The Benefits Of Psychology Therapy

Updated March 27, 2024by MyTherapist Editorial Team

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Mental illness and mental health are significant issues facing society, and psychological therapy seeks to treat them using various means and disciplines. Psychotherapy has a long history of theory and practice. At its core, it is the field of mental treatment to help patients overcome or learn to live with mental health issues. 

Using methods discovered and proven in psychology, therapists treat patients or help them develop coping mechanisms for many disorders. Their methods are many and varied, but all involve personal interaction on an individual or group level.

What is psychological therapy?

Psychotherapy is a field that focuses on long-term treatment through mental rehabilitation and behavioral methods to alter the mental states and habits of patients for the better. This type of therapy also bases its concepts on behavioral psychology, which includes the idea that moods and emotions can be measured and it is generally subjective. Psychological therapy differs from psychiatry in that psychiatry utilizes medication, whereas psychotherapy utilizes behaviors. However, these fields complement each other - often, tools from both fields are used. Psychotherapy is typically one of the first interventions to improve a patient's mental health, life, and happiness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 22.% of U.S. adults (57.8 million or one in five) experienced mental illness in 2021. Mental illness interferes with daily life and limits one's ability to engage in important life activities. Equally prevalent among youth, with one in three of 18 to 25-year-olds experiencing a mental illness.


The impetus to treat mental illness is powerful and far-reaching. There are social, financial, and  physical health consequences. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 14.  Across the whole age spectrum, it is the 12th overall cause of death and is one of the catastrophic consequences of untreated mental illness.

Mental illness is very complex, the understanding of which continues to build and adapt over time with research and treatment. Most patients can be accurately diagnosed with more than one mental illness, and many are comorbid, meaning people can have more than one mental illness at a time.  For example, substance abuse often occurs with other mental health issues.  This understanding of mental disorders having comorbidity is along the suggestion that they often have similar or linked causes.

Psychotherapy's ultimate aim is to reduce the impact of mental illness. For those with symptoms, psychotherapy aims to support them in achieving a healthy life, and treating and coping with the mental illnesses that may impede their daily functioning.

The difference between psychotherapy, psychiatry, and psychology

Psychotherapy is a way to examine the patient's needs and fulfill their therapy goals. As a means to an end of a healthy, happy life, psychological therapy is often utilized alongside other disciplines. This might start with generalized counseling or therapy, followed by psychological treatment combined with a prescription medication if necessary.

Mental health counseling is often enough for treating mild to moderate mental illness. Patients sit down with a therapist and discuss their problems in talk therapy. For instance, in a rehab facility, people on their sobriety journey often talk to an addiction counselor. It is appropriate to think of this as a form of assisted self-help, as a therapist's goal at the outset is to lead the patient into making choices that lead to long-term benefits.

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As a discipline, psychotherapy prescribes behaviors and exercises meant to stimulate mental coping and growth. These range from providing coping mechanisms to thought experiments to taking formalized tests for diagnosis. The critical thing about psychotherapy is that it often helps patients overcome or cope with more severe disorders such as dissociative identity disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, phobias, and more.

Psychiatry is a discipline involving a medical degree to prescribe psychotropic medication. Psychiatrists may engage in talk therapy with patients, and many do. However, the field, also referred to as psychopharmacology, focuses more on medication. Like all medical disciplines, the most important aspect is the doctor-patient relationship. By getting to know the patient, their reactions to medication, and their habits, psychiatrists can better help them achieve their goals. That said, any therapist will work with a psychiatrist if they deem medication necessary.

What approaches to psychological therapy are available?

The imprint of a psychological theory starts with psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies. Beginning with the theories of Sigmund Freud, this approach focuses on the relationship between the patient and therapist specifically. It is a valuable diagnostic tool and often forms the basis for initial exploration.

Next is behavioral therapy. This approach brings classical conditioning and operant conditioning to the table. It explores the role of behaviors in shaping the mind and their importance in informing and changing mental health  disorders. It is a well-established treatment intervention for conditions, such as drug counseling to overcome addiction, eating disorders, and other behavioral problems. An approach from this theory presents patients with actions they can take to begin changing what they do and how they think. A behavior therapist may use positive reinforcement, such as creating rewards for patients. Ivan Pavlov and E.L. Thorndike are among the therapists who helped form this approach.

Cognitive therapy is the inverse of the previous. It focuses on what people think and how thoughts lead to behaviors. It is the theory that dysfunctional behaviors stem from dysfunctional thoughts. Cognitive therapy focuses on exercises, affirmations, and coping mechanisms. It will examine the "why" of a patient's behaviors, the motivations behind thoughts, and the potential causes of dysfunction.

Humanistic therapy takes a patient-driven approach to the patient's therapeutic goals. Empathy, respect, and concern are essential themes in this approach. Therapists will focus on the patient's concerns while avoiding making bold claims about their mental conditions. There is less emphasis on specific processes and more of an adherence to a self-driven philosophy.

The NIMH Mental Health Information Index lists a full index of disorders and suggested approaches, many of which offer approaches from multiple theories. Most psychotherapists engage in a method described as "integrative." This is a mixture of many different techniques. Patients will more often than not see therapy styles, processes, and theories that draw from all categories.

Where can I find psychological therapy near me?

Seeking local help for mental health issues is often a challenge. Sometimes, seeking face-to-face talk therapy, psychological treatment, or psychiatric help can involve a long commute or being on a waiting list. Barriers to seeking treatment are a significant factor in whether a patient will receive adequate help. Stigma, pressure from unsympathetic peers and family, and difficulty finding therapists and psychologists capable of empathizing with the patient are all important.

It is hard enough to find a therapist in a city where the pool might be large but shallow. It is even harder to find one in a rural or suburban area. A therapist's own experiences must reflect or complement what the patient needs. Every patient is different, and every therapist has a different history of studies and experiences. Some patients need therapists exactly like them, while others might need therapists who dwell outside their specific problems. 

If you need help finding a therapist, consider online therapy. When you sign up for therapy online, you can be matched with a qualified professional in as little as 48 hours who can start helping you. You don’t have to worry about being on a waiting list, and because you attend sessions from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have an internet connection, there’s no commute. One review of 14 studies found that online treatment is just as effective as in-person therapy. If you’re ready to get started, sign up with BetterHelp to take the next step.


There are many forms of psychotherapy, and a skilled therapist often uses a combination of multiple approaches to help their clients work through their unique issues. Psychology therapy has many benefits and can treat a range of mental health conditions. Connect with an online therapist to learn more.

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