Therapy used to be a taboo subject. Thankfully, more people are beginning recognise good mental health as a priority and that therapy is a great way to achieve it.
But many of us are still new to the maze of mental health interventions and approaches available to us.
To reap the benefits of therapy - whether it’s to heal or deal with your anxiety or simply to figure yourself out, it’s important to choose the right type for you, says positive psychology practitioner Tara Schofield.
“There’s got to be a person-activity fit. We have hundreds of different positive interventions which are research-based, but they’re not going to work for everybody.”
For example, if you’re an auditory person who loves music, a Tibetan singing bowl healing session might work because it’s something that your mind and even body can respond to. If foreign sounds irritate you, you definitely want to sit that one out.
We talked to experts to learn about what is out there and what kind of personalities might work best with each type of therapy.
Great for: Introspective people who tend to overthink
You’re probably familiar with the concept of counselling, or at least the glamorised version you see on TV. Most therapists won’t make you lie on a coach or analyse your dreams, but they will help you to make sense of your thoughts and feelings.
Psychotherapy is a very common form of talking therapy. “Psychotherapy is where people delve into their past and look at areas that need to be healed so that they can exist in the present as their best selves and be able to move forward,” Tara explains.
2 Cognitive behavioural therapy
“Another is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT looks at thinking habits that are not helping you and might be holding you back,” says Tara. The therapist helps you to identify those habits and change them so that you can face challenges more effectively in the future.
3 Positive psychology
Tara herself works with positive psychology. “While a psychotherapist looks at what needs to be fixed, positive therapy is more about what’s working well and how we can build on that so that we can be the best that we can be.”
She encourages her clients to focus on finding solutions and imagining the positive outcome that they desire.
There are many other methods used in talk therapy, and a quick Google search of a counsellor or therapist’s name should tell you which kinds they’re trained in.
You can find a list of registered counsellors on the Singapore Association of Counselling website.
Great for: People who are looking for peace and calm
This in an umbrella term for therapies that get you to relax. It is used to treat not only emotional and psychological stress but also physical stress and even pain.
Delphine Supanya, a self-love coach and medical intuitive who was raised as a Vipassana Buddhist, explains that there are intimate connections between the mind and the body.
She knows this from personal experience, having suffered a stroke that paralysed her for six months and achieved a full recovery with the help of meditation.
“Through the neurological system, the brain sends messages down to your entire body,” she says. “Once the confidence, the purpose and the sense of self is reestablished, the body becomes more positive and healing happens on its own.”
4 Guided meditation
With her clients, Delphine uses guided meditation which is similar to hypnosis, to help them uncover deep seeded issues - from relationship problems to disease.
During the meditation, you use your own imagination to find peace within yourself.
5 Mindfulness-based therapy
“Mindfulness is just really about being able to be in the present moment with your emotions as they arise and being aware of them without judgement,” says Tara. “It has its Buddhist roots but research supports that it’s really effective and it has applications in so many areas of our lives.” You can practice mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful breathing and even mindful teeth-brushing.
In mindfulness-based therapies, a trained professional teaches you how to incorporate mindfulness in all that you do.
Organisations like The Brahm Centre hold regular mindfulness-based stress reduction programmes and other related activities.
6 Tension or trauma release exercises
Tension or trauma release exercises (TRE) is a technique used to release deep tension in the muscles in your body that hold on to stress. “It’s like you’re shaking up your cells to detox,” Delphine says.
This helps your body and mind return to a state of balance, and has been found to help improve mental health.
If you’re looking to try TRE, make sure you’re consulting with a certified professional who can guide you through exercises safely.
Great for: People who are curious and open to new experiences
Also known as alternative therapy, this category usually involves physical or sensory experiences.
Therapists could recommend a diet, or use movement or art to engage their clients in order to improve their wellbeing.
There are too many types to name, so here are some that we find particularly intriguing.
7 Sound therapy
Tibetan singing bowl master Akiko Igarashi, who visits Singapore regularly to conduct healing sessions at Ame de Lumiere Holistic Consultancy, says cells in the body resonate with specific soundwaves.
According to Akiko, the frequencies created by bowls made of special materials (crystal or alloys) vibrate the cells and removes all the impurities.
Even if you don’t believe in that stuff, we can attest to the very, very relaxing effect of sound healing. You can also attend a gong meditation session at Ascend Yoga Therapy, if singing bowls aren’t your thing.
8 Energy healing
Yes, I can see you skeptics rolling your eyes. Reiki, chakra cleansing and acupuncture are just a few forms of energetic work that you might have heard of.
The aim is to direct the flow of energy in your body to cause biochemical changes that purportedly lead to the healing emotional and physical conditions.
People argue that the effects are tangible, and that you can feel warmth or tingling and even experience physical healing. We’ll leave you to decide what to believe. Try a Reiki healing session at One Heart Singapore.
Naturopathic medicine is premised upon the belief that nutrition plays a huge role in our emotional and mental health.
When a naturopath sees their client, they aim to treat the whole person - mind, body and soul - with natural remedies like herbs and dietary supplements.
Some practitioners like Andrea Paige of Live with Vitality claim that fasting and detoxing can heal anything from disease to a bad breakup.
Shop around for the right therapist
Before you try any of the above therapeutic interventions, Delphine cautions that you should find a therapist you can vibe with whom you are certain will be able to accompany you through your journey. Don’t feel bad if you go for a therapy session only to find that you hate your therapist.
“Get a feel of the therapist, see if you have resonance with them and if you trust them,” says Delphine. With any type of therapy, you’re digging deep into yourself, so make sure you have support because you don’t know what you might find.
There are several online platforms that provide resources and information to help you choose the right wellness practitioner for you. Social enterprise ReSET is one example. The startup, which focuses on mental health issues relating to love and relationships, has designed programmes and events to familiarise clients with their partners. It’s got an app in the works that will connect couples with the professionals and resources they need.
Singapore Association of Mental Health and the National Council of Social Services also have useful information on their websites to help you find the right treatment for you.