Psychotherapy in the 21st century has changed its face. Growing from the early days of psychoanalysis and behavioral therapies, it was once primarily for the severely mentally ill. People who needed and entered therapy were usually viewed as “crazy”. They were hospitalized and locked away, and it was not really talked about openly. Psychological ailments were very misunderstood and frankly, it was shameful to need therapy. The stigmas attached to therapy were enough to keep most people from seeking therapy. Today, some stigma continues to exist, however, not nearly to the degree that it once did (Kung, 2014).
Today, psychology in general, permeates nearly every important field. Beginning with babies and toddlers, all through the life span, to the geriatric and end of life stages, therapies of all kinds are utilized. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly fifty percent of people in the United States would develop at least one mental illness in their lifetime. The economic burden for the United States in 2002 was estimated at three hundred billion dollars (CDC Report, 2011). Another report put out by the American Journal of Psychiatry (2008), estimated the cost at three hundred seventeen billion dollars. If that is what the costs were in 2008, what do you suppose it is in 2015? Experts admit it is difficult to obtain the data to get accurate numbers, but they recognize mental illness as a huge burden on individuals, families and society (Insel, 2008).
A View on Some of the Important Uses of Psychotherapy Today
With modern technology, has come various ways to research, map and understand the human brain. Today more than ever before, we have an understanding of the impact of neurological disorders throughout the lifespan. Some examples of settings where psychotherapy is used include: homes, schools, hospitals, community health centers, prisons, private health centers, private practices, military bases, corporate settings, and even online.
With developmental disabilities on the rise (or at least our ability to diagnose them), therapists now go into homes and schools to provide therapeutic services. Just doing a google search on “in-home therapy” brings up dozens of listings. The earliest interventions begin from zero to three years old, and usually take place in the child’s home environment. Depending on the type of mental health needs of the child, psychotherapists provide a variety of services from behavioral techniques to trauma therapy. They also work with the parents of the special needs child, because the stressors on a couple or family can be enormous. Today, in 2015, most mental health services for children are first spoken about with pediatricians, and services are initiated from there (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015).
For some children, the mental health services end by the time they begin school. For others, therapeutic services follow them into their school setting. Psychotherapy is now widely used in school settings across the country. In 2015, it is not uncommon for children to carry a mental health diagnosis, and to receive psychotherapeutic services so that they can function better in their learning environment. Now more than ever before experts link children’s mental health with their ability to learn. Some of the important issues addressed in school settings today also include depression, anxiety, neurological disorders, bullying, and intimidation (Coursol & Roberts, 1996). In many cases, children and adolescents need medication or even hospitalization to help them.
Within hospital settings, access to psychiatrists, psychologist and social workers is a must. Most hospitals have a psychiatric unit, and many today also have child and adolescent psychiatric units. In hospitals, mental health services are usually initiated in the Emergency Rooms. In fact, according to Tang, Stein, Hsia, Maselli & Gonzales, (2010), sixty percent of Emergency Room physicians believe that mental health visits are causing longer wait times, increasing patient frustration and occupying a great deal of hospital staff. Hospitals are often the place that mental health and psychotherapy services originate for adults, and then people get released to receive community resources. Many hospitals try to set up follow-up services prior to release from the hospital. Referrals to places such as Community Health Centers, Private Health Centers, and Private Practices are often made for psychotherapy.
Within Community Health Centers, Private Health Centers and Private Practice settings is the need to access various types of mental health interventions. Psychotherapists are utilized to address such issues as homelessness, substance abuse, physical illness, and various other psychological conditions (too many to name).
Other common places to find psychotherapy being used are prisons and military bases. Today more than ever before, we as a society, recognize the devastating effects of issues such as substance abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even Anger Management is a type of psychotherapy used to help people manage their very intense emotions in a way that is not detrimental to those around them or themselves. Acts of violence are often linked to psychological disorders, so for the prevention, treatment and solution to violence in our society, psychotherapy is key.
Another very important setting to consider is how Corporate America uses and endorses psychotherapy in order to better work environments. Large companies now utilize psychological tests for hiring and team building. They have Employee Assistance Programs for employees whose psychological state is impacting their ability to perform their jobs. People talk openly about subjects that were once taboo, such as sexual harassment and work place violence. Psychotherapeutic services are utilized and endorsed like never before. It is exciting to see how knowledge really is powerful and the knowledge our society has gained and is moving forward into in 2015, is the value of modern day psychology and psychotherapy.
The Conclusions Moving Forward
Psychotherapy and mental health in general are moving forward. In 2015, compared to what the field once was, it is extraordinary to recognize the growth and value our society is giving mental health. While some mental health practitioners fear what the Affordable Care Act has brought to the table, others can view it as an opportunity to expand their scope of practice.
More and more, people who would never even consider therapy as an option, speak openly about how they have therapists or have gone through therapy. Talk shows on television pick topics and issues that the general public finds interesting, or can relate to, and they actually perform therapy on television.
But the biggest and most interesting change in how mental health is viewed and approached, may come from the medical field. Physicians more than ever before, recognize the impact of the body-mind connection. They embrace the help of mental health professionals in helping their patients reduce their stress levels, cope with chronic injuries or conditions, and ultimately live healthier lifestyles.
As a society, we can be proud of how far we have come. In the words of J. Grodin, Ph.D. (2015), “…we address the psychological aspects of physical illness, accident, injury or disability. In this way, we are natural partners in an integrated care approach to treatment.”
May we continue onward into the bodacious world of psychotherapy!
American Academy of Pediatrics. retrieved from www.aap.org/
Centers for Disease Control Report: Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States. September 2, 2011/60 (03;1-32)
Coursol, D. H., & Roberts, W. B. (1996) Strategies for Intervention with Childhood and Adolescent Victims of Bullying, Teasing, and Intimidation.
Grodin, J. (2015). The National Psychologist, 24: 6.
Insel, T.R. Assessing the Economic Costs of Serious Mental Illness. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2008; 165(6): 663-5.
Kung, S. (Expert Opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. March 7, 2014.
Tang, N., Stein, J., Hsia, R.Y., Maselli, J.H., Gonzales, R. T. (2010). Trends and Characteristics of U.S. Emergency Department Visits, 1997-2007. Jama, 2010; 304 (6):664-70.