Benefits of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a helpful tool used to treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders, as well as help a person identify and change their emotions and behavior. There are many benefits of psychotherapy regardless of the form it takes, and studies have shown such treatment can yield lasting change. Though many therapy sessions are held one-on-one, there are benefits of group psychotherapy, as well.
In this article:

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the term used to describe the approach used in counseling to talk and process through your mental health conditions or addiction. It is also referred to as “talk therapy. The theory behind psychotherapy is that your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are all interconnected and techniques like mindfulness can help to integrate those three areas of yourself. The benefits of mindfulness and psychotherapy will become evident as you continue with treatment.

The goals of therapy will vary from person to person but may include: 1

  • Changing patterns of belief about yourself and your abilities
  • Processing traumatic events
  • Understanding the emotions and thoughts that drive certain behaviors, including addictive behaviors
  • Learning coping techniques for dealing with life stresses
  • Improving communication and relational skills

Psychotherapy usually involves a licensed mental health provider with whom you can engage as an individual, a couple, a family, or within a group. Therapists are trained in keeping client information confidential, which allows you to feel comfortable discussing what you need in sessions.

Types of Psychotherapy

Therapists will use different techniques in therapy sessions to help you with your mental health condition or substance use disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is probably the most well-known technique. The cognitive portion of this therapy deals with your thinking patterns. A therapist will help you identify false beliefs or perceptions you may have built around people and situations. Two terms regularly used to describe these beliefs are overgeneralizing and catastrophizing.1 This occurs when you take an isolated event and make assumptions based on your perception of yourself or others and then apply those beliefs to other situations in the future.

For example, you may notice that you haven’t heard from a friend in a while and begin to assume that your friend is upset with you about something. This false belief can then lead to feelings of sadness or worry, which in turn leads to behaviors of avoiding your friend or treating them differently.

The behavioral side of CBT operates under the theory that behaviors are learned and, therefore, can be unlearned or relearned.1 CBT often helps you identify the behaviors you want to change and work to implement different or replacement behaviors.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a subtype of CBT, so it also deals with your thoughts and behaviors. The term dialectical refers to the integration of opposing ideas.2 DBT seeks to help you integrate the opposing concepts of accepting yourself as you are and working to change certain behaviors and thinking patterns. Skills that are typically learned through DBT include:2

  • Remaining mindful in present situations
  • Learning ways to tolerate stress rather than working to change the stressful situation
  • Regulating emotions by learning how to decrease the intensity and change emotions when needed
  • Communicating effectively and setting boundaries in relationships

Client-Centered Therapy

This form of therapy is also called person-centered therapy and non-directive therapy. The theory behind this model is that you are more than just your symptoms, and you have the ability to understand what needs to change, as well as how to make those changes. A client-centered therapist will ask you questions and listen empathically to allow you to come to your own realizations and conclusions.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy differs from most other approaches because it focuses more on the past than the present. This type of therapy will seek to help you realize how past experiences may be unconsciously impacting your present behaviors. The goal of this therapy is to resolve past issues in order to find change in the present.

Narrative Therapy

The belief behind narrative therapy is that you have the control to write your own life story. Therapists utilizing this approach will often have you re-interpret or rewrite past experiences into a story that you get to control and assign the meaning that you want to it.

Relationship and Family Therapy

As opposed to the therapies above that are conducted on an individual basis, marriage and family therapies seek to treat the relationship rather than the individuals. You can enter therapy with a partner or seek treatment for multiple family members at once. Most therapists will use a systems approach, which looks at the systems that are working within the relationships to identify problems.

Group Therapy

Group therapy can be conducted in a few different ways. Some organizations offer open groups where you can join at any time and come and go from the group as you see fit. There are also closed groups that usually have a start and end date and operate with the same group of people from start to finish. Group therapy can be very helpful in making you feel less isolated in your mental health journey and provides accountability for change.

Benefits of Individual Psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy has many benefits. You will get regular access to a mental health professional that can help you make life-long, meaningful changes. Some of the benefits you can look forward to include: 6

  • New coping skills for your addiction, anxiety, or depression symptoms
  • Judgment-free support from a caring professional
  • Changes in negative patterns of behavior like substance misuse or self-harm
  • Freedom to express feelings and learn how to better deal with emotions
  • Coping skills for past traumatic experiences

Benefits of Group Psychotherapy

Some specific benefits of group psychotherapy include: 6

  • Feeling less isolated in your mental health or addiction journey
  • Gaining a better understanding of your condition through hearing other people’s experiences
  • Improving your ability to develop empathy for others
  • Learning from each other’s positive and negative behaviors and past experiences
  • Utilizing the accountability of the group to help sustain lasting behavior change

Psychotherapy and Medications

Psychotherapy is helpful in treating the underlying issues that may be contributing to certain psychological and physical symptoms of mental health conditions. Therapy also helps to treat addiction by helping change behaviors and combat psychological and emotional triggers that lead you to use substances. Mental health professionals will often recommend the use of medication alongside therapy to help with symptoms.

Medicines that can help may include:3

  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Stimulants (often used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
  • Antipsychotics
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Medications to alleviate physical symptoms associated with substance use withdrawals

Studies have found that engaging in psychotherapy along with medication was more helpful than just taking medicine alone in treating major depression. This also seems to be true of other conditions, including addiction and other mental health disorders.4

How Effective is Psychotherapy?

Most studies show that some type of psychotherapy is effective, finding that about two-thirds of all those seeking therapy improve.5 These same studies show that the type of therapy used is not as important to positive outcomes as the relational qualities of the therapist professional.5

It has also been found that the effects of therapy tend to be lasting, and those who receive therapeutic treatment have more positive outcomes than individuals who do not receive treatment.6

A study found that about 50% of people can expect to see positive changes after 20 sessions of therapy and that 75% of people will need more than 50 sessions of therapy to reach their goals.6

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How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

Therapy is often a long process and can be beneficial to you on your road to recovery. There are some things you can do to ensure you get the most out of your therapeutic experience, such as:

  • Keep an open mind
  • Think about what you want from therapy and communicate that to your therapist
  • Be honest and open in sessions
  • Let your emotions show
  • Give your therapist feedback on what techniques seem to be working or not working for you
  • Don’t focus too much on alleviating your symptoms, but also put energy into considering what is contributing to your symptoms
  • Write in a journal between sessions to keep track of your thoughts and feelings
  • Be patient with the process and understand the ebbs and flows of change over time

The benefits of psychotherapy, no matter the form it takes, can be pivotal in improving your mental health and well-being.

If you or someone you know needs help for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, please call 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) to talk with a specialist about treatment options.


  1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. (2016). Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  2. Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics at the University of Washington. Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  3. National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Mental Health Medications.
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). Medication or therapy for depression? Or both?
  5. Keenan, K. (2014). Michigan School of Psychology. Effective Therapy.
  6. Lambert, M.J. (2013). The efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapy. Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change, Chapter 6.


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