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Advantages and Disadvantages of Psychotherapy

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Most people think of psychotherapy simply as counseling. In fact, the term "psychotherapy" is used to describe a variety of talk therapies that treat emotional, behavioral, personality and psychiatric disorders. 

Psychotherapy involves a commitment to a series of appointments with a licensed mental health professional, enabling a relationship to form between the therapist and the individual. This relationship focuses on helping the person to cope with or avoid factors contributing to his or her condition, with the overall goals being personal development and self-understanding. Like any medical treatment, psychotherapy has advantages and disadvantages. 

Advantages of psychotherapy. A major advantage of psychotherapy over treatment with medication is that psychotherapy has few physiological side effects -- an especially important consideration for older adults who are often taking more than one type of medication. In addition, psychotherapy offers the possibility of effective treatment for those who have not responded to medications. 

Disadvantages of psychotherapy. A disadvantage is that psychotherapy typically takes longer than drug therapy to produce benefits that are noticeable to the person receiving treatment -- six to eight weeks or longer for psychotherapy, compared with four to six weeks for medication. Also, psychotherapy alone is not effective in people with severe depression or bipolar disorder. 

Depending on the severity of the depression and other factors specific to each individual, a therapist selects a combination of techniques from the range of psychotherapeutic approaches. Regardless of the particular approach, the essential foundation of all psychotherapy is the establishment of a trusting relationship with the therapist. This allows the patient to share confidences, life experiences and problems. If psychotherapy alone leads to no improvement by six weeks, or if a person has only a partial or weak response by 12 weeks, medication should be strongly considered. 

Posted in Depression and Anxiety on April 19, 2011


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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.


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