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Psychotherapy

Did you know that psychotherapy is recognised as the first-line treatment for most common mental health and behavioural problems*, both in Australia and internationally. As stated by Brownawell and Kelley“with an effective therapist, science shows that psychotherapy works even better in the long-term and is more enduring than medication. [Hence], psychological interventions, not medications, should be applied first”.  It is also accepted that the long-term use of medication is not a healthy solution to treating common mental health and behavioural problems and is often ineffective or unnecessary (though, short-term use with therapy can help in some situations and medication is usually indicated for more serious problems).

What improves therapy?

The effectiveness of psychotherapy depends on many factors, such as the client-therapist relationship (“fit”) and certain therapist factors. Client motivation and the length and regularity of treatment have also been shown to be important for improving treatment outcomes. Just as taking only half a course of medication is likely to be ineffective, only receiving half a course of therapy will have limited outcomes. If you experience any problems with your treatment or attending sessions, please speak with your psychologist.

Which therapy to use?

Psychology is not only concerned with preventing and treating mental disorders (i.e. not only problem-focused like psychiatry). Psychology is also focused on finding positive ways to deal with normal (albeit difficult) experiences and emotions, like grief, stress, conflict and illness. Or, enhancing normal life by building skills, strengthening relationships, developing self-understanding, finding purpose, making healthy decisions and pursuing meaningful goals. Psychologists also consider the various factors that influence peoples’ behaviour, such as personality, cognitive, social, biological, developmental and environmental factors. As a result, there are many different types of psychological therapies and interventions that psychologists may apply in their professional practice.

Decisions about which therapy or intervention to use are research-informed and are mostly determined by the client’s presenting issue/s (i.e. different problems call for different solutions), the therapy format (e.g. individual, couple, family, group), and certain client and therapist factors (e.g. client’s age or therapist’s training). Sometimes an assessment may be used to guide treatment decisions. Each therapy is also associated with a particular psychological approach, which your psychologist may draw on. In many cases, psychologists will use more than one therapy to address your needs and may blend different approaches together (integrative therapy).

The main therapies Q-Psych psycholoigsts use, are:
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
  • Child-centred therapies
  • Trauma-focused CBT
  • Motivational Interviewing 
  • Solution-focused Brief Therapy 
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • Family therapy and family-based interventions
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Psychoeducation

A review of the effectiveness of these therapies by the Australian Psychological Society, is available here. However, there are always limitations with research (such as small sample sizes), so these outcomes are not conclusive and there have been new developments since this review was published in 2010. This review also only refers to certain mental health problems, not the many other reasons clients access psychology services.

Ask your Q-Psych psychologist which therapies they recommend for you or let them know if you’ve had psychotherapy before and what you found helpful or not so helpful.

*Common mental health problems include depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, post-traumatic stress, and some personality disorders. 

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