Many kinds of psychotherapy are available today, each with its pros and cons. When choosing between short-term and long-term types of treatment, there are a few important things to think about, as well as the type of therapy itself.
Psychotherapy: A Definition
The American Psychiatry Association (APA) says that psychotherapy is a way to help people who are having problems with their mental health. Talk therapy is another name for it. By talking to each other (mostly, but some types of therapy also involve physical activity), the patient and therapist can learn more about the patient’s condition.
Over time, the patient should be able to think about their points of view, defenses, situations, relationships, hopes, and fears, both in the past and present, and how they want to deal with them in the future. Most types of therapy involve the patient and the therapist, but other kinds involve the patient and a loved one, a group, or even an animal.
Psychotherapy has been shown to help people in many important ways, and about 75% of people who go through it say they feel better afterward. The APA also says that psychotherapy can be short-term or long-term, lasting just a few sessions or, in some cases, a person’s whole life.
Psychotherapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment or along with other treatments, like medication or medical devices. As with other types of treatment, it’s best to talk to a licensed professional before choosing a treatment.
The APA also emphasizes the importance of setting. Psychotherapy treatments should start by discovering what the patient wants from the therapy and why they decided to get it. It should also say how often therapy sessions will happen, how much they will cost if there are any cancellation fees, and what the limits are. The APA says it’s especially important that the patient and therapist don’t get too close.
Options for Long-Term Psychotherapy
In the past, psychotherapy was a long-term and intense way to help people with mental health problems. People would come in for sessions several times a week for years. Long-term therapy has many benefits, such as giving the patient and therapist time to work through difficult and sometimes traumatic issues that may have affected the patient for a long time.
Patients often feel like they need to get rid of bad symptoms immediately, but some can take years, just like some bad habits can take years to break. Long-term therapy is available for these situations.
Long-term psychotherapy options include:
- Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the more intense type of therapy, and it usually consists of three to five sessions a week. Psychoanalysis can last for years or even forever as it tries to make sense of the patient’s mind and change their reactions and defense mechanisms to be more helpful, or as Freud put it, to let them “love and work.” Some patients may find that psychoanalysis is too exhausting, and when they talk about a traumatic event in their past, it may even cause them to fall apart. Because of this, most people with active psychosis are not sent to psychoanalysis. On the other hand, its in-depth approach has been shown to help with more serious mental health problems, especially personality disorders. Psychoanalysis can also help people with depression or anxiety if they have the time and money to look deeply into their symptoms and figure out what’s causing them.
- Psychodynamics. Psychodynamic therapy is less intense than psychoanalysis but offers long-term help. Usually, the patient and therapist meet once a week or twice a week. It usually lasts at least a few months as the therapist and patient learn to trust each other and create an environment where the patient can learn new things about themself that have been hidden and have been affecting their life from the inside. Long-term psychodynamic therapy helps with depression and personality disorders in psychoanalysis.
- Psychotherapy for healing. Rehabilitative psychology focuses not only on the mind but also on how the mind and body are connected. It helps people with mental health who have had a big change in their well-being, or even trauma, because of an accident, injury, or illness. It often talks about how the event or situation the person is going through has changed their sense of self-worth, role in society, body image, and other parts of their lives. Rehabilitation therapy can range from giving short-term help right after an accident to working with a patient for the rest of their lives, especially if they have a chronic illness.
Options for Short-Term Psychotherapy
Most types of short-term therapy are more focused on goals than long-term therapy. They tend to focus on the specific problems that give patients the most trouble. One of the main benefits of short-term therapy over long-term therapy is that it helps people face possible avoidance tendencies.
In a long-term setting, they might be able to put off dealing with a bad part of their lives, but the shorter timescale of short-term therapy can force them to face and deal with their most important problems. Short-term therapy can last anywhere from 10 to 20 sessions or 3 to 5 months.
Short-term treatments became popular in the 1950s after behavioral and family therapies became more popular. These therapies took a more direct approach to mental health problems than psychodynamics did. In the 1980s, when studies showed that short-term treatments were helpful, they became even more popular.
Short-term treatments include the following:
- Treatment Based on Thoughts and Actions (CBT). It works by letting the person know they are upset and slowly exposing them to things that make them upset so they can get used to them. CBT works well for obsessive-compulsive disorder, in particular (OCD).
- Psychodynamics of the Short-Term. Classic psychodynamics tries to look at the patient’s life more completely and thoughtfully. Short-term psychodynamics, however, looks at more specific parts of their lives, such as their defense mechanisms and relationships. Focusing on certain parts of their lives, short-term psychodynamics tries to help the patient see which patterns of behavior are no longer helpful and where they might profit from trying new ways to react to their internal and external worlds. Emotional phobias react well to short-term psychodynamic theory when the person has a lot of anxiety because of a certain emotional situation.
- The Gestalt method. Gestalt psychotherapy is a more humanistic approach that looks at how each person sees their life experience as unique. Gestalt therapy is a validating method that tries to make the patient’s actions and feelings match up so they can feel like all the parts of their lives fit together. Gestalt has been shown to help people with anxiety and problems in their relationships feel better.