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What are the Different Types of Therapy?



What are the chances of you walking into a shoe store without knowing which type of shoe you’re looking for? Highly unlikely. If you did, you might not only get overwhelmed with the variety of shoes being sold from running sneakers to dress boots, you might end up walking out with the wrong type.


When it comes to therapy, this can be a similar experience. See, there is no such thing as a fix-all approach. Just like there isn’t a pair of shoes that you could play basketball in and then wear to a formal event. Instead, there are dozens of different types meant to help resolve specific mental or emotional issues. Also, each approach will work differently for each individual.


In other words, making the decision to even try therapy is challenging enough, let enough finding the best type of therapy for you.


To make this less daunting, here’s a closer look at the most common types of therapy so that you know what to look for when choosing a trained mental health professional like a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.


Cognitive-behavior therapy.


Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is a short-term approach to mental health treatment. It focuses mainly on identifying and reconditioning unhealthy thought patterns that may cause self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.


While working with a psychologist (Ph.D.or Psy.D.), a licensed clinical social worker (MSW), or a licensed professional counselor (M.A., M.S., or Ph.D.) trained in CBT, you’ll develop systems existing symptoms and how you can make healthy changes.


CBT is often used if you’re dealing with:

  • Anxiety disorder

  • Depression

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Eating disorders

  • Substance use disorders

  • OCD

  • Some symptoms of schizophrenia.

Dialectical behavior therapy.


DBT uses CBT skills. However, it’s more comprehensive by prioritizing acceptance and emotional regulation. Therapists who use DPT help teach you new skills to solve problems and acceptance strategies, such as ways to cope with uncomfortable situations and mindfulness practices.

DPT was first used to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).


Today, it is recommended for those with eating disorders, mood disorders, substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy.


Primarily used to treat people with PTSD, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is a technique where an individual recalls a traumatic event. At the same time, you’ll perform specific eye movements. The goal is to replace painful memories with positive responses.


While some believe that this is effective, others believe that this type of therapy is controversial. If you want to try it, be certain that your therapist is certified to use this technique.


Psychodynamic therapy


Used by a licensed clinical social worker, a psychologist, or a licensed professional counselor, who have training or experience in psychodynamic therapy, this type of therapy focuses on self-awareness and self-examination.


With the guidance of a mental health professional, you’ll determine the root cause of problematic feelings or beliefs. Once you do, you can change recurring patterns. Therapy usually lasts between six months and two years and can be used if you’re past is affecting your life.

Psychoanalytic therapy

Although this type of therapy has been used for years, it remains controversial. It involves helping you understand the subconscious or unconscious mind. The idea is to bring unconscious thoughts to the surface so that you can identify how they’re impacting your actions.

Psychoanalysts, such as psychiatrists (M.D.), psychologists, or licensed professional counselors who have been trained in psychoanalytic theory and technique, may be able to help those with compulsions, obsessions, or phobias.

Humanistic therapy.


The goal of humanistic therapy is to identify how your worldview can affect the choices that you make. With the help of a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker who had been trained in humanistic therapy, you’ll gain personal acceptance through self-development, growth, and responsibilities.


Unlike most other types of therapy, humanistic therapy helps you focus on the here and now.


Mindfulness-based therapy.


Another type of therapy that can help you live in the present and accept things how they are is mindfulness-based therapy by putting distance between negative thoughts. Techniques like meditation are a big part of MBT.


Studies have found that this can help relieve anxiety and depression. However, it can also be useful for those experiencing stress, pain, and even some symptoms of schizophrenia.


Creative arts therapy.


Creative arts therapy, such as music, art, drama, poetry, and dance, is used by a professional art therapist to express your feelings.


According to the American Art Therapy Association, this “effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem, and self-awareness cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”


Different types of therapy arrangements.


It should be noted that in addition to different types of therapies, there are also various arrangements, including:

  • Individual: Here you might one-on-one with a mental health professional. This is the most common type of therapy you can expect when making an appointment.

  • Family: This can be helpful for parents and children, siblings, or other family members to improve family relationships.

  • Couples: Often used when there are changes in a relationship, like when becoming parents, to deepen bonds and address these changes.

  • Group: Although common when addressing forms of substance abuse or addiction, group therapy can also be used for those dealing with trauma and grief, as well as victims of physical abuse.

  • Online or in-person: Following COVID-19, teletherapy has become more common. Instead of visiting a therapist in person, you would meet with them over the phone or video. Teletherapy can make therapy more accessible and convenient, but some people prefer in-person interaction.

Choosing the right therapy.


While there are different types of therapy, there’s no need to get overwhelmed. If you do feel this way, seek advice from someone you trust like a friend, family member, or healthcare provider.


You can also ask questions like:

  • What do you want to address?

  • Is there a specific life event, such as the death of a family member or dealing with a medical issue, that you’re struggling with?

  • What traits are you looking for in a therapist? For example, if you’re a female, you may be more comfortable working with someone of the same gender.

  • What’s your price range and availability?

  • Are you more comfortable talking to a mental health professional in person or will teletherapy be acceptable?

Even if you find a therapist who seems to be the right fit, it may not work out. And, that’s alright. You can always change therapists of therapy types if you must.


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