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Therapy

by Sarah Horrocks Published on 13 June 2008

Seeking therapy was taboo a few years ago, but not any longer. Anyone, at some times in their lives, can go through certain psychological problems that can push us to seek specialist advice. When should you see a therapist, what sort of therapy should you undertake and how do you choose a therapist? Here's our advice.

When to seek therapy
There are many reasons people seek professional help for psychological problems, but there are no good or bad reasons to see a therapist: feeling ill at ease is the start. Among the most common motives are:
- Personal difficulties, anxiety, persistant stress, passing or more serious depression, and general difficulty fulfilling your potential.
- Difficulty overcoming certain events, such as loss of a loved one, serious illness, professional failure, or separation.
- Difficult relationships with others (family, work or relationship conflict, or even problems integrating into society).
- Sexual problems, resentment in a relationship, lack of desire, infidelity.
- As a goal to evolve personally, better understand your strengths and weaknesses, discover blockages, better control your life and make decisions.

Too often, individuals feel that their problems are only passing or that they can deal with them with the support of family and friends. Worse still, some prefer to close themselves off in their solitude. However, professional help can be essential in dealing with a crisis properly. Effective therapy is ususally spread out over 6 to 18 months, and if the problems reveal a need to look deeper into things then psychoanalysis is advised as a form of support therapy. Sessions can vary between 1 to 3 a week, depending on the case.

What therapy to choose?
From depression to anxiety attacks through to relationship problems, forms of therapy to deal with different issues vary. Psychotherapeutic approaches or psychotherapy is more and more common. There are 6 rough categories of therapy:

Interpretative therapies include psychotherapy, psychoanalytical therapy, brief psychotherapy and psychodynamic psychoanalysis. They attempt to solve specific deep-seated problems, or simply help the patient in their goal of personal development.
Cognitive and behavioural therapy helps solve phobias, OCD, eating disorders and depression, as well as certain addictions.
Group therapy allows participants to identify the way they function in relation to others, to improve their self confidence or to learn how to integrate better (to overcome shyness, social phobia, aggression etc.)
Family therapy addresses children who have serious problems (psychotic problems or eating disorders, for example) as well as the rest of their family, whom the problem affects. Relationship therapy and sex therapy also come under family therapy.
Gestalt therapy seeks to re-establish a good balance between the individual and their environment using a holistic approach. People who suffer from psychosomatic problems or who want to accept a particular situation (like bereavement or a break-up) can undertake personal development therapy or coaching. NLP (neuro linguistic programming) and hypnosis are also related.
Transversal psychotherapy involves a full body approach like sophrology, reflexology and relaxation, which ease problems like anxiety and stress.

How to choose a psychologist

It's strongly ill-advised to trust anyone who claims to be a therapist or look one up in the Yellow Pages. It’s better to ask your GP or your friends if they can recommend a specialist or someone reputable. But you still need to be careful: your best friend's therpaist might not suit you. Consider several and read up about psychologists - ask associations for help. After the first consultation, ask yourself whether you felt comfortable with the therapist, whether you trusted them and could talk to them in confidence. Don't forget that the patient-therapist relationship is essential to the success of sessions and healing. Also don’t forget to ask right at the start what the therapist's methods and specialisms are. Finally, be wary of ‘modern’ approaches that promise quick results and of sect-like groups.

Practical info

Psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts don't all give the same type of consultation and won't all have had the same training.

- Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who specialise in mental health.

- Psychologists have a degree in psychology and may have additional specialist experience e.g. clinical or educational psychology.

- Psychotherapists require no fromal qualifications (training can vary from weeks to years). Accredited therapists will belong to one of the professional bodies listed below.

Therapy is available on the NHS if you have been referred by your GP. In some parts of the country, referrals from other health professionals such as those working in schools may be accepted. There can be long waiting lists for NHS treatment so some people go private. The cost varies depending on the therapist (average £50 to £80 per hour). Other sources of free counselling are charities such as Cruse Bereavement Care. Fee sexual and relationship advice/counselling is vailable from GUM clinics, and low cost relationship/marriage counselling is available from Relate.

Useful links

- UK Council for Psychotherapy

www.psychoterapy.org.uk

Telephone number: 020 7014 9955

- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

www.bacp.co.uk

Telephone number: 0870 4435252

- British Psychological Society

www.bps.org.uk

telephone number: 0116 254 9568

- Royal College of Psychiatrists

www.rspsych.ac.uk

Telephone number: 020 7235 2351

- National Council of Psychotherapists

www.ncphq.co.uk

Telephone number: 0845 230 6072

- British Association of Psychotherapists

www.bap-psychoterapy.org

by Sarah Horrocks

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