If you’re dealing with troubling feelings or have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, psychotherapy with a licensed provider is often the first line of treatment.

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, our mental health experts provide various short-term, evidence-based psychotherapy options and will work with you to determine which therapy will best fit your specific goals and concerns.

Our psychologists, counselors and other mental health professionals can give you the tools you need to reduce your symptoms, improve your quality of life and get you on the road to feeling better.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy,” includes a variety of treatment techniques that seek to address difficult or troubling feelings, thoughts, attitudes or behaviors by having conversations with a licensed mental health professional. You’ll talk with this provider, who will educate and guide you as you make changes to address your symptoms and to support your mental health and well-being.

Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for psychological concerns, including diagnosed mental health conditions (depression, substance use disorder, anxiety) or life issues (stress, relationships, grief). For many, psychotherapy is an incredibly effective treatment on its own, but sometimes it’s combined with medications or other therapies.

Types of psychotherapy

Some types of psychotherapy work better for various conditions or circumstances. Our team will do an initial psychiatric evaluation to determine which form of talk therapy is likely to be most effective for you.

Some of the psychotherapies we offer at Ohio State include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Cognitive behavioral therapy refers to a family of therapeutic approaches and techniques that emphasize the interrelationships among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Working with a cognitive-behavioral therapist, you’ll learn to identify and modify unhelpful thoughts about yourself, the world and other people that contribute to low mood and behavioral patterns that maintain a variety of mental and behavioral health concerns. This treatment is focused on understanding core beliefs that impact how everyday events are interpreted and establishing more balanced ones that support better mood and functioning.
  • Behavioral activation therapy – A form of CBT, this well-researched approach helps you understand the relationship between your mood and behavior and how to change patterns of behavior, such as avoidance and withdrawal, that contribute to and maintain depression and other mental health concerns. You’ll learn the skills necessary to modify these unhelpful patterns and increase engagement with activities that align with your values.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) – A form of CBT, MBCT is an eight-week, group-based intervention designed to facilitate recovery from depression and prevent future relapse. The evidence-based program combines elements of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes that are based on the cultivation of mindfulness.
  • Augmented depression therapy (ADepT) – This treatment was developed to address chronic difficulties with depression, including symptoms such as loss of enjoyment and trouble experiencing positivity. Augmented therapy for depression integrates approaches from several existing therapies (such as CBT) to help patients manage the ways that depression can get in the way of engaging in their lives. It’s intended to build well-being by focusing on more positive, solution-based and future-oriented ways of coping.
  • Metacognitive remediation therapy – This is a form of talk therapy to improve memory, attention and problem solving, as well as enhance participation in work and school for individuals with psychotic-spectrum disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with psychotic features.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – This form of psychotherapy helps people who have problems regulating feelings and tolerating stress while also teaching them how to live more in the moment and improve relationships.
  • Exposure and response prevention – For people with obsessive compulsive disorder, this form of therapy is the gold standard for treatment and is beneficial to many with this condition. It seeks to gradually reduce the anxiety that feeds obsessions and compulsions by exposing the person to stimuli and giving them therapeutic techniques to prevent a negative response.
  • Cognitive processing therapy – This is another form of CBT created especially for people with trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder or other stress-related conditions.
  • Brief cognitive behavioral therapy (B–CBT) – This is a brief (10 to 12 sessions) treatment focused on addressing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. It’s an effective tool for suicide prevention.

What’s the difference between psychotherapy and counseling?

The words psychotherapy and counseling are both used to refer to the practice of talking with a licensed mental health care provider about issues in your life. Counseling generally refers to a short-term treatment that targets problems in living (marital problems, death of a loved one), while psychotherapy usually focuses on treatment of mental and behavioral disorders.

At the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, we use evidence-based psychotherapies to treat a variety of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Properly administered psychotherapies can ease or cure symptoms of many mental health conditions all on their own without other interventions.

Benefits of psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a low-cost, low-risk treatment that can benefit many people trying to manage almost any mental health disorder or concern. Additionally, the effects of psychotherapy tend to last longer than other forms of treatment, and psychotherapies are associated with lower rates of relapse compared to other treatments. Conditions that can be treated with psychotherapy include:

  • Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety and generalized anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder
  • Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or dependent personality disorder
  • Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia
  • Stress and adjustment disorders, such as trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sexual and relationship problems
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders

Psychotherapy can also benefit those who haven’t been diagnosed with a psychological disorder. A licensed therapist can help you work through stress and other conflicts that we all face throughout life, such as medical or chronic illness, major life changes, grief and other issues.

What to expect during talk therapy

It’s important to remember that psychotherapy is about creating a dialogue with a provider in a supportive and safe environment to help you gain a better understanding of your illness and learn new skills to address your symptoms.

How to prepare for a psychotherapy appointment

At the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, we’ll work to assess the symptoms and challenges you’re experiencing and match you with a practitioner with expertise in the specific form of psychotherapy that is most likely to be effective for you. Particularly during the initial sessions, our providers will ask you several questions about yourself and your life. This will help to guide the treatment. The best way to prepare for your psychotherapy appointment is to make note of any topic, concerns or questions you want to make sure you discuss with your provider.

During a psychotherapy session

Your first psychotherapy session typically involves the therapist gathering basic information about you and your goals for therapy. You'll be asked to fill out forms about your medical history, social history, and current and past mental health prior to your visit. The therapist will review this information with you in your first session.

In your first few sessions with your therapist, you’ll work together on a treatment plan to make sure you agree on treatment goals, what type of therapy best meets your needs and how long treatment will last.

Your therapist will likely expect you to complete “homework” assignments between sessions, which may include worksheets, readings or behaviors to try. Evidence shows that those who do between-session work tend to have better therapy outcomes.

Frequency and length of psychotherapy

Psychotherapy sessions typically last between 45 and 60 minutes, and their frequency will be determined by your individual needs. Typically, early sessions take place weekly or every other week. As symptoms improve, sessions tend to be spaced out less frequently.

Psychotherapy results

Many people begin to feel better or at least become more aware of their thoughts or actions after three to five psychotherapy sessions. A typical course of cognitive behavioral therapy lasts 10 to 16 sessions, but everyone is different and has different needs.

You’ll get the most out of psychotherapy if you’re open and honest in sessions and treat therapy as a partnership, ensuring that you and your therapist set goals together and both understand the major issues to address. It’s OK if you’re not prepared right away to open up about your emotions. Bringing out certain feelings takes time. Many don’t feel entirely comfortable with the process at first, and if this is the case, you can work with your therapist to make changes that will help you get the most out of the experience.

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