group therapy include:
Behavioral therapy is sometimes referred to as cognitive-behavioral therapy. In this approach, problems are believed to stem from changes in thinking and behavior. The goal is to increase the person's engagement in positive or socially reinforcing activities. Behavior therapy is a structured approach that carefully measures what the person is doing and then seeks to increase chances for positive experience. Common techniques include:
Play therapy uses various play modalities (e.g., action figures, dolls, pretend play, fingerpaints, coloring, etc.) to help children (usually younger children) physically and symbolically express emotional states and beliefs that may be hard to put into words. This technique views play as an essential part of children's cognitive, social and emotional development, particularly with regard to representational skills (of situations and scripts for interactive patterns in certain situations). Play modalities help children alter their forms of expression and/or develop more effective interactive patterns. This is particularly helpful with younger, pre-verbal children and/or with children for whom social/emotional situations are particularly distressing and threatening (e.g., victims of abuse, neglect, trauma), and for whom intimacy and/or verbal disclosure may be difficult.
In marital therapy, the therapist often assumes the role of "facilitator" to help couples specify areas of conflict and develop more effective problem-solving and communication skills. Prescribed exercises can be used to help couples improve skills in the areas of intimacy and conducting family life development (e.g., redefining the relationship in the wake of "empty nest" syndrome).
Adult vs. child therapy (adolescents)
Depending on the age of the child and the nature of the issues to be addressed, therapy with children and adolescents will usually include the parents. For younger children, parents are essential members of the therapy team, as they spend the majority of time with the child and will therefore be the strongest agents of change.
In these situations, the therapist will often spend time helping the parents to understand the factors influencing their child's emotional and/or behavioral problems, and then help them develop more effective ways of interacting with their child (e.g., communication skills, behavior management). Individual sessions with the child will often occur in addition to sessions that include the parents to help the child feel less threatened by the experience and to work on individual change issues.
For older children and adolescents, whether the therapist meets primarily with the child alone, the parents alone, or the child and parents together will usually depend on the nature of the issues involved. Family members will typically be involved in the therapy when children's problems are strongly related to family conflict or changes, or where family members will play crucial roles in reinforcing a child's efforts to address a problem. On the other hand, an older adolescent who is experiencing fears of normal developmental transitions (e.g., from home to college) may benefit more from individual therapy to address these issues.
By Michael Herkov