I Am #Fearless, Mental Illness
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An Overview of Therapy Options

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When you’re first looking into therapy as an option to help you manage your mental health, there are a lot of questions. What kind of therapy should I pursue? How will it help me? How do I find a therapist that specializes in my specific struggles?

Usually, the answer to those questions are spread out across the vast lands of the internet, leading you on a wild goose chase to find simple answers to burning questions. Starting therapy can be a nerve wracking experience, with or without the hours of tedious research, so #Fearless decided to make your life easier and we compiled all the prevalent therapy options in one article for you.

So, here are the types of therapy you will likely encounter for your mental health journey:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Probably one of the most common forms of therapy used to treat mental health issues, CBT is a great first step for most people. I’ve written an article on CBT before, predominantly with how it helps people with emetophobia, but this time I’ll try to be a little more broad.

CBT was originally called CEBT, which stands for cognitive emotional behavioral therapy, and was developed for individuals with eating disorders. Now, CBT is used for a wide variety of mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD eating disorders, panic disorders and anger management problems, to name a few. Because of it’s effectiveness for many of the most prevalent mental health diagnoses, it’s usually the first encounter with therapy many people have.

In technical terms, CBT is a “form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do.” But, in simpler terms, it is a type of therapy that teaches you how to change your perspective about yourself, your mental health and the world to more a positive and emotionally productive one. It also helps teach and equip you with the skills you need to manage your symptoms, if and/or when they arise.

However, the most beneficial part to CBT is how it begins to teach you how much control you actually have over your mental health. Many people, when they first start out, feel utterly helpless in managing their symptoms, and often times feels as if the mental illness is controlling them. Through CBT, you begin to chip away at this perception, allowing you to start noticing your early warning signs, and to take action long before it gets to the point it seems uncontrollable.

Most, if not all, licensed therapist can administer CBT, so finding a therapist for this type of therapy should not be difficult. For more information on CBT, you can cilck on any of the following links:

What is CBT | Beck Institute
Psychotherapy | NAMI
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) | NHS Choices

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)
If you have ever done CBT before for anxiety or phobias, you’ve probably had a little bit of ERP. This because ERP is a facet of CBT, and is really great for people with anxieties, phobias and OCD. In fact, it’s become a gold standard for treating patients with OCD.

The idea for ERP is fairly simple. Patients, with the help of a licensed therapist, will slowly start exposing themselves to the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make them anxious or start obsessions. Once this begins, you make a conscious decision to not engage in your normal compulsive behaviors, and ultimately are instructed to sit in the anxiety until it passes.

What this does is show you that you can have a thought, get anxious, not do your compulsion, and still be okay. The process of exposure is usually done by creating a fear hierarchy, which allows the patient and the therapist to work together to make a list of triggering moments to tackle. They are usually listed from least scary to most scary, and the patient does not move on to the next ladder rung until the anxiety and response is virtually gone from the first.

ERP takes a lot of time, patience and persistence, but this method of treatment has been proven time and time again to work for those who put in the effort. Many people who haven’t done therapy may have tried to confront their anxieties on their own, but ultimately found it “didn’t work” or “only made it worse.” This is because they likely didn’t possess the skills to cope with the anxiety once it hit. This is why ERP is usually done together with CBT, to allow the maximum progress to be made.

But, the biggest determining factor of successful ERP is going into to ready to let go of your fears. You have to be willing to consciously decide not to engage in your compulsions. This can be a tiring process, but once the methodology clicks, you’ll never look back.

If you’d like to read more on ERP, you can click on any of the folllowing links:

Exposure and Response Prevention | IOCDF.org
CAHM: Treatments for OCD | CAMH.ca
ERP Therapy – A Good Choice for Treating OCD | MentalHealthHelp

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)
Although it’s a lesser known form of therapy, EMDR is becoming increasingly popular among people searching for relief from constant distress due to mental illness. EMDR was originally used to help people with traumatic memories and PTSD, but now it can be used to help treat a wide variety of mental health issues like anxiety, phobias, panic disorders and depression. But, what makes EMDR incredibly unique is that it usually takes less time for people struggling with impairments to recover than with other therapy methods.

So, EMDR works to essentially relieve “affective distress, reformulate negative beliefs, and reduce psychological arousal.” Of course, that’s in fancy talk. What this means for normal people is with the help of a trained EMDR therapist, you can begin to reduce the anxiety/panic/overall distress you feel on a daily basis, take negative beliefs – such as I’m not good enough, I’m out of control, or I’m a failure – and restructure them to fit a more positive belief – like I’m worthy or I can handle this – and reduce the anxiety/panic reaction in further exposures.

EMDR is done through eye movements, tapping or vibrations, that mimic what the brain endures during REM sleep. While you do these sets of eye movements, your therapist will instruct you to focus on a memory, the emotions/sensations you feel, and the negative belief (all decided on prior to processing). Then, the magic happens.

The processing is different for everyone. Some people will only get sensations, some will only see pictures (like a movie or as if they are flipping through a Rolodex). Other times, it’ll be a combination of all of it. But, if you relax, trust the process, and your therapist, you will reap the biggest benefits from your sessions. EMDR has been proven time and time again to relieve extreme distress in patients.

This therapy, as I’ve explained to countless people, works in mysterious ways. It will likely seem to not be working, sometimes for weeks, and then one day something just clicks. What usually triggered you won’t have nearly the same response, and you’ll ultimately all of a sudden start feeling like a new and improved person.

Finding a therapist who is trained in EMDR is difficult, but not impossible. You would need to specifically ask when reaching out for therapy if their office has someone who practices EMDR. You can also search this database to find EMDR certified therapists in your area.

To read more on EMDR, you can click on any of the following links:

What is EMDR? | EMDR Institute
What Is EMDR? | Trauma Recovery
EMDR: Taking a Closer Look | Scienfitic American

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
DBT is a type of therapy that I just recently became more familiar with in a series of new struggles I’ve been facing in therapy. The best way to sum up DBT is in one simple sentence: “Ride the wave.”

This form of therapy was created in hopes to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it did, quickly becoming the gold standard for managing BPD. But, it has quickly become an integral part of therapy for other types of mental illnesses too.

In DBT, you are taught four very important skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. Most of all, DBT focuses on accepting patients for how they are in the present, while also acknowledging their need for change. Once these goals have been set, the therapist will prioritize treatment in the following order based on what the client needs: life threatening behaviors, therapy interfering behavior, quality of life behaviors and skill acquisition.

My own personal experience with DBT came in the form of a phobia of feeling sadness. I had to learn to not just let sadness flow, but also manage the distressing emotions that came with the sadness. I didn’t realize what I was doing was DBT until much later down the road, but this form of therapy is great for teaching you personal acceptance, but also realizing that my behaviors are making it impossible for me to be who I am truly meant to be.

Because of my unfamiliarity to this specific type of therapy, it is a bit harder for me to speak on it’s benefits. However, there have been countless studies that have shown it’s effectiveness in the therapeutic setting, and it’s been praised as one of the best psychotherapy methods for people with not only BPD, but depression, anxiety and substance issues.

If you’d like to read more on DBT, you can click any of the following links:

What is DBT? | BehavioralTech
An Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy | PsychCentral
Dialectical Behavior Therapy | GoodTherapy

Hypnotherapy
This is another one that I’m not extremely familiar with because I’ve never done it, but is one that many people have claimed they have tried to help reduce the stress that comes with mental illness, or even smoking. Most people are very aware of what hypnosis is, but I’m not sure as many people understand how it works.

Hypnosis works to help put the patient into a trance-like state, allowing for the mind and body to relax. During a session, you will feel more at ease, and are then more susceptible to suggestion, making it a prime time to work on overcoming fears, habits and reducing pain. This is done because in the very relaxed state, your conscious mind becomes less alert, and you are opening yourself up to dealing with your subconscious.

Hypnotherapy is more complex than it’s sometimes made out to be, and there are several stages that come with a hypnosis session: re-framing the problem, becoming relaxed and then absorbed, dissociating, responding, returning to usual awareness, and reflecting on the experience.

However, it is very important that before beginning hypnotherapy, you know exactly what it is you’d like to treat and that you are doing it with a licensed hypnotherapist. This is because hypnotherapy is not meant to be a “let’s relax and explore” kind of therapy. Hypnotherapy works best when you have a specific problem, complaint or habit that you need addressing, and is as narrowed down as possible.

If you’d like to learn more about hypnotherapy, you can click on any of the following links:

What is Hypnosis and How Does Hypnotherapy Work? | Oxford Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy | Unveristy of Maryland Medical Center
Find A Therapist | National Hypnotherapy Society

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
IPT is a type of therapy that has been proven to help people with depression, as it helps people focus on interpersonal issues, something that many people with depression struggle with. The hope is that people engaging in this therapy will learn how to improve their communication with others, and ultimately improve how they relate with people.

The only catch to IPT therapy is it’s short term, and it’s meant to be that way. Typically IPT therapy takes 6-20 sessions, depending on the severity, and a therapist will work with the patient intensely to help them begin to identify their emotions, express those emotions, and deal with emotional baggage that comes with depression.

The reason it focuses so much on this is because even if your depression was not caused by interpersonal relationships, interpersonal relationships do suffer when a person struggles with depression.

Before beginning IPT, your therapist will likely do an interview, and will help you identify the issues you feel are the most important to help you recover. Then, you will work with them for one hour, once a week, for up to 20 weeks. Once the sessions are over, you will likely be directed to another form of psychotherapy, like CBT, DBT, or EMDR to manage your symptoms.

IPT will help push you outside of your comfort level, allowing you to start interacting with people again, and encouraging you to start connecting with yourself too. The great thing though is that while IPT is a gold standard for depression, it can also help treat a variety of other mental health issues, including: bipolar, BPD, dysthymia, eating disorders, panic disorders and substance abuse.

If you’d like to read more on IPT, you can click any of the following links:

Interpersonal Therapy | HealthLine
About Interpersonal Therapy | PsychCentral
Interpersonal Therapy – What Is It? | CRC Health

So there you have it, a comprehensive list of some of the most common and popular methods of therapy. I hope that this has been as informative to you as it was for me, because I personally wasn’t very familiar with half of these treatments prior to writing this. Did we forget one that you’d like us to look into? Let us know in the comments!

As always, if you are ever in true crisis and need immediate assistance, please visit a local crisis center, your local emergency room, or call a hotline. The information for a crisis hotline can be found here: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US) or, for those not in the states, Suicide Hotline in the UK.

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: What You Need To Know… Before You Start Treatment for Mental Health | #Fearless

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