The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to "Talk Therapy"
Updated: May 28
Part 2 of 2 (read Part 1 here)
Deciding to start therapy is not an easy choice, especially when you’re not sure what you have to gain. In my last post, I reviewed potential pros and cons of a few of the most well-known therapy traditions: CBT, DBT, and ACT. This week, I break down prolonged exposure, psychodynamic and family/couples therapy, and process groups.
Prolonged Exposure/TF-CBT (Trauma-Focused CBT)
This therapy is designed for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event from which they struggle to move on.
good for PTSD (single event)
focus on exposure to trauma triggers to build tolerance and reduce symptoms
progress depends on willingness, commitment, and pace of the trauma survivor
teaches short-term coping and distress tolerance skills
not as helpful for those with a history of traumatic experiences (e.g., complex trauma)
can be highly distressing in the short-term
focus is directed on the trauma event with little attention to other aspects of life
There are many different kinds of therapy (e.g., psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, relational psychotherapy, etc.) that fall under this umbrella, but these are the elements that they all tend to have in common.
good for complex disorders/traumas, relational difficulties, and most other disorders
focus on understanding patterns in relationships and developing insight
strong emphasis on therapeutic relationship
strives to improve quality of life, rather than symptom reduction
benefits tend to be long-term
fosters independence and self-awareness
no practical advice for those in crisis
can be uncomfortable for those who rely on structure
may not be as helpful for individuals in early treatment for drug/alcohol recovery, self-harm behaviors, and/or eating disorders who struggle regularly with relapse
unstructured, no therapist agenda
no time limits
There are multiple different ways of conducting family and couples therapy. Overall, these forms of therapy are designed to help couples and families:
learn to build intimacy with each other
confront unresolved traumas and conflicts
practice negotiating conflicts in effective ways
increase each party's awareness of his or her own role in maintaining the often unhealthy dynamics at play in their relationships
Because of the focus on creating effective communication and increasing empathy for others in session, patients can experience change more rapidly than they might in individual therapy.
Alternatively, it can be...
more difficult to achieve change in high-conflict couples and families because individuals may have different levels of commitment to change
Also, this form of therapy is fairly directive, so...
patients who have difficulty accepting direction may have difficulty committing to treatment
Process Group Therapy:
Group therapy is often a great adjunct to individual therapy. Process groups are designed to help individuals learn about themselves from live feedback from other group members. This can help people...
bond with others
learn about how they function in relationships
build comfort with being vulnerable around others
However, there is also...
greater opportunity for conflict in group than in individual therapy
less individual attention per group member
It can be hard to find a group that is a good “fit”
Now that you have a little more knowledge about the various options available to you, hopefully making the choice to start your journey is easier than you thought.
about the author
My passion is helping people connect with their most authentic selves. Through this blog, I hope to offer resources to demystify psychotherapy and encourage you to think about your mental wellness.
In my integrative psychotherapy practice in Echo Park, my mission is to support you in finding your best self and living an examined life.