How Individual Therapy Works

Psychoanalysis and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

An individual therapy session.
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Individual therapy is a form of therapy in which the client is treated on a one-on-one basis with a therapist. The most popular form of therapy, individual therapy may encompass many different treatment styles including psychoanalysis and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Individual therapy allows the therapist and client to focus on each other, building a rapport and working together to solve the client's issue.

However, psychoanalysis and related therapies may progress for months or even years, while brief therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can produce results in just a few sessions.

What Is Psychoanalytic Treatment?

Psychoanalytic treatment involves exploring the organization of the personality and reorganizing it in a way that addresses deep conflicts and defenses.

According to the principles of psychoanalysis, curing a phobia is only possible by identifying and solving the initial conflict.

Psychoanalysis is the form of therapy often seen in old movies where a client lies on a couch with the psychoanalyst seated near his or her head. The psychoanalyst does not inject his or her own opinions but allows the client to transfer feelings onto the analyst.

Psychoanalysis is not as popular today as it was a few decades ago, but is still a treatment used to address deep seated personality issues. The process is generally lengthy, often lasting for many years.

It may also be more expensive than some other options, although the costs are dependent on factors such as the number of sessions per week, geographic location, and duration of treatment.

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, enables you to manage your fears by helping you gradually change the way you think. It's based on the interconnectedness of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.

For example, a person who has a phobia believes that the feared situation is inherently dangerous. This belief leads to negative automatic thoughts that occur as soon as the feared situation is encountered and the automatic thoughts lead to a phobic behavioral reaction.

It may take several CBT sessions to counteract this thought pattern. In order to accomplish this, the therapist can help you overcome your fear with incremental steps.

Techniques commonly used in cognitive-behavioral therapy draw from the schools of behaviorism and learning theory as well as the school of cognitive theory.

Group Therapy for Phobias

The alternative to individual treatment is group therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common type of group therapy.

CBT sessions for phobias may call the therapy session a seminar. The duration may be one hour or several days. A group of people with a fear of flying, for example, may assemble at an airport hotel for the weekend, where they might engage in a combination of psychoeducational classes and exposure sessions inside the airport.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.