Mental health check

Talk to a therapist about mental health issues

Seeing a therapist for the first time can be intimidating, but you don’t want to shortchange your mental health. If you are having second thoughts about speaking with someone, it may help to remember that you are not alone: About one in four adults in the United States is diagnosed with a mental health disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

How therapy can help

A mental health specialist can help you deal with a variety of disorders, as well as the challenges of everyday life. These can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Coping with grief from the death of a loved one
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Losing weight
  • Anger management
  • Living with a chronic illness
  • Life changes such as divorce or children leaving home

What to expect from talk therapy

Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is based on a two-way relationship between you and your mental health specialist, who may be one of the following:

  • A social worker, who has a master’s degree and can diagnose and manage mental health issues
  • A psychologist, who has doctoral training in providing psychotherapy
  • A psychiatrist has a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and can prescribe antidepressant and antianxiety medications

During a session, which typically runs 45 to 60 minutes, you openly talk about what is on your mind in a supportive and nonjudgmental environment. Your therapist can help you identify and change thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to your depression, anxiety or other negative feelings. You may also learn coping skills to help you better manage your mental health.

Approaches to therapy

Depending on their training, mental health specialists may use several different approaches in therapy. Some examples include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This is a practical approach to therapy in which your therapist may ask you to complete certain tasks to develop better coping skills and change behavior. For example, you might keep a journal about situations that trigger your anxiety. Challenging negative thoughts and feelings in writing may also be useful.
  • Psychoanalytics: This approach focuses on how your unconscious may be contributing to your feelings. You might spend time discussing your early childhood experiences and how you think they contribute to your behavior and interaction with others.
  • Humanistics: This type of therapy emphasizes your ability to make rational choices and helps you maximize your own potential. Therapists may focus on how you’re feeling now rather than how past events have affected you.

Therapists typically blend different approaches so they can better personalize your treatment. If you would like more information on UCLA Health’s mental health services, visit the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences or call 310-825-9989.

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