What Is Talk Therapy & The Benefits
Updated March 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Talk therapy is one of the most widely used types of therapy, and for a good reason. Having a trusted person to talk to is very important for one's mental health and overall happiness. When that person is a trained therapist who can offer you valuable insight and helpful suggestions, the benefits are even greater.
Talk therapy benefits millions of people, and almost anyone can benefit from the simple, life-changing therapy. But what exactly is talk therapy?
What Is Talk Therapy?
Talk therapy, as the name suggests, is therapy based on the simple idea that talking about your thoughts and emotions can bring you clarity and cause a positive change in your emotions. It is also known as psychotherapy. Talk therapy is what most people think of when they hear the word therapist or counselor: a conversation between a person and a therapist, discussing the person's thoughts or challenges and working together to find insights and solutions.
People with a range of different mental or emotional challenges can all benefit from talk therapy. According to the American Psychological Association, people who receive psychotherapy are better able to function in their daily lives.
A Brief History Of Talk Therapy
Sigmund Freud was one of the early pioneers of psychotherapy and popularized his psychoanalysis methods around the beginning of the 20th century. Though psychoanalysis differs from general psychotherapy, Freud did hit the mark on certain things. He made many contributions to the field of psychology and was a believer in the power of talking to the patient about their thoughts and providing them interpretations of these thoughts.
Today, talk therapy is less focused on dreams and the subconscious mind and more on one's present realities and any challenges they face. But, the general idea that the patient is talking about these things can help bring them clarity remains.
Freud's psychoanalysis methods remained popular throughout the early 1900s. Around the 1950s, more active therapies arose. Behavioral therapy became more common, and cognitive behavioral therapy was established. Psychotherapy continued to grow and evolve to fit modern needs. Today, talk therapy is practiced online as well as in the traditional in-person format, as a way to meet the needs of today's busy and technology-oriented society.
Another of the most important ways in which psychotherapy has evolved is that it no longer requires a large time commitment. Modern psychotherapy can certainly help people with their immediate problems and is as effective as newer therapies like CBT.
Approaches To Talk Therapy
Psychotherapy encompasses a broad range of sub-specialties.The different approaches to talking therapy follow a different theory of psychology. Most psychologists do not only utilize one therapy but will mix methods to provide patients with an integrative therapy experience. Some of the most common approaches to talk therapy include:
Psychoanalysis: The goal of psychoanalysis is to change the patient's problematic thoughts, emotions, and behaviors by focusing on their mind to find the uncovered meanings of their actions. Psychoanalysis has evolved since the early days of Freud, but the basic concept of exploring one's inner mind to bring about positive change remains the same.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: While behavior therapy is more of active therapy, when combined with cognitive therapy, the two form a very popular and helpful therapy for many people. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts influence our feelings which influences our behavior. Thus, psychologists will work with patients to change their thoughts, with the goal of ultimately modifying their behavior. CBT employs both talk therapy as well as some behavioral components, such as exposure therapy.
Types Of Talk Therapy
In addition to the different theories of psychotherapy, there are multiple ways in which one can choose to undergo talk therapy.
Individual: One-on-one talk therapy between a patient and counselor. Many people prefer this type of therapy if they have things they do not feel comfortable sharing with other people.
Group Therapy: A talk therapy session with two or more patients present. Some group therapies are for people suffering from the same condition or struggle, like alcohol rehabilitation groups. Patients can learn from one another's experiences, and some people may find comfort in knowing that others are also struggling with similar challenges.
Marital or Couples Therapy: Marital or couples therapy is designed to help people in a relationship better understand and communicate with eachother or overcome challenges in their relationship. Some couples choose to undergo therapy not because of any problem, but because they want to get to know each other better on an emotional level. There should never be any shame in going to couples therapy; any couple can benefit from increased understanding and communication.
Family Therapy: Family therapy is typically conducted when someone in the family is struggling with a mental illness or other emotional problems. The family will attend therapy together to understand better how to support this member of the family or work out any conflicts that have arisen between family members.
Who Can Benefit From Talk Therapy?
Anyone can benefit from talk therapy. Regardless of if you are suffering from any emotional distress, talking about your thoughts and emotions is a helpful way to process them. But, some people and conditions are an especially good fit for talk therapy, such as:
Depression: Talk therapy is useful for helping people figure out how to handle their emotions on a daily basis. It is especially important for depression because the therapist can look out for signs of worsening symptoms, and make sure the patient stays on top of their treatment. For people with depression, talk therapy combined with medication therapy is a very effective treatment.
Addiction: Battling addiction is an incredibly challenging situation. People overcoming addiction can greatly benefit from talk therapy, whether individually with a counselor or in a group setting. A therapist and group can help the person learn how to handle the struggles that accompany addiction, and give them a sense of both accountability and support.
Bipolar Disorder: This condition can cause someone to experience a wide range of emotions on a regular basis. Talk therapy can help the person understand these emotions and better function on a daily basis despite troubling emotions or thoughts. Talk therapy is also a useful way to stay motivated to adhere to one's medication therapy.
Couples: As mentioned above, marital and couples therapy is a great way for partners to improve their understanding of one another and strengthen their bond. Couples talk therapy can help partners learn things about one another and how to best help each other through challenging situations. It can also be an effective way to resolve any conflicts in the relationship and be able to move on from them rather than letting them deepen.
Benefits Of Talk Therapy
The conditions mentioned about can certainly be helped with talk therapy. But, really anyone can benefit from talk therapy, regardless of if they are living with a specific mental health condition. In addition to relieving symptoms of depression or another condition, there are benefits of talk therapy that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Clarity: One of the most useful aspects of talk therapy is that it helps people find clarity with their thoughts and emotions. Through talk therapy, you may realize why you have certain emotional triggers, or why you hold on to certain negative feelings. Regardless of their overall happiness level, most people have some things that they struggle with emotionally. Talk therapy is a great way to let it out and have a trained professional offer you insight on your feelings, to help bring a greater sense of mental clarity and peace so you can improve yourself.
Support: Everyone needs people they can lean on in hard times. In addition to friends and family, a therapist who you see for talk therapy can be a valuable addition to your support team. A therapist is someone who you can always speak to openly about your struggles, without any fear of judgment. They can offer valuable insight and suggestions on how to feel better or get through a hard time. More than just an open ear to listen to your problems, therapists are trained to offer advice and help you through them.
Self Care: The self-care movement is booming, but sometimes people forget to mention mental health. Warm baths and home cooked meals are wonderful things to incorporate into your life, but taking care of your mind and emotions is even more important. Working with a therapist to clear up any lingering negative thoughts or emotions you have, or to work on a more serious mental condition, should be seen as an important aspect of self-care. Deciding to participate in talk therapy means that you do not want to be held back by negative thoughts or any hard times in life. Talk therapy can help you feel your best and learn coping methods to make it easier to get through life's curve balls and challenges.
Good mental health affects all areas of your life and should be a priority for everyone. If you would like to see the difference talk therapy can make in your life or relationship, get started by working with an online therapist. Online talk therapy is a convenient, simple way to experiment with talk therapy and learn how it can improve your life.