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What is The Science Behind Therapy?

by Raul Buman

Psychotheraphy is a golden key that unlocks the vast potential of one’s life. Opening the door to the mind can release thoughts we’d just as soon not address. But identifying the thought patterns that limit us leads to balance, wisdom, and happiness. There are many different approaches to understanding the mind’s mechanisms. This article will explain these strategies, the science behind psychotherapy, and how to find an effective therapist.


1. Psychoanalytic Therapy

Description – This is also known as “talk therapy.” The therapist will identify patterns or influential events that have led to your current hardships. A psychoanalyst will look for childhood experiences that have played a part in one’s struggles. Additionally, unconscious feelings and driving forces are analyzed for their contributory effects on behavior.

Benefits – The ability to confide in a professional who is insightful, supportive, and nonjudgmental relieves tension, stress, and a sense of burden. The resultant security this renders is strengthening, enabling you to better handle problems and difficulties.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Therapy enables you to change thought patterns responsible for inaccurate perceptions. For example, a woman goes to a therapist for help with low self-esteem. The therapist enables the client to identify her automatic thought associated with poor self-regard, which is “I am useless.” The therapist helps the woman to confront this negative thought pattern and replace it with a positive one, such as “I am productive.” Then the two would follow the same strategy with other negative self-talk responsible for her poor self-image.

Behavioral Therapy renders the ability to change behavior that has become ingrained through repetition. An example is a man who is shy at parties and finds it difficult to approach people. The behavioral therapist would teach the person conversational skills to use in social situations.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy combines the two approaches to resolve a specific problem. It involves 4 major steps:

Setting Goals
Practicing Strategies
Assessment – You complete an initial questionnaire, describing a particular problem and its associated symptoms. Throughout the course of therapy, completing additional questionnaires enables the therapist to measure progress and identify thoughts and behaviors that need more work.

Education – The therapist provides you with written material about the problem that’s being addressed by therapy. Better understanding leads to better outcomes, as in the phrase “Knowledge equals Power.”

Setting Goals – The therapist helps you make a list of goals that you wish to achieve through therapy. Then the two of you work together to devise strategies to accomplish these goals.

Practicing Strategies – You rehearse the tactics with the therapist. For example, you may role-play difficult scenarios using your new tools. Or you will practice replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations.

Follow-Through – You use the strategies in real-life situations, and record the outcomes in a journal.

Benefits – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is often effective in treating anxiety, depression, rage, substance abuse, and eating disorders.

If Behavioral Therapy is of interest to you then I’d recommend checking out SelfHelpWorks for additional information.

3. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Description – This is a subset of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy which helps those suffering from self-destructive behavior and bipolar disorder. Therapy consists of 3 modes: Individual, Group, and Telephone. Individual Therapy is conducted for 1 to 1 1/2 hours on a weekly basis. Skills Group Therapy is a 2-hour weekly session, where the group splits up into classes that teach: distress tolerance, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. Telephone Counseling is available if self-destructive intent arises.

Benefits – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is effective in decreasing the risk of suicidal and self-harming behavior. Skills are taught to avert emotionally-based decisions. It decreases symptoms of depression, stress, trauma, and anxiety. Assistance is provided in setting goals that lead to a happier life.

4. Family Therapy

Description – Family therapy emphasizes the role of the family in helping a person manage problems. Your family will join you in therapy sessions. The therapist helps to identify conflicts among family members that may be contributing to your difficulties. The therapist teaches effective family communication, and better ways to handle conflict and change within the family. Improvement in family relationships leads to personal triumphs.

The therapist may give assignments to family members to achieve the goals of therapy. Let’s say you have a strained relationship with your mom, and the two of you are avoiding each other as a result. A therapist may give you the assignment of saying hello to your mother when you arrive home.

Benefits of Family Therapy – Improved family relationships lowers the stress levels of all involved. It is particularly effective in the case of eating disorders and problems with alcohol use. Family therapy can avert problems before they arise, as when major changes are anticipated. For example, if divorce is imminent, family therapy can help children prepare for upcoming changes. Family therapy differs from other types of therapy in that it is short-term, averaging 9 sessions.

5. Marriage Counseling

Description – Marriage counseling, also known as “couples therapy,” helps partners make informed decisions regarding their relationship. You may seek marriage counseling to help you and your partner communicate better, resolve differences, and handle crises. The success of therapy is dependent upon each partner’s incentive and commitment to the process. The therapist helps a couple to formulate goals and creates a plan to achieve them.

Benefits – Partners obtain listening skills, become better communicators, and find new ways of supporting each other. Research shows that approximately 48% of couples report either improvement or full recovery of their relationships at a five-year follow-up.2/


Studies involving the use of brain scans have shown metabolic changes in certain areas of the brain following psychotherapy. Scans have identified increased brain activity in the insula, located deep within the center of the brain. The insula assesses the state of the body, and then generates emotions that lead to actions. Data from the insula is communicated to other brain structures responsible for decision making. Following therapy, MRI has detected heightened insular activity, leading to an increased ability to control thoughts and make beneficial decisions.


The benefits of receiving psychotherapy have been scientifically proven. If you are struggling unsuccessfully with managing problems, thoughts, and behaviors, try the golden key of psychotherapy, and open the door of your mind to a happier life!