February 29, 2024

There are many various kinds of therapy, and even though they could employ different methods or strategies, they all aim to enhance your mental well-being. Therapy teaches you about the functioning of your own mind. It enables you to control your emotions, form better habits, and alter your perspective so that your life more closely resembles what you desire.

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When they first begin to have difficulties with their mental health, many people are reluctant to consider going to therapy. Therapy is frequently written off as “just talking to someone” and justified with statements like “I can just take medication; I already have friends to talk to; I won’t be able to open up to a stranger.” Although it may not seem possible, treatment has been shown to be rather successful in lowering the symptoms of mental health conditions. This is supported by a large body of scientific research.

How can I become better mentally with therapy?

Neuroscience has shown over the past few decades that our brains are affected by our experiences in life; this phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity. Our brains can undergo structural and functional changes in response to a variety of events, including those that stimulate our senses, teach us something new, put us in stressful circumstances, and many more[1]. This suggests that while some experiences, such as treatment, can assist change the structure and function of the brain into a healthy state, it also implies that certain events or outside pressures might cause mental health issues[2]. Research continuously demonstrates that when it comes to treating a variety of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), behavioral and emotional therapies are either as effective as or even more effective than medication[3].

Picture courtesy of Turnaround for Children

Depending on the method or skill you are working on, there are differences in the science behind how therapy operates. Psychotherapy improves connections and communication between neurons in the brain, altering gene expression and resulting in long-term behavioral change[4]. For example, research has shown that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is in charge of reasoning and rational thought, changes as people become more adept at managing their emotions[5]. Studies on cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) in individuals with psychosis revealed that CBT improved connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, the area of the brain in charge of fear and danger perception. Eight years later, there was a decrease in psychotic symptoms linked to enhanced connection, which may have contributed to people’s ability to recognize social threats[6].

Beyond the alterations in the brain that treatment produces, therapy also has a lasting effect because of the abilities it bestows upon its clients. People gain self-awareness during treatment, which they may carry with them into new situations[7].

How can I tell whether it’s functioning?

Improvement occurs gradually; it’s unlikely that you’ll have a “lightbulb moment” when you realize that therapy has “worked.” Rather, it is growing steadily and slowly. If you observe a shift in your overall state of mind or mood, you will know if therapy is beneficial for you. Perhaps you’ll notice that you’re digesting a stressful situation instead of snapping to anger, or you’ll catch yourself fighting your habitual negative thoughts. Setting early objectives for your therapy will help you keep track of your progress.

Many patients begin to feel better after two or three months of consistent therapy, while the suggested number of sessions varies[8]. But for most individuals, therapy is more of a tool to build resilience—the ability to better handle the myriad difficulties we all encounter in life—than it is a “quick fix” for a particular problem.