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First Therapy Session? 4 Treatment Types, Explained By Timothy Carey on September 14, 2019

First Therapy Session? 4 Treatment Types, Explained

By Timothy Carey on September 14, 2019

n any year, one in five people will experience symptoms of a mental illness.

While drug treatments are widely used and can be effective, they sometimes come with troubling side-effects such as weight gain, headaches, and fatigue.

And they have the added benefit of tackling any underlying reasons why the problem arose in the first place.

So, what are the options for treatment and how do they work?

First, Find a Psychologist You Click With

One of the most important aspects of psychological treatment is having an engaging relationship with your psychologist.

If you don’t “click” within the first few sessions, treatment is unlikely to be effective.

This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or your psychologist. It’s just that this particular relationship isn’t going to be useful — and you should seek out someone you can connect with.

It’s also important to find the method of therapy that suits you best.

Some people, for example, like to get clear instructions and advice, while others prefer to take time to discover their own solutions. Each of these people will connect with different types of therapy and different psychologists.

So what are the key types of therapy psychologists offer and who are they best suited to?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used and well-known talking therapies.

CBT refers to a range of different structured approaches that are based on the assumption that the way a person feels is closely related to the way a person thinks and the way they behave.

A CBT psychologist might ask you to keep a diary of your thoughts and behavior.

To change a person’s feelings, a psychologist providing CBT will help that person engage in different activities that can help to change thinking and behavior patterns.

A CBT psychologist might encourage a person to keep a diary, for example, of the kinds of things they think through the day. Thought diaries often follow an ABC format:

  • A, the activating event — the thing that made the thought happen.
  • B, the belief — the actual thought itself.
  • C, the consequence — how thinking that thought made the person feel.

Sometimes D and E are added:

  • D, some disputing the person could do — what could they think instead.
  • E, the end result — reflecting on how this alternative way of thinking makes the person feel.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is another popular treatment that can be effective across a wide range of situations and problems.

ACT specifically targets the person’s tendency to avoid things and helps them develop greater psychological flexibility so they can pursue areas of value and live meaningful lives.

While CBT tries to change thinking and behavior, ACT introduces the intriguing idea of people not changing their thoughts and behaviors but, rather, achieving a state of mind where they’re able to notice the problematic thoughts, images, feelings, or behaviors but not be overwhelmed or consumed by them. That’s the “acceptance” part.

ACT psychologists have a range of novel and engaging activities at their disposal. An ACT psychologist might help a person visualize placing their thoughts on leaves floating down a stream. They can then watch their thoughts float by and disappear down the stream.

Behavioral Activation

Behavioral activation helps people identify the activities that reduce stress.

Behavioral activation was initially developed for the treatment of depression but has since been used more widely. It involves identifying and scheduling activities that promote enjoyment or reduce stress.

Behavioral activation helps people identify things in their environment that are contributing to the problem, and the things that could really help, along with the behaviors that are associated with each of those things.


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