Therapy is beneficial to everyone - whether you simply need to vent about your daily stresses to someone who will listen or are in need of more targeted counselling for a mental illness, speaking to a therapist can make the world of difference.
In the latter case of those who require counselling for the sake of improving your mental health, then there are different types of psychotherapy that can be used to help you depending on the issue that you are suffering with. On top of this, there are other activities you may choose to partake in that will also have a positive effect on your mental health alongside therapy.
Read on below as we discuss these in more detail and the ways in which they could help.
Types of Psychotherapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is one of, if not the most common type of therapy. It can be used to treat people with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, phobias, addictions, behavioural issues and more. This makes it one of the best therapies for treating co-occurring mental health disorders.
CBT focuses on the relationship between your thoughts (cognition) and your actions (behaviours), with the aim of challenging negative or maladaptive thought patterns that result in unhealthy or ineffective behaviour patterns and turning these into more accurate thoughts, leading to more functional behaviours.
If you are undertaking psychotherapy training, then learning about or undertaking additional focused training in CBT would be incredibly beneficial due to the range of situations in which it can be applied.
Exposure therapy is a branch of CBT that is typically used to treat a number of anxiety-related disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety and specific phobias.
It involves exposing you to the sources of your anxiety without the intention to cause any danger, in an aim to help overcome your anxiety and distress as a result of these stimuli.
Integrative therapy, also known as holistic therapy, takes into account your needs as a whole - including mental, physical and emotional needs. As such, therapists who use an integrative approach will use techniques, elements and theories from various branches of psychotherapy, tailoring your treatment to you individually.
As the name suggests, hypnotherapy is undertaken when you’re in a state of hypnosis. Hypnosis uses guided relaxation, intense concentration and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness (sometimes called a trance) that will block out all external noise and conscious thoughts.
Being in this state allows you to explore painful thoughts, feelings and memories that you may have repressed from your conscious mind. Because of this, hypnotherapy is often used as an aid to other forms of counselling in order to prove their success, rather than used as an exclusive form of treatment.
Activities to Partake in Alongside Therapy
We’re sure you’ve heard of this one many times before, and with good reason. It is very much true that exercise is beneficial not only to your physical health, but your mental health, as well. Physical activity releases certain chemicals in your brain, namely endorphins and serotonin, that act like ‘feel good’ chemicals. These can then help to relieve stress and lift your mood.
Additionally, since physical activity can help improve your fitness, this can also help lift your mood and improve your self-esteem and cognitive function. The action of exercising may also distract you from negative actions. Of course, relying on exercise alone may not be enough to keep your mental health at bay and could even lead to obsessive behaviour if you become too reliant on it, however when used in conjunction with therapy exercise is extremely beneficial.
Exercising outdoors is even more valuable; exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including:
Reduced feelings of stress
Feeling more relaxed
Improved confidence and self-esteem
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, whilst being out in natural light can be especially helpful for those who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Even if you aren’t partaking in any form of high-intensity exercise, simply going for a walk outside or getting out and doing some gardening can help.
Writing in a journal can be more beneficial than you may first think. It is even an activity that your therapist may encourage you to partake in as part of your treatment, with two forms of journaling being particularly commonplace in psychotherapy - expressive writing and gratitude journaling.
Expressive writing focuses on writing down your emotional experiences, rather than focusing on events, people or objects. As for gratitude journaling, this focuses on the positive aspects of your life through capturing situations, events and interactions for which you’re grateful.
Writing about your thoughts and feelings in this way can help you to process difficult events and experiences, as well as become more attuned with your feelings and emotions. Subsequently, this could improve your awareness and perception of events, regulate your emotions, break you away from cycles of obsessive thinking and reduce your anxiety.
Though the experience of writing in this way may be upsetting at first, it is a valuable part of the acceptance process and achieving emotional catharsis.
Participating in a purposeful activity that you enjoy is a great way to improve your mental health and wellbeing. This could be learning a new skill that takes your interest or playing to your strengths and participating in a hobby that you’re good at and enjoy.
This could be different things for different people. For example, you may choose to read, play a musical instrument, garden, do something artistic/crafty or partake in a sport or other physical activity for leisure.
Whichever hobby you choose, it should be something that you find satisfying. By having a meaningful activity that you actively wish to participate in on a regular basis, you will feel like you are doing something that is worthwhile, which can help to build your sense of self-worth whilst lowering stress and improving your mood.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment through the use of calming, grounding techniques such as meditation, breathing and yoga. Practising mindfulness helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, allowing you to better manage them rather than become overwhelmed by them.
Though you may struggle with the feeling of becoming more aware of your own moods and reactions, you may find it helpful in accompaniment with your therapy, as it could allow you to observe your thoughts rather than become caught up in them - allowing you to better discuss them with your therapist.
There are numerous ways in which massage can aid your mental health. Firstly, massages improve your circulation, allowing you to feel more energised and focused - dispelling the feelings of fatigue and lethargy many living with a mental illness experience.
Contrastingly, massages can also improve your sleep, which is often interrupted by the stress and anxiety associated with your mental illness, since they lower your heart rate and put you into a state of relaxation, as well as reduce the physical signs of stress in your body.
Massages can also help to boost the levels of certain chemicals in your body. For example, physical touch releases oxytocin into the body, also known as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone, which promotes feelings of wellbeing, ease and comfort. Alongside oxytocin, massage can also boost both serotonin and dopamine (the ‘happy hormones’) levels - both of which are often lacking in those with mental illnesses.
If massages aren’t for you, then any form of pampering and self-care can still be beneficial, whether that’s treating yourself to a facial, getting your nails done or simply relaxing in the bath. Not only can self-care help you to feel more relaxed and enhance your mood, but it can also improve your self-esteem.
Furthermore, though helpful, therapy can be mentally exhausting - especially when you’re first starting out. As such, it’s good to treat yourself and reward your hard work and progress with some pampering!
Online Counselling Training
Are you an aspiring counsellor? If so, then you may be interested in training for one of the psychotherapy techniques we mentioned in this article, or perhaps you're looking to specialise in integrative therapy and find our list of activities to be useful recommendations that you can suggest to your future clients as part of their holistic treatment.
Whichever applies to you, we’re confident that you could benefit from the accredited counselling courses we offer here at Key Counselling Training. Working to help both aspiring and qualified counsellors obtain their certificates in counselling, we offer a range of accredited counselling and psychotherapy courses at our training centres in Birmingham and Devon, as well as through remote learning.
If you’re looking to continue your professional development, we also host a number of CPD courses and workshops specialising in various areas of psychotherapy.
For more information regarding our courses and to enquire about signing up, then don’t hesitate to contact us today and we’ll be in touch.