Maintaining excellent mental health is essential for leading a happy life. After all, it impacts how humans feel, think, and live. So, it is no surprise that mental health counselors apply various clinical approaches to treat cognitive issues such as depression and anxiety or to change self-defeating behaviors and manage emotions better.
However, mental health counselors must first understand the different therapy modalities to improve a patient’s well-being. Doing so empowers mental health professionals to observe how one approach fits an individual’s needs and aids in choosing the most suitable and personalized therapy modality.
What works well for one patient might not deliver similar results to the next. Therefore, understanding how multiple therapy modalities differ allows mental health professionals to combine them into a treatment plan for positive patient outcomes and makes it easier to invest in their mental health. Keep reading as this article tackles different therapy modalities that mental health counselors use to combat the country’s long-standing mental health crisis.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that concentrates on changing thinking patterns. This treatment modality is often used and researched by medical staff who have earned a doctorate in counseling online from a leading academic institution, such as American International College (AIC). Students who study the program offered by AIC can learn how to turn research into evidence-based practice to help tackle the poor mental health of young patients.
CBT is used by professionals to help manage depression, anxiety disorders, and severe mental illness. It is based on the core principles that psychological issues are based on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking and learned patterns of unhelpful behavior. CBT uses multiple strategies, such as the following:
- Recognizing one’s distortions in thinking that are creating issues and reassessing them considering reality.
- Gaining a better understanding of the patient’s behavior and motivation.
- Using problem-solving skills to deal with challenging scenarios.
- Helping patients develop more confidence by facing their fears instead of avoiding them.
- Using role-playing situations to prepare patients with potentially problem-ridden interactions with others.
CBT allows patients to work with their licensed mental health professional to understand the issues and create a treatment strategy. While CBT cannot cure the physical symptoms, it has effectively treated various mental health conditions. PubMed Central suggests that CBT is roughly 50%-75% effective in helping patients overcome depression and anxiety. Depending on the mental health professional, CBT is conducted once weekly or every two weeks, with treatments lasting between six to 20 sessions.
Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is another treatment modality used by mental health professionals. AAT uses trained animals such as horses, cats, and dogs to assist calm and comfort patients in overcoming bouts of loneliness and stressful situations. The strategies of this treatment modality depend on the patient, the chosen animal, and the treatment objectives.
AAT builds on the concept known as the human-animal bond, which describes people’s ability to communicate and relate to animals. Along with the mental health counselor and the animal, patients conduct goal-based therapeutic tasks with measurable objectives. This therapy treats various psychological conditions such as autism, addiction, depression, and stress.
According to a recent study, AAT has effectively treated generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, general anxiety, social anxiety, and specific anxiety issues among preschool children. A separate study added that animal therapy can also alleviate post-traumatic disorder symptoms. Mental health counselors often recommend and administer animal therapy to treat various conditions along with unique goals for each person.
Dialectical behavior therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a psychotherapy based on CBT but is especially adapted for individuals experiencing intense emotions. It concentrates on helping individuals accept the reality of their lives and behaviors and assists them in learning how to change their unhelpful behaviors. DBT was initially intended to treat borderline personality disorder, but it has since been adapted to treat other mental health issues.
The counselor’s role in DBT is to help patients balance acceptance and change. When an individual accepts troubling behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that they struggle with, it makes change possible and allows for a gradual recovery. Counselors also assist patients in developing new skills, coping methods, and practices to eliminate unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Like CBT, patients undergoing DBT are often asked to practice these innovative methods of thinking and behaving as assignments between sessions.
Dissimilar to other treatment modalities, DBT helps patients develop mindfulness skills. This helps them live in the moment or focus on the present. Doing so allows patients to pay attention to what is happening inside them and use their senses to tune in to what is happening around them. When patients can slow down and concentrate on the present, they can stay calm and avoid engaging in negative taught patterns and impulsive behaviors.
Psychodynamic therapy (PDT) is an approach that embraces several aspects of an individual’s life and strives to understand the sometimes unconscious or unknown motivations behind challenging feelings and behaviors. In this approach, the patient will transfer their feelings and emotions toward someone or onto the mental health professional, and the therapist will redirect these feelings back toward the patient. Ultimately, PDT helps individuals determine self-defeating behaviors and uncover new ways of being.
The relationship between the mental health counselor and the patient is essential in psychodynamic therapy. This is because it provides a container for the patient to gain insights into themselves, their feelings, and their past actions. This allows them to understand how they view the world and how all these factors impact their experiences. It often uses open-ended queries and free association to allow patients to discuss whatever is on their minds.
Bringing these associations to patients’ minds allows them to overcome unhealthy feelings and behaviors. PDT is useful for treating BPD, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. According to PubMed Central, psychodynamic therapy models are roughly 80% to 85% effective in treating anxiety and depression. However, it can be time-consuming since PDT concentrates on relationships and understanding thoughts and feelings. On average, data show that short-term PDT lasts for approximately 25 to 30 sessions over six to eight months, while long-term sessions can span a year or over 50 sessions.
Choosing the right treatment modality for each patient Effectively
Understanding various treatment modalities is the initial step to choosing the proper treatment for patients. By selecting the most appropriate treatment, mental health professionals can help patients overcome their respective issues and meet therapeutic goals for healthy living.