In the US, many people visit doctors for mental problems each year. And just like many physical ailments, these types of disorders are usually highly treatable.

Whether you are coping with a life transition, depression, loss, general anxiety, or more serious conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, chances are good that therapy can help.

What Kind of Therapy Should You Seek?

There are two primary types of therapy: medication and talk.

Medication Therapy

Medications are used for certain psychological conditions caused by a biochemical imbalance, such as depression and bipolar disorder. Medication can only be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist, and it is generally used along with talk therapy, so that psychological issues and biochemical problems may be treated at the same time.

Talk Therapies

Talk therapies, also known as counseling or psychotherapy, treat psychological or emotional problems through verbal communication. Although they are based on psychological theories, talk therapies also fulfill a very basic human need to share problems and connect with others.

Some types of counseling may be better suited to your particular issues, as well as your personality, time, and budget. Listed below are some of the most common types; however, keep in mind that most therapists tend to use a combination of one or more approaches.

Psychoanalysis

  • Description: developed by Sigmund Freud in the 1900s, psychoanalysis focuses on identifying repressed feelings and issues that influence current behavior. The process is complex and lengthy, and it is less widely used today.
  • Recommended for: problems stemming from childhood conflict

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

  • Description: focuses on examining and changing unhealthy thought processes that shape behavior patterns
  • Recommended for: depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse

Psychodynamic Therapy

  • Description: identifies and interprets unconscious feelings to bring about behavioral change. The effectiveness of this therapy is an area that needs to be studied more. Medication is usually part of this treatment.
  • Recommended for: people with certain personality disorders or chronic mental disorders

Couples, Marital, and Family Therapy

  • Description: This kind of counseling focuses on the interactions of a unit or system rather than individual members. This approach is based on the idea that the problems of an individual must be understood in the context of a larger system.
  • Recommended for: couples, families, children, or teens with emotional disorders, serious diseases, or who experienced traumatic events

Group Therapy

  • Description: one of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy, works toward self-understanding, self-acceptance, and modification of the problem behavior
  • Recommended for: adolescents and people who share similar diseases or disorders, such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, and eating disorders.

What Kind of Training Is Involved?

Be aware of your therapist's licensing and credentials. Read more about the various kinds of mental health practicioners.

Where Do You Get Help?

Most of the time, you will choose a therapist affiliated with your health plan. You may also check with your doctor, other community mental health agencies, local colleges or universities, hospitals, and government social service agencies for referrals.

What Should You Ask Your New Therapist?

As a therapy client, there are standard practices and procedures that you should expect. According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), your therapist should be able to inform you of:

  • Their credentials and qualifications, as well as areas of expertise
  • The purposes, goals, techniques, procedures, limitations, and potential risks and benefits associated with therapy
  • Matters of confidentiality, privacy, and disclosure of information
  • Financial arrangements prior to beginning the counseling relationship

How Do You Know When You're Finished?

In general, "individuals who are ready to end therapy usually feel that they have made progress. They feel more confident, hopeful, accepting, and aware of their emotions and needs. It may be easier for them to get along with others and to recognize and avoid pitfalls and self-defeating behavior," say Dianne Hales and Robert E. Hales in their book, Caring for the Mind.

Ultimately, though, the progress and termination of therapy will be your decision.