Choosing the best therapy
There are a multitude of psychological therapies available to the public these days that it can be rather confusing and mind-boggling to sift through all the options to decide which is best for you. The aim of this article is to help you simplify that process, so you can make a more confident and informed decision about your treatment, and finally take control of your mental health issues.
When people decide to seek professional help, most have no idea what kind of counselling or therapy they will be getting as they usually leave it up to their doctor or treating psychologist to work it out for them. Here in Australia, among the most commonly-known psychological therapies are Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness, and Hypnotherapy. Although there are a plethora of treatment approaches available, there seems to be a lack of awareness of what choices there are apart from these few ‘brands’.
Just like any other product or service, you first need to ask yourself what it is that you want to get out of therapy; what is your desired outcome? From my experience of working with clients, there are two main groups of people who come into therapy: (a) those wanting to better manage their presenting problems; and (b) those wanting to fully resolve their issues. The first group is typically concerned with symptoms they experience such as constant anxiety or sadness, or persistent worrying thoughts. All they want is to get it under control at a manageable level so they can move on with their lives with minimal fuss. A very good example of people who fall under the first group are teenagers. Teenagers in general tend to look for quick fixes which don’t require much time, effort or exposure to hurtful feelings. The second group though, are usually those who have reflected over their personal issues across life and want to find a way to get to the root of the problems so they do not keep tormenting them. I have found in my practice that clients of this nature tend to be in the age range of 30 and over. As you can obviously see, these two groups of people differ in their needs and priorities, and therein lies the key to choosing which therapy is best for you.
Based on current understanding of neuroscience, modern psychotherapy approaches can be divided into two broad categories or types. In his book “Unlocking The Emotional Brain”, Psychotherapist Bruce Ecker and his colleagues state that therapy approaches today can be grouped into those that are Counteractive, and those that are Transformative. Counteractive therapies aim to control and counteract the problematic mental health symptoms with a range of strategies. These strategies could be relaxation & breathing exercises, emotional control techniques, meditation, reframing thought patterns, or any other action to contain the problem. Examples of such therapies are CBT, Mindfulness and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). On the other hand, transformative therapies adopt an inside-out approach; creating change in the deeper emotional centres of the brain which then have a flow-on effect to various aspects of psychological and emotional functioning. In other words, it addresses the underlying (core) problem/s, thereby clearing up the presenting symptoms in the process. Once issues have been resolved, there will no longer be any need to continually counter or cope with high levels of emotional distress because those previously intense disturbances will cease to exist. Examples of therapies that facilitate these changes include Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), Coherence Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Just to illustrate the difference between these two groups of therapies, say you have a leaking roof. You could take one of two actions:
1) Contain the leak. You could do this by placing a bucket under the leak, which would require you to periodically empty the bucket. (This is the counteractive method).
2) Stop the leak. You would do this by getting the roof replaced or fixed, which would resolve the problem once and for all. (This is the transformative method).
I hope this discussion has given you a better understanding of the psychological therapies available and what you can expect them to help you achieve.