Engage in mental therapy
Whether our mental health symptoms are caused by challenging lifestyle factors such as difficult socio-economic circumstances, relationship difficulties, poor sleep, or by psycho-spiritual factors such as trauma, lack of meaning and purpose, negative thought patterns and beliefs, stress, addiction, or whether they are caused by biochemical factors such as hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter imbalances, toxicity, gut issues — and usually it’s a combination of all three, mental therapy can help by:
- Increasing our resilience to stress and challenging life circumstances
- Increasing our awareness and understanding of psycho-spiritual issues and how they affect our behaviour
- Providing us with coping tools to help us navigate difficult circumstances and unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour
- Rebalancing and healing our biochemistry through this increased stress resilience, deeper understanding, and better coping tools
Mental therapy can help us in part due to our brain’s neuroplasticity.
Therapy and neuroplasticity
Our brain is constantly changing and developing new neural pathways and connections. When neurons (nerve cells) fire together, they become wired together – when we learn and practice new information, the brain shows physical changes — new neural connections are formed and old ones can be erased.
Mental therapy, whether self or with a therapist, can encourage and guide this neuroplasticity by helping us to become aware of, challenging, and gently changing our thought patterns and beliefs for better mental health.
- When we get rid of unwanted neural connections, patterns, and circuits, it’s called ‘pruning’
- When we create new connections, patterns and circuits, it’s called ‘sprouting’
- When we commit something to memory, the connections in the brain are strengthened
- Repeated habits of thought or action form strong brain connections
- It’s easy to mistake repetitive action for identity, and we need to realise that just because we have certain thought patterns, these are not our identity and can be changed
- We can become aware of our thoughts and feelings and change mental habits, reflex thought patterns and belief systems in order to improve the way we feel
Types of mental therapy
There are many different types of mental therapy, and navigating them all can be confusing.
Self therapy includes:
- Biblio-therapy (self help books)
- Mental exercises and mind training
Working with a therapist means meeting regularly with a psychotherapist in person or remotely, to practise different types of therapy.
There are many different types of therapy available, so it is important that you choose the therapist and therapy that you feel are best suited to your needs.
Choosing whether to do self-therapy or to work with a therapist — and then if you choose to work with a therapist, what type of therapy and therapist do you want to work with — depends on the following considerations:
Your personal rapport
- If you are choosing to work with a therapist, the most important factor in choosing a therapy is your therapist, and the rapport you have with them
- It is important that you feel safe, listened to, and supported by your therapist, and that you feel a good connection with them
- You should be able to try several different therapists until you find one that you like
Your financial situation
- Whether you can afford a therapist, or whether you need to practice self-therapy
- What type of therapist you can afford, as the prices can vary greatly
Your personal preference
- Some people prefer a more do-it-yourself attitude towards their mental health and may prefer self-therapy, while others will prefer the support of a therapist
- Within working with a therapist, people will tend to gravitate towards one type of therapy over another
Your access to therapy
- Whether you have access to a therapist or a library or to other therapeutic resources will depend on where you live
Your mental and emotional needs
- The types of therapies offered may be better adapted to certain specific psychological needs
- For instance, psychoanalysis, which tends to be long and involved, is not ideal for neurotic patients, and a therapy such as EMDR is particularly effective for trauma relief