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A Beginner’s Guide to Therapy: Because It is a Thing You Can Do

Think it might be time to talk to someone, but aren’t sure who? Here’s the lowdown on what’s available...

According to WHO, 7.5% of India suffers from some form of mental disorder. And that figure is likely much lower than the stark reality. With hardly any info available, how do you know what the right treatment for you looks like, especially when you’re in the midst of a dark cloud? There are a bunch of treatments out there, so we’ve decoded all that’s on offer before you make the leap. Remember, no matter what route you take, therapists don’t have a magic wand and it’s important to approach the process with a willingness to work if you want to see results. Do your research, then decide what’s best from what’s available...

 

HYPNOTHERAPY

What is it? Forget swinging pocket watches. Sessions involve being guided into a relaxed state, imagining various scenarios (ranging from those that evoke an extreme response in you to you picturing a ‘safe place’) and listening to suggestions. You’ll remain in full control throughout. “Your hypnotherapist will ease you into focused concentration, similar to meditation, and though people talk of ‘going under’, you won’t be ‘under’ for the whole session,” explains Darren Marks, hypnotherapy instructor for the International Association Of Counselors & Therapists in the US. “It has a wave-like quality—you’ll be absorbed one minute, distracted the next.” By this point, your brain should be more adapted to change.

Who should get it? Anybody hoping to quit smoking or conquer a phobia. The British Medical Association also once described it as the “treatment of choice” for dealing with anxiety and stress-related disorders. Trials suggest it can help with physical issues like irritable bowel syndrome, too—with 71% of patients responding positively in one study. It can also help with chronic pain and some sleep disorders.

Any downsides? By law, hypnotherapists aren’t required to have any specific training—so be sure to do your homework before booking in, and look for someone who’s accredited. It’s also unsuitable for anybody suffering from psychosis or personality disorders.

 

COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)

What is it? “In CBT, we look at how the way someone thinks and behaves may be causing or exacerbating a particular difficulty and how to change those patterns,” explains Dr Victoria Galbraith, a registered counselling psychologist in the UK. After your first session, your therapist will set clear goals and help you achieve them by breaking problems down into: situations, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions. You’ll learn coping techniques and may be given worksheets to complete later.

Who should get it? Anybody concerned with how they’re thinking and acting, including those experiencing an eating disorder, depression and panic attacks, rather than those attempting to resolve past issues. Exposure therapy is also a form of CBT, helpful for those with OCD and severe phobias, and involves you facing your fears in manageable ways (for instance, if your fear is spiders, your therapist may suggest you read about them, then later show you pictures). As CBT is structured around the individual’s targets, a course can be completed in a relatively short time, so it may be a more suitable approach if you’re self-funding. It’s great for stopping negative thought patterns and cycles.

Any downsides? Homework—such as noting down your feelings and practising techniques—so you need to commit to see a change. It’s not a long-term solution, and you may need more sessions later.

 

GROUP THERAPY

What is it? A term for working with a therapist with other people who are experiencing similar issues. 

Who should get it? Find the idea of a one-on-one session a bit intense? This could be the right route for you. Plus, there’s the added bonus of potentially bonding with others facing parallel difficulties. Group therapy can be especially good for people with specific problems, such as addiction.

Any downsides? The idea of sharing your problems with strangers might feel intimidating, but most people open up after the first few sessions.

 

COUNSELLING

What is it? Not to be dismissed as a wishy-washy chat over tea, counselling is one of the more common solutions offered at GPs. It’s a branch of talking therapy that involves finding ways to cope with emotional issues. Counselling is seen as short-term, for current situations. Psychotherapy (which works in a similar style) delves into your past, to ID why you behave in a certain way.

Who should get it? It’s recommended for difficult life events, such as divorce or bereavement, as well as work-related stress, sexual-identity struggles and upsetting physical health conditions, such as infertility. It also works well for evaluating traumas, emotional problems, and tackling challenging life events.

Any downsides? Chemistry with your counsellor is important and if you don’t gel, raise your concerns with them or look for another.

 

MENTAL-HEALTH APPS

What are they? There are multiple new apps that claim to help with everything from breathing techniques to mindfulness (the practice of bringing awareness to the present).

Who should get them? Those short on time or who live in remote areas, making it difficult to access treatments and sessions. Apps are also a good way of dipping your toe into therapy before committing to paid sessions. Many apps focus on managing panic attacks (Beat Panic), the urge to self-harm (Calm Harm) or unhelpful thoughts (Chill Panda), while Thrive uses games to track your mood and to teach methods of dealing with stress and anxiety.

Any downsides? With so many apps out there, it can be hard to know which one is best for you.

 

Things It’s Totally Normal to Feel In Therapy

London-based Dr Carina Eriksen offers some words of reassurance.

 

‘I’ve completely lost the plot’

Once you learn how to manage your problem, you should begin to feel more grounded and in control.

 

‘I don’t want it to end’

Your therapist will show you how to self-practice the skills you’ve learned. Remember, the aim isn’t to be in therapy forever.

 

‘I feel self-indulgent’

 If you had a chest infection, you’d probably see your doc and take the prescribed medication to get better. Psychological problems, like physical ones, need our attention and care, too.

 

‘I’m a sh*tty person’

This kind of thinking is often the problem itself. Remember: just because you think something, doesn’t make it true.

 

‘I love/hate my therapist

Therapists are only human. If you have any concerns about the relationship, raise them at your next session.

 

‘It’s not working’

Your concerns shrouded in mystery. Regularly discuss with your therapist how the sessions are going and if anything can be improved.

 

‘I’m weak and should be able to solve my own problems

Everyone needs support at some point in their lives. It takes courage to admit we need help, and this is the first step to getting better.