Individual Psychotherapy for Mental Health: Uses, Benefits & Effectiveness

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How Psychotherapy Works

Mental illness is fairly common in the US, with around 57.8 million adults struggling with conditions of varying severity. Individual psychotherapy is an evidence-based treatment method that can apply to most mental disorders. At URP Behavioral Health, individual psychotherapy is a core component of treatment plans, so let’s have a look at its benefits, approaches, and how it works.


The effectiveness of psychotherapy is dependent on a strong therapeutic alliance i.e., a healthy working relationship between you and your therapist. Therefore, you can expect initial sessions to focus on building a rapport so that you feel comfortable about opening up to your therapist. This is crucial for fostering open communication and understanding.


Keep in mind that your therapist has a fiduciary responsibility, which means that they’ll act in your interests – not your family’s. All the details of your discussions and identity will remain confidential. The only exceptions to this rule are situations where you could potentially endanger yourself or someone else, you’re disabled and can’t take care of yourself, or if a judge orders your therapist to provide your treatment records.


The type of approach your therapist takes depends on your mental health condition, but you can expect to do most of the talking in individual therapy sessions. This way, the focus is on your needs and building the necessary skills to manage the symptoms of your condition.

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Talking to a Therapist: Not The Same As Talking To a Friend

Because individual psychotherapy is often termed talk therapy, many patients ask why they can't just 'talk' with a friend or family member. Although it's highly beneficial to have deep human connections with other people, speaking to a therapist is significantly different.

They Give You Unconditional Empathy

Your therapist is specially trained to empathize with your experience without feeling stressed. They’re professionals who are skilled at regulating their emotions, giving them the capacity to understand the cause of your distress. Unlike close friends or family members, they’ll acknowledge what you’re going through without dismissing it as ‘no big deal’ or giving a solution.

They're Objective

It’s rare for friends or family members to point out unhealthy behavior patterns. In contrast, your therapist will ask you questions that help you identify your harmful thought patterns and behaviors. They won’t judge you, but they also make sure that you know the truth instead of just telling you what you want to hear.

Benefits of Individual Therapy

At URP Behavioral Health, residents can seek inpatient treatment for a number of mental health disorders. Regardless of the mental health issues you face, there are certain benefits of individual therapy that can’t be ignored. Here are some of the following:

Makes You Open To Change

A major theme of individual therapy is the goal of bringing about positive change. Of course, this doesn’t come without facing your fair share of challenges, most of which are hard to overcome. Because everyone is facing a different challenge, individual psychotherapy offers the space and time to overcome obstacles and embrace change gradually.

Better Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can make other treatment modalities less effective. During individual therapy, you get a safe environment to talk about how you feel about yourself and those around you. Your therapist will suggest techniques to address negative self-talk. You’ll also evaluate which relationships contribute to your low self-esteem, giving you the opportunity to improve boundary-setting skills.

Improved Communication Skills

With individual psychotherapy, you’ll learn strategies to pinpoint how you’re feeling and articulate them in a way that’s easier to understand. Additionally, your therapist will help you build active listening and other social skills that can come in handy during group therapy sessions.

Focused and Personalized

Another benefit of individual therapy is that it gives you more time and space to reflect on your experiences and feelings. Because it’s personalized, your therapist will move at a pace that’s comfortable for you, instead of trying to accommodate an entire group.

What Approaches Are Used in Individual Therapy?

During an individual therapy session, mental health professionals can choose between different approaches or combine them. The main types of psychotherapy are as follows:

Psychodynamic Therapy

With a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic approach, your therapist will focus on your unconscious motivations to change harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


This approach is based on the concept that your thought patterns impact your behavior. Cognitive therapists focus on dysfunctional thoughts as the cause of harmful behavior. It focuses on solving current issues rather than addressing past experiences.


A primary goal of humanistic psychotherapy is to help you achieve self-awareness and work towards self-improvement. Your therapist will highlight your positive behaviors and traits while encouraging you to take responsibility for yourself.

Holistic or Integrative

The most common approach is the combination of different theories. Your therapist will use aspects of different approaches based on your individual needs.

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FAQs for Psychotherapy for Mental Health

These are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding individual psychotherapy:

In some situations, individual therapy isn’t the best option. For instance, when you struggle with behavioral issues that can impact your relationships, or your symptoms occur as a result of distress from your family environment. In these cases, the therapeutic dynamic will involve more than you and your therapist – it could include your spouse, parents, or other close family members.


This allows your mental health practitioner to evaluate the relationship and offer guidance to help ease conflicts and address challenges. Similarly, there are situations when your condition affects how you relate to others. Then, a group setting is much more favorable and allows better outcomes because it gives you an environment where you can test your skills and see how others respond.

One-on-one therapy focuses on your concerns and feelings, giving you the space to explore and understand them. Learning about your emotions and how they impact your thoughts and behavioral patterns is crucial to develop healthy coping strategies. Additionally, your therapist can suggest specific techniques to help manage stressful situations and stress. In contrast to a group setting, these methods will be specific to your needs.

Each individual therapy session will last around one hour and residents at URP Behavioral Health will receive at least one hour of individual counseling each week. Your case manager and primary psychiatrist will determine the frequency of these sessions based on your diagnosis and what other therapies you receive. Individual therapy is provided regularly for the entire duration of your treatment plan, which is modified on a bi-weekly basis according to your progress or the lack thereof.

Your therapist will set goals for individual therapy based on your specific needs, but some of the most common ones include building a sense of trust, increasing communication, and fostering a beneficial therapeutic relationship. Once you form a relationship, you’ll work towards understanding your thought and behavior patterns, increasing self-awareness of your emotions and defense mechanisms, and learning to manage your feelings.

In the first session, you’ll discuss your reasons for seeking treatment. At the time, your therapist will gather information regarding your symptoms and personal history while listening to your mental health concerns. You can expect to do most of the talking during these sessions. As you discuss different events, it’s likely that you’ll experience a variety of emotions. Here, your therapist will try to help you make sense of these feelings to improve emotional regulation.

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