Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy”, is a therapy in which psychologists use cognitive-behavioural, interpersonal or other approaches to help individuals with their problems. It is a common type of therapy for individuals with depression, anxiety or other conditions that may interfere with well-being.

Psychotherapy has been acknowledged as a type of treatment with substantial benefits. This is because it addresses different health conditions and empowers patients through self-knowledge.

A few case studies have shown how patients have improved in terms of their ability to verbally express themselves, develop more accurate and balanced perceptions of people and situations, and build up interpersonal assertiveness and effectiveness.

Psychotherapy may improve patient’s quality of life

Jonathan Shedler, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine says that psychotherapy not only helps to alleviate symptoms, but also allows patients to develop inner capacities and resources that lead to a more fulfilling life.

A review of research published earlier this year has shown that patients with mental disorders are more likely to refuse or discontinue treatment if it only involved psychotropic drugs.

According to lead researcher Joshua Swift from Idaho State University, the rates of treatment refusal were about two times greater for undertaking pharmacotherapy alone compared to psychotherapy alone. This was particularly so when it came to treating conditions such as social anxiety, depressive and panic disorders.

CBT effectively treats depressive disorders

These findings are consistent with those from another research study comparing cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy.

The study, published in 2013, found that patients treated acutely with CBT were less likely to relapse than those treated acutely with pharmacotherapy. This suggests the strong position of CBT as a first-line treatment of acute depressive disorders.

Patients’ preference for psychological treatment over pharmacological treatment for psychiatric disorders has also been demonstrated in a review of research conducted by Dr. R. Kathryn McHugh and her colleagues from McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.

Results obtained from the review of several different studies showed that approximately 75% of participants choose psychological to pharmacological treatment for depression and anxiety. In addition, preference towards psychotherapy was observed to be stronger among women and younger participants.

Combining pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy boosts efficacy

Although the benefits of psychotherapy and patients’ preferences towards it have been established, findings across many studies also illustrate the significance of building bridges between pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.

For instance, a study that was recently published this year revealed that the combined treatment of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy is better than other treatments that improve functioning and quality of life.

Another study that was published in 2013 also showed that the combination of both treatments can positively impact neurocognitive changes to treat moderate depression.

In light of the above research findings, more in-depth studies and analyses of strategies, roles and outcomes of both therapy methods are warranted. Different patients may respond and benefit differently, depending on the therapeutic approach, for example, through a specific monotherapy, or a combination of both.

Therefore, as the effects of treatment may vary according to specific conditions, future research has to focus on tailoring the approach in clinical practice to fit the needs and requirements of each patient. MIMS

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The differences between psychology and psychiatry
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