Become a Therapist – Supporting People to Improve Their Mental Health
What do we mean by a therapist?
A therapist is someone who is skilled in a particular type of therapy. They may be a physiotherapist, a sports therapist, but in this article, we are interested in mental health.
A therapist in this context is someone who provides therapy to help a person to improve their mental health.
There are many different types of therapist supporting people with mental health difficulties, so we cannot discuss them all here, but let’s look firstly at some of the traditional forms of therapy.
Traditional Forms of Therapy
Psychotherapists are therapists who use talking therapy to treat a person’s psychological difficulties. They generally use specific psychotherapeutic theories and techniques to support their clients. A psychotherapist can be a counsellor, doctor, teacher or other professionals who has trained in psychotherapy.
Counsellors are similar to psychotherapists. They use talking therapy to support their clients, but they may use a range of different methods and theories to do this, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or Humanistic Counselling.
A counsellor will train in counselling techniques, theory and practice.
As an example – CBT helps people to change their irrational thoughts. When a person is depressed, they may see everything in the world in a negative way. “I broke my favourite mug today. Everything in my life is awful.” Instead of thinking that it is one negative thing, a person who is depressed may see it as “proof” that everything in their life is bad. CBT helps a person to recognise these irrational thoughts and try to replace them with more positive ones.
If you are interested in training in counselling, click here to find out more about our counselling courses.
Alternative Forms of Therapy
More and more, the benefits of other forms of therapy are being recognised. Traditional counselling and psychotherapy are helpful and beneficial to many people, but there are other forms of therapy that can be just as helpful. Different people will find different forms of therapy beneficial.
These forms of therapy can be offered alone, or alongside counselling or psychotherapy.
Let’s look at some examples of these less-traditional forms of therapy.
People are increasingly recognising the importance of the world around them. We hear daily about climate change and the crisis in our planet. This has made many people consider just how important nature is to us. We are part of nature. Humans are animals and exist in nature. We are connected to nature in many ways. Recognising this is important to our mental and physical health.
Spending time in nature helps our mental health in a number of ways –
- It can help to improve our focus and attention.
- It can improve a low mood – spending time in nature has been found to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
- It can reduce feelings of stress and anger.
- Spending time in nature can encourage a person to be more physically active, which can also improve mental health.
- Being in nature can help people to feel more relaxed.
- Being outdoors in nature can also help people to develop new friendships and socialise. Walking in a park, for example, people might engage in conservations with other people.
Ecotherapy builds upon the benefits of being outdoors with nature.
Ecotherapy Practice is a form of “nature-informed therapy” that is based on the belief that we are part of nature and the web of life, that our thoughts and minds are not isolated and separate from the world around us.
This connection with nature is at the core of ecotherapy – the wellbeing of the individual and the wellbeing of the planet are connected and entwined. Humans can harmonise with the world around them and use this to balance their emotions and mental health.
What does that actually mean?
Ecotherapy provides individuals with the opportunity to explore their relationship with nature. This can often be overlooked in other forms of therapy. Underlying ecotherapy is the idea that we can treat people’s psychological issues by enabling them to become spiritually closer to nature.
So, the aim of ecopsychology is to remedy psychological problems by creating an emotional connection between nature and humans.
How is Ecotherapy Carried out?
Ecotherapy Practice involves exposure to nature and also talking therapy. It is usually done outside so the person is connected to nature, but it can be done indoors using nature objects and ideas inside.
It is not just about seeing natural things, it is about experiencing nature using all of our senses –
- Tasting (with care of course)
- But also using our sixth sense – proprioception – the awareness of our body in a natural environment.
There is no single set way to do ecotherapy or to define ecotherapy, but it tends to refer to activities such as:
- Support the individual or group by a therapist
- Carrying out an activity in a natural environment
- Exploration and appreciation of nature and the natural world around us
- Spending time with others and interacting with them at your own pace and in your own way
The focus is on the activity itself, spending time with nature and that connection helps to improve a person’s mental health.
Creative therapy is an umbrella term for a range of different therapies that relate to creative topics. The list below gives you some examples –
- Dance therapy
- Art therapy
- Singing therapy
- Music therapy
- Sound therapy
- Craft therapy
- Psychotherapeutic Writing
- Drama Therapy
This list is not exhaustive, there are many creative therapies available.
In creative therapy, a person usually engages in a creative activity, which can encourage them to open up about their mental health to the therapist or activity organiser.
Let’s look at some examples –
- In music therapy, a person or group of people might be encouraged to play music loud and fast to express feelings of anger and frustration.
- In psychotherapeutic writing, people may be encouraged to write how they feel or write stories. For example, writing a letter to a person who they are upset with, or to express their feelings of grief and loss. They might write a story imaging that they are another person who feels more confident and stronger than they are.
- Sound therapy can encourage people to listen to relaxing and repetitious sounds to help them to feel calmer and relaxed.
- In craft and art therapies, a person may create something, such as a picture or sculpture or carving. Their work does not have to be brilliant, it is a way of expressing how they feel through their art. For example, a person who is not able to verbally communicate how they feel may be able to express their feelings through their art.
How are Creative Therapies Carried Out?
How they are carried out will depends on the type of therapy. For example –
- Drama therapy may take place in a hall or theatre.
- Art therapy or craft therapies will most likely be in a room set up specifically for that type of activity.
- Psychotherapeutic Writing can be carried out anywhere. In nature, a coffee shop, at home, a classroom, anywhere that suits.
- Dance therapy would most likely be in a hall or dance classroom, but it could also be outdoors.
It really depends on the space and the equipment required to do the activity.
The therapist will encourage the person to undertake tasks, such as “Draw a picture of how you felt when X said that to you.” Whilst the person is doing their activity, the therapist might encourage the person to talk about how they feel and what they are drawing. If the person does not want to talk, the therapist will be supportive and available during the session in case the person does wish to share or express emotions during this time.
Our Creative Therapies online course covers all this and more !
Horticultural Therapy (Also known as Social and Therapeutic Horticulture)
As with ecotherapy, horticultural therapy recognises the importance of plants and flowers to our mental and physical health. Horticultural therapy uses gardening activities, such as –
- Plant care
- Visits to natural environments, parts, gardens etc
- Plant propagation
- Planting seeds
- These activities are linked to improving a person’s –
- Mental and physical health
- Encourage feelings of well-being
- Promote social interactions
- Team membership and leadership skills
- Connection to nature
Plants can help us to relax, to exercise and also to enjoy the beauty of nature around us. This is all essential to our mental and physical health.
Spending time with plants and flowers has been found to –
- Reduce mental fatigue
- Reduce aggression
- Increase feelings of connection to others
- Increase pride in ourselves and our community
- Improve our mental and physical health
Who Can Use Horticultural Therapy?
A horticultural therapist can carry out work with a wide range of people, such as –
- People with dementia
- People with visual or hearing impairments
- People who have suffered from a health condition, such as a stroke, heart attack etc.
- People who are grieving
- People with depression
But really, horticultural therapy is useful for just about anyone.
Horticultural therapy activities can be carried out outdoors or indoors. It can be carried out in –
- The person’s home
- Garden centres
- Community gardens
- And other environments.
- The therapist can work with one person or in groups.
Interested in training as a horticultural therapist? Our Horticultural Therapy online course is an in-depth and extensive learning experience.
Play therapy is our final example. Play therapy can be used with children or adults. It is a way of encouraging people to express their thoughts and feelings through play. People who benefit from play therapy include –
- Children generally
- Children and adults who may struggle to express themselves verbally
- Adults with dementia
- Adults or children emotional difficulties
But as with the other therapies we have discussed here, play therapy can help just about anyone who is struggling mentally in some way.
The goal of play therapy is to help individuals to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
Play therapists need to be creative and good at encouraging individuals to play. Adults can feel a bit silly playing at first, but it is as useful for adults as it is for children.
Play therapy activities can include –
- Using puppets to play out emotions and thoughts – Encouraging a child to use the puppets to show what happened in an upsetting event.
- Role play to also play out emotions and thoughts – “How do you think Simon felt when you did that? Let’s act that out.”
- Paints and craft equipment
- And much more. The therapist will encourage the child or adult to demonstrate how they feel through play.
ACS has developed an informative and relevant online course in PLAY THERAPY
Becoming a Therapist
There is no “right” way to become a therapist. It really depends on what type of therapist you would like to become.
To become a therapist –
Consider what area of therapy you are interested in
Find out more about it
Evaluate your own skills –
- Do you have the necessary skills?
- Do you require more training?
- For example, If you want to be a horticultural therapist, then a good understanding and knowledge of horticulture would also be necessary.
- Do you have good interpersonal skills?
- Do you have counselling skills?
- Are you enthusiastic and keen?
- Are you patient?
Decide on the area in which you wish to train and – Go for it! There is nothing quite like supporting people to improve their mental health, to improve their quality of life.
If you are interested in helping people to improve their mental health, why not consider studying a form of therapy.
Find out more about our online courses below –