In order to benefit from therapy, a client must be actively engaged and willing to do some work in sessions and some homework at home. Most of us have developed habits in our lives. Many of them are good and make life easier – like making the bed in the morning, brushing your teeth, and saying your prayers. But there are other habits and patterns that we are in that may not be helpful and may need to change. Changing habits and patterns takes time and effort. Be prepared to set aside some time for reading that your therapist may suggest and for targeting habits that may need to change.

Differences between Mental and Emotional and Mood Disorders

The term mental illness is often used broadly to include all of the above; however, there is a distinction to be made. Mental illness refers to disorders that affect the thinking of the individual. Psychotic disorders indicate problems in which an individual is not perceiving reality properly such as in schizophrenic disorders in which the individual experiences visual or auditory hallucinations or believes something that is not true, as in a paranoid psychosis. Such disorders are generally organically-based and usually require medication and possible hospitalization.

Emotional and mood disorders affect the way a person feels and are rooted in the emotional life. There can be physiological causes as well, or there may not be. Sometimes medication may be required and many times no medication is needed – only talk therapy. The majority of people who seek individual psychotherapy are suffering from emotional and mood disorders. Emotional and mood disorders can both be rooted in and affected by the way they think so exploring and targeting the thought life is often included in therapeutic treatment.

Choosing a Therapist

When you’re ready to start therapy, you will obviously need to find a therapist to work with. Many therapists will talk to you briefly on the phone before your first appointment. This affords you an opportunity to see if you’re comfortable with them. Sometimes though, you’ll be meeting them at your first session. Think of this initial session as an interview. They will want to know you and you have the right to get to know them a little as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to let them know what you would like to work on in therapy.

Varied Therapeutic Models

There are many schools of thought when it comes to understanding the human psyche. For instance, a behaviorist view believes that human beings, like animals, can be trained to perform or to stop certain behaviors. A psychoanalytic viewpoint believes that a person is motivated by unconscious thoughts and feelings. A cognitive-behavioral orientation believes that our thoughts control our behaviors and therefore therapy is aimed at changing false beliefs to affect changed behaviors. There are many other psychological models – too much to go into in this brief guide.

You should ask your therapist what model they follow and ask them to explain it to you. Many use an eclectic approach using some principals and techniques from more than one model. Understanding the therapist’s theoretical orientation will help you to know if this is the right therapist for you. Also feel free to ask them about their experience with the issues with which you are dealing.