More importantly, are they methods you should explore as you strive to improve your mindset and overall mental health?
I want to take a moment today to explore these questions, so you can make an informed decision whether or not these methods are right for you.
Let’s take a look.
Mental health is a complicated and intimidating topic with a lot of intangible challenges, which only serves to make it all the scarier.
If you go to the doctor with a big red cyst, then logic commands that you’re probably going to have your doctor remove the cyst and treat the wound – a simple, surgical solution with a few difficulties, but nothing world-breaking.
When your mind is in total disarray and you’re suffering from the symptoms of a serious mental illness, however, the concept of getting treated is so much more vague and unclear.
You can’t cut out a mental illness, and medication only ever masks the issue.
Mental illness is deep within, and requires you to be at peace with yourself and understand how your mind works so you can walk yourself through specific, personal steps that help you cope with, overcome and live on despite your symptoms, rather than being controlled by them.
Typically, mental illnesses work to remove some level of control you have over your life in a pretty scary way.
They make you unpredictable, and make you question and sometimes fear your own thoughts. Fighting against that can feel futile at times – how do you even go about confronting your own mental illness when you have the sense that you can’t trust your emotions, or worse yet, your very own thoughts?
Mastering a mental illness is usually a long and slow journey, and a scary one.
Therapy isn’t like surgery, where every session has very clear physical results – it’s much more abstract.
Even harder to comprehend is brainspotting, which involves eye movement and the concept of correlation between trauma and physical brainspots. With time, the use of mental health treatments like therapy and brainspotting demonstrably treat mental illness, making a significant difference.
Let’s find out.
The Purpose of Therapy
In its simplest definition, therapy is a form of treatment that seeks to reduce the symptoms and effects of a harmful condition, and in turn even provide healing.
However, in relation to psychology, therapy is a process that involves teaching someone how to heal themselves and lead better lives in an indirect fashion. The skills needed to properly overcome a mental illness involve high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, an understanding of self-care, love and accountability towards others, being a part of a community and belonging to a group with purpose, and having a physical and mental routine that focuses on mental health management, long-term physical health and longevity.
You can’t just plop someone down before a book and tell them to learn these things.
First, there are obstacles to be conquered, issues to the addressed, problems that need fixing within a person’s mind, through resolution and skilled, professional therapy.
It’s not enough to tell a depressed person to stop feeling sad, or to go to the gym. Therapy exists to fill in the gaps between a person’s emotional rock bottom and a point in life where a patient can honestly say they’ve gotten past their condition.
Therapy exists in a very large multitude of different shapes and sizes. There are types of therapy that carry on over years, taking a very long time to truly go into effect, requiring a personal relationship between therapist and patient. One example of this is psychoanalysis, which occurs over several sessions and goes in-depth into a person’s mind and mannerisms.
Then there are forms of therapy that are meant to be much quicker, designed to last a few weeks and produce short-term, tangible results.
Some forms of therapy involve conversation – it’s through that conversation that people release frustration, reveal more about their inner fears and obstacles, and give therapists clues towards how to alleviate their issues.
There are other forms of therapy that are far more hands-on, and involve therapeutic practices that don’t necessarily involve talking or conversation.
Treatment options can be entirely physical, for example, as physical therapists demonstrate through meticulously planned training regimen, special exercise equipment and carefully planned diets. Other forms of therapy involve sports, or water movement, or singing and musical instruments to addressing and solving mental or physical issues.
Sometimes these go hand in hand. Physical therapists, for example, may deal with helping patients regain their ability to move and utilize an injured part of themselves, overcoming phantom pains or psychosomatic disability. On the other hand, a sex therapist may help someone better understand their sexuality, and come to terms with their preferences, rather than conforming to others.
Therapy exists in many different forms, different disciplines and different purposes.
While general therapists may help you resolve any mental issue, there are therapists trained to deal with specific issues such as depression and anxiety, behavioral and personality issues, or phobias. Some forms of therapy are outdated, like conversion therapy or old-school shock therapy (shock therapy is still a valid form of therapy, but its methodology and usage today is far removed from the past).
Yet by and far, despite the extreme variety in the field of therapy, the most commonly prescribed form of therapy for a range of mental issues is talk therapy, or psychotherapy. Let’s look at why that is.
What is Talk Therapy?
Also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy is a form of treatment that typically specializes in private conversation between a therapist and their patient in order to make strides that help a person’s mental health, in the short-term.
Talk therapy is typically used to elicit results with short-term treatment.
Talk therapy is, for all intents and purposes, about conversation.
But it’s also more than just talking about your feelings with a therapist. A therapist isn’t just meant to be a very expensive shoulder to cry on – they offer tangible exercises, questions and lifestyle suggestions that help you open a bit more about who you are, why you’re struggling with your mental illness, and how you can best create a set of healthy coping mechanisms to deal with it.
Many forms of talk therapy involve doing homework, for example, such as writing or reading exercises.
It may also involve consuming educational media to help you better understand your condition, or doing daily vocal exercises to increase your self-esteem. It may also go beyond exercises, to asking you to make certain lifestyle adjustments to avoid amplifying your condition.
What talk therapy aims to achieve includes:
- Understand the nature of your illness.
- Understand how it affects you specifically, given your personality and circumstances.
- Identify and remove self-destructive behavior and friends.
- Begin a process of self-discovery and healing with simple exercises and forgiveness.
- Learn not just to overcome, but live with your diagnosis, and even embrace it.
The Different Types of Talk Therapy
Talk therapy isn’t just a single form of therapy, however – it’s a category.
There are quite a bunch of different types of talk therapy, and each one is unique in how it approaches and deals with a specific mental illness.
Here are some of the more common types of applied talk therapy:
- Bereavement Counselling
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectic Behavioral Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Mindfulness Therapy
- Relationship Counselling
Some of these are meant to tackle individual emotional issues and traumas, from relationship trouble and lack of communication to trauma caused by grief and loss.
Other therapy forms are used to tackle issues like addiction through groups or family support. And DBT and CBT are commonly used in treating depression, mood disorders, personality disorders, and even schizoaffective diagnoses.
Knowing which type of therapy best applies to you and your needs is best determined by a professional after a lengthy consultation.
Treatment facilities and mental health clinics will typically help you get in touch with someone for a diagnosis of your symptoms.
While talk therapy is an extremely large field of study with an extensive amount of research and decades worth of advancements, brainspotting is a much more recently discovered and developed treatment option.
Considered a sort of marriage between somatic experiencing and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), brainspotting is a mental health treatment that began as an option for trauma patients to relieve their traumatic experiences and get rid of the debilitating symptoms of stress that occur thus.
Brainspotting is a rather involved process.
It begins simply with the diagnosis and identification of brainspots, which are basically pockets of vision that amplify the effect of certain memories and experiences, and allows the therapist to better help a person harness their mind’s natural self-scanning, and find a way to more vividly experience, and thus desensitize themselves to past events that have left a remarkable impression.
When a brainspot is stimulated through the eye movement process of brainspotting, that stimulation produces a reaction that a trained therapist can pick up, including a variety of facial patterns and reflexes including:
- Facial tics
- Brow narrowing
- Facial constriction
It sounds rather ridiculous, but is based in proven research and has shown remarkable promise in diagnosing and effectively treating trauma.
Say what you will about the practice of identifying and using brainspots as a basis of trauma treatment, years of clinical results spells that the process works as well as eye movement desensitization does, while giving the patient a safe method by which to activate certain memories and experiences without bringing about aggravating emotions or recollections.
Brainspotting isn’t just about being trained to identify potential brainspots and touch upon sensitive subjects – it’s about having the ability and capacity to empathically interact with others in a way that creates a legitimately strong bond between a therapist and their patient, so the process can move on as smoothly as possible.
A brainspotting session can make a significant amount of progress in a person’s perception of their trauma, and is ultimately meant to help them get to a point where they can say they’ve put the past behind them, and don’t have to worry about being triggered or reminded of what they went through to cause the trauma in the first place.
Which is Better?
There is simply no way to judge between these two forms of treatment and come to a conclusive answer as to which is better – because they address different issues, and elicit different results. Maybe talk therapy works much better for your purposes – or maybe it absolutely does not, and the only way you really see any improvement in your trauma issues or other mental health issues is through brainspotting.
It’s dangerous to assume that one type of therapy is categorically more effective than another, because even if statistically true, that claim flies out the window in any individual case as there’s a chance one type of therapy is much more effective than another.
The solution? Try everything. Try yoga, try calisthenics, try a budget juice cleanse, try acupuncture, try cognitive behavioral therapy, try psychoanalysis, try brainspotting.
Try a whole array of different treatment options and see which treatment plan works best for you – and what aspects of a treatment you absolutely can’t stand or deem ineffective.
And remember – the kind of treatment you end up choosing is important, but it’s also important that you like your therapist and the quality of work they’re doing.
If you find yourself in the hands of a reputable therapist but you just don’t mesh well with their personality and demeanor, then find yourself someone else.
Don’t be pressured into a treatment you’re not comfortable with, whether because of the treatment itself or the person administering it. Comfort is important when solving mental issues, because it allows you to focus more on overcoming your symptoms.
In the end, it’s important to be able to say that you’ve made up your own mind.
Do your own research on the various treatments recommended for your specific diagnosis, and get several opinions before making one of your own.
This is your life, and your illness – and it’s up to you to take up whatever tools you’re mentally armed with to fight your diagnosis and grab a firm hold of your life.