How Can Insight Therapy Help Me?
By: Michael Puskar
Updated November 18, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
One of the primary reasons why therapy or counseling can sometimes fail is a lack of insight on the part of the client. The gaining of insight has been a key component in the success of psychoanalysis since its inception. While there are actions people take and words that are uttered without deliberate thought, there is a subconscious idea of some sort behind them. It is often not until introduced to the concept of metacognition that we begin thinking about how individuals are able to gain insight into their actions. In this article, you will learn insight therapy, the various types of it, and how they can be helpful for specific conditions and our relationships with others.
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What is Insight Therapy?
Insight therapy is a type of treatment that helps you see the reasons for your negative behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. The idea is that once you know that you are the one controlling all of these things, you will be able to make the necessary changes. Sigmund Freud began using insight therapy back in the early 1900s at the Psychoanalyst School of Psychology. Therapists may try to get to the root of your issues by talking about your past or your childhood to determine what may be the trigger to these feelings.
This is an indirect type of therapy that lets you do most of the talking rather than having the therapist ask the questions and lead you to where they believe the problems might be, like with behavior therapy. Insight therapy is more like a friendly chat rather than a therapy session, and many people feel more comfortable with this type of therapy. Even though it is still a form of psychotherapy, it lets you discover how your past influences your current actions and behaviors.
Different Types of Insight Therapy
Just as there are several different types of insight therapy, there are also different types of insight. Some are used more than others in the psychiatry field. The one used most often is the four-stage model of insight. The four types of insight therapy include psychoanalysis, cognitive, humanistic, and group, family, and marital therapies.
- Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy. Sigmund Freud started insight therapy in the early 1900s with psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy. Some of the techniques used in this therapy include:
- Free association
- Dream analysis
- Analyzing resistance
- Analyzing transference
- Cognitive. Cognitive therapy focuses on beliefs and thought patterns that may be faulty and how to change them. By talking about your negative behaviors and feelings, you will be able to change your own outcome. There are two main types of cognitive therapy, which are:
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) from Albert Ellis - helps decrease self-defeating beliefs by rationally examining your beliefs and consequences.
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) from Aaron Beck - confronts your behaviors head-on and helps you learn ways to change them.
- Humanistic. Focuses on your personal growth with emotional reconstruction. The assumption is that you are blocking your own natural growth potential and, as a consequence, have become self-destructive. Rogers' client-centered therapy focuses on your own instinct to become healthy and productive. Some of the techniques include:
- Active listening
- Unconditional positive regard
- Group, Family, and Marital Therapies. Includes several ways to help groups of people who share the same issues.
- Group therapy involves a group of people all interested in the same outcome while working toward similar goals. For example, there are depression groups that work with patients who have depression and anxiety groups that work with patients who have anxiety disorders.
- Family therapy involves the whole family when there is a problem within the family dynamic, such as alcoholism, abuse, or divorce.
- Marital therapy works with a married couple to help them with their issues and learn effective ways to communicate.
Different Types of Insight Theories
Below, we'll discuss the different theories related to insight therapy.
Dual Process Theory of Insight
According to the dual-process theory of insight, there are two steps to solving problems. The first step is to use analytical and logical thought processes that are based on reason. The second step uses your intuition and the automatic "gut feeling" process that is based on your experiences.
Three Process Theory of Insight
With this theory, your intelligence has a key role in gaining insight, but there are three processes that include selective encoding, combination, and comparison.
- Selective Encoding is done by focusing your attention on the ideas that are relevant to finding a solution, and it ignores everything else.
- Selective Combination is when you combine both the relevant and that which was previously deemed relevant.
- Selective Comparison uses your past experiences with the solutions and problems that may apply to the problem at hand and possible solutions.
There are four stages of insight, which include preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Each one is just as important as others, and you have to go through all four stages to gain the insight you need to improve your state of mind.
- Preparation: First, you have to prepare to solve the problem by looking at all of the aspects. For example, if you are having trouble with your self-esteem, you may want to look at what may have happened to you in the past that caused this. Some of the common triggers of low self-esteem include childhood abuse, bullying, neglect, and violence at home.
- Incubation: After you determine what may be the cause, you will need plenty of time to think about the problem. This period will include possible solutions, brainstorming, and trial and error.
- Illumination: This is the lightbulb moment. Are you familiar with the lightbulb above a character's head in various cartoons? It is the "Aha" moment when you realize what the solution to the problem is and wonder why you had not seen it before.
- Verification: Even though you figured out the solution, this last step is necessary for you to know that your answer is correct. This is especially important for a person with low self-esteem because they tend to doubt themselves. The verification can come from your therapist saying you are right, but it is more important for you to realize that you are right by experiencing the results for yourself.
Thinking About Our Actions and Relationships
Metacognitive and insight therapies have proven beneficial to those who have compulsion disorders. When an individual has anxiety or an obsessive-compulsive disorder, he or she may perform actions on a ritualistic basis to alleviate the stress. These compulsions can often create dysfunction in a person's life.
For example, an individual who leaves the house for work or school and becomes extremely obsessed that the door has been left unlocked, or the clothing iron left on, might around and return home. This behavior will continue despite the number of times the door is found locked, or the clothing iron turned off. If this individual is successful in ignoring the compulsion and therefore does not act upon it, they are likely to obsess about it all day. When faced with this compulsion, there are two choices: 1) Return home to double-check and risk being late or 2) Ignore the compulsion and suffer from anxiety the remainder of the day.
A therapist who uses metacognitive and insight therapy will have the individual explore the underlying reasoning behind the compulsion. There may be something from the past, or there could be something on a subconscious level that is bothering them. By exploring their thought process and pattern of behavior, the individual may gain valuable insight into the underlying cause of the fear of leaving the door unlocked, or the clothing iron turned on.
It may be that the individual has concerns about the safety of their family or feels guilt over a past incident in which the safety of a child or other loved one was placed in jeopardy. Using the locked door as an example, the individual may have some paranoia about break-ins or fear of "letting someone in" to their personal life.
The compulsions and associated rituals may bring temporary relief to the individual, but they are also dysfunctions and can cause problems in both personal and work relationships. When a thought process or a behavioral pattern interferes with how an individual functions, it is considered a mental health disorder. According to research into the area of anxiety and compulsive disorders, unearthing the underlying fear or concern can often mitigate further dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors.
Insight therapy may also benefit those who have interpersonal relationships at work or at home. If relationships are complicated due to constant misunderstandings and bickering, there may be an underlying issue that is causing the behavior. Using metacognitive strategies can be highly effective in aiding the individual in gaining the necessary insight to change their thought patterns as well as their associated behaviors.
No one is comfortable when their lives have become dysfunctional. However, we are often trapped in a cycle of irrational thought processes and dysfunctional behavioral patterns. If you do not have a therapist and do not have the time or ability to look for one, you can always try an online resource. These websites have thousands of licensed therapists and counselors ready to help you right now. If you do not want to go there in person, you can even try online therapy. BetterHelp's licensed therapists are available to you from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing different thought processes and life challenges.
"Philip has assisted me in looking at and processing some issues in key areas of my life. This has resulted in greater clarity, understanding, and healing for me. His friendly, reflective, and balanced way of being makes it easy for me to share my innermost thoughts and feelings. Philip has a great ability to listen and reflect back what I'm saying without judgment, yet with very helpful insights. He's very supportive and has helped me become more aware of my strengths. Counseling with Philip is very beneficial. I look forward to my sessions, knowing they will be truly helpful."
"Felicia has been profoundly communicative, doing an excellent job of clarifying some of my more discordant thoughts while introducing new lines of questioning to help me tease out some thoughts that have proven beneficial for giving form to some of my more shapeless issues."
In order to learn about ourselves and make necessary changes, we first must learn how to think and carefully examine our actions and behaviors. Insight therapy can help you do just that and help you apply it to your specific situation. Regardless of which of the four types of insight therapy you go with, being able to listen and think clearly will allow you to make these changes and see growth as a person, allowing you to live a happier and healthier life. Take the first step today.