Psychotherapy is a mental health treatment modality in which, by word or action, the personality and the behaviors that derive from it are modified in those aspects that are considered pathological, according to current scientific knowledge and globally recognized classifications.
Implicit and explicit psychotherapy
It is important to differentiate between implicit and explicit psychotherapy.
Implicit psychotherapy includes support for the patient’s personality, which is linked to health care, whatever the pathology, whether it is a somatic pathology or a psychic pathology, and can and should be carried out by all health professionals, each at his or her own level.
In the case of explicit psychotherapy or Psychotherapy in the strict sense of the word, a series of sessions are programmed to be applied both individually and in couple therapies or family therapies in mental disorders.
Uses of Psychotherapy
Explicit psychotherapy covers a multitude of pathologies, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and personality disorders, among many others.
The exceptions are dementias, except in very mild cases, psychiatric pathologies secondary to brain disorders, with severe affectation and, in general, people of very high age, because the possibilities of change in the personality structure are very low.
Generally, the professionals in charge of applying psychotherapeutic techniques are psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and nursing professionals with a specialty in mental health. Other physicians or psychologists who do not have the specialties described above, as well as nursing graduates, occupational therapists, social workers and nutritionists can also apply these techniques, as long as their work includes the care of patients with mental health problems and they have completed university specialization courses or courses at schools accredited by the National Federation of Psychotherapist Associations or other prestigious associations.
There are many modalities of psychotherapy, from the more traditional ones, such as group psychotherapy, psychoanalytic therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodramatic therapy or interpersonal therapy, among others; to other more recent therapies such as those based on mentalization, acceptance and commitment, minfullness, etc. All of them have demonstrated their clinical efficacy in certain pathologies, although it should be noted that the newer ones generally have more rigorous research to back them up.
Psychotherapy: duration of treatment
The ideal treatment should last 2 years, if the aim is to restructure the personality in depth in order to obtain a complete improvement and avoid relapses. Only in mild cases, or if care resources are limited, short psychotherapies are considered. In the latter case, the traits and behaviors that most affect the patient and his or her relationship with the environment can be addressed in a focused manner.
The result will depend on the severity of the disorder and on the use of techniques that have been proven to be effective in the pathology to be treated.
Myths about psychotherapy
There are numerous myths about explicit psychotherapy:
- Psychotherapy has to give results with a speed similar to drugs. Generally, it takes an average of 3 months to begin to see the first effects of this treatment.
- In the first interview it is not possible to assess whether the understanding with the psychotherapist is going to be positive. The patient should not be carried away by the first impressions, since it conditions that some users make, in a very short time, several changes of psychotherapist, delaying the beginning of the cure.
- There are psychotherapy modalities that work in all pathologies. This is not true and any professional who makes this claim when proposing treatment should be mistrusted.
- There are psychotherapists who claim to be experts in almost all modalities of psychotherapy. The training of a psychotherapist in a single technique is already very complex, so it is not possible to possess such an amount of knowledge and skills A psychotherapist should refer a patient when he/she does not master the appropriate technique/s to treat a pathology.