In what ways can we be helped?
Working with a mental health professional is not the same for all people. Depending on the problem that bothers us and us as individuals, work with an expert can have different goals, but also different ways to reach that goal. Different people like different approaches. Some may prefer group therapy, and some individual. Some may have a busy schedule, so they don’t like frequent sessions, and some may prefer to meet online, while others prefer face-to-face therapy. But how can a mental health professional actually help us?
- They can work with us to improve self–confidence
- They can make plans with us on how to deal with life’s problems, and how to strengthen our problem–solving skills and how to establish life goals
- They can help us look at life situations from a different perspective and teach us how to develop adequate emotional responses to those situations, and how to behave when we find ourselves in those situations.
What forms of help are available to us at all?
You’ve probably heard the joke that going for coffee with friends is like therapy or that waiters are folk psychologists who listen to our problems. But as we mentioned in the previous article, it is always better to seek professional help in dealing with psychological difficulties. Even if we just need someone to listen to us and offer general advice, a mental health professional will probably be able to do it better than people who haven’t spent years and years specializing in helping people. In the case of minor problems on a daily basis, we may simply find counseling useful, whether face-to-face, online or over the phone. With this approach, we can get some basic instructions on how to deal with what is bothering us. If we are ready for deeper and more concrete work on problems, the best option available to us is psychotherapy. In the event that the mental health professional we contact deems it necessary, pharmacotherapy may be available in addition to psychotherapy.
If we want to start working actively on our mental health, the surest first step would be to consult with our doctor, who will direct us further in the direction of psychological assessment. After that, the psychologist can recommend us what our next steps are, and who to contact next to start therapy or counseling.
How to choose what suits us best?
When we decide to start psychotherapy, a new challenge appears in the form of choosing the type of therapy and psychotherapist. Different people will work differently with different psychotherapists. Likewise, not all directions of psychotherapy treat all mental difficulties equally well. Psychotherapeutic directions are many and varied, but we will list only the most most used ones.
- Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy is probably one of the oldest approaches. At its core is the work of changing problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through confrontation with what lies beneath our consciousness. Psychoanalysts believe that most of our motivation and the roots of all problems lie outside the part of consciousness that is available to us. At the heart of this approach is an extremely close relationship between therapy participants and therapists.
- Cognitive therapy focuses primarily on what people think. Cognitivists believe that wrong thoughts are responsible for unacceptable behaviors and feelings. They believe that dysfunction of feelings and behavior is solved by “correcting” dysfunctional thoughts.
- Behavioral therapy focuses observable behaviors, both normal and abnormal. Classical behavioral therapy seeks to modify behaviors through various forms of learning and desensitization.
- The collaboration of behavioral and cognitive therapy creates an extremely popular approach, cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on a balanced approach to both thoughts and behaviors, and how they affect our daily lives. It is primarily focused on specific problems, has a strong structure, can be evaluated and measured, involves the active cooperation of therapist and client, is based on common sense, it places extreme importance on what is “now” and not what is in the past, and has a great focus on homework.
- Humanistic therapy approaches the individual as a rational person who is able to make life decisions aimed at realizing their potential, and focuses on caring for others. The best known approaches to humanistic therapy are client–oriented therapy, in which the therapist diminishes the role of self as authority, gestalt therapy, which focuses on self-awareness and acceptance of responsibility for what we do, and existential therapy with a focus on free will, self-determination and searching for meaning.
- Integrative (holistic) therapy seeks to integrate elements of all other approaches into one comprehensive system that aims to help as wide a range of people as possible.
Education about the forms of help available is extremely helpful, given the handful of different ways we can work on mental health issues. The only approach that is not recommended is to avoid dealing with the problem, so if you suspect that there is a threat to your mental health, we hope that you will decide to seek adequate help as soon as possible.
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