If you’re considering therapy, you may be wondering where to start. There are many different forms of counseling, and each therapist will have their own unique approach. Here are some of the most common types of therapy available, and how to choose the right one for you.
The American Psychological Association recognizes five approaches to counseling:
- Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Humanistic therapy
- Integrative or holistic therapy
Psychoanalytic Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy
These are two closely related therapies. Psychoanalytic therapy is a talk therapy that focuses on identifying unconscious thoughts and analyzing how they have affected an individual’s life. Psychodynamic therapy is based on the principles of psychoanalytic therapy, but is often shorter in duration and focused on the client’s external world as well as their internal one.
The focus of behavioral therapies is on eliminating negative behaviors and replacing them with positive ones. There are many different techniques that fall under this approach, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, systematic desensitization, and flooding.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular counseling method often used to treat mental health disorders and substance use disorders. This approach focuses on how our thoughts affect our feelings and behaviors.
A therapist using CBT will help their client identify negative or irrational thoughts, then examine whether these thoughts are true. They will work with the client to replace these thoughts with more positive and realistic ones and modify the client’s behavior.
Cognitive behavioral therapy often involves homework between sessions. Your therapist might ask you to keep track of your thoughts in a journal so that you can discuss them in the next therapy session. Or, you may need to take a particular action. For example, if you have been struggling with healthy communication, your therapist could ask you to practice some communication methods you’ve learned in therapy.
Many people benefit from the practical, problem-solving approach of CBT. This type of therapy teaches skills for handling problems in a more constructive way and coping with negative feelings in a healthy manner.
Work with a therapist trained in CBT:
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines elements of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and cognitive behavioral therapy. Originally created to treat borderline personality disorder, it is now used for a variety of other mental health disorders.
DBT focuses on mindfulness, teaching you to recognize your thoughts and feelings and come up with a healthy response to triggers. Emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance are also core focus areas.
Dialectical behavior therapy usually involves a mix of individual and group therapy sessions. You have the chance to meet one-on-one with your therapist, but you will also learn from your peers in a group setting. This helps you form a support network of individuals going through similar struggles.
Cognitive therapy (CT) is often confused with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive therapy was developed by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in 1967 and focuses on how thought influences feelings and behaviors, much like CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy was developed later (in the 1970s) and uses both cognitive therapy and behavioral modification techniques. The main difference is that CBT uses many behavioral techniques, while CT focuses mainly on changing thought processes.
Humanistic therapy focuses on you as an individual. The goal is to help you develop into the best version of yourself and reach your full potential. A core belief of humanistic therapy is that human beings are inherently good and can make the right choices for themselves.
The three main types of humanistic therapy are gestalt therapy, client-centered therapy, and existential therapy.
Gestalt therapy encourages you to examine your life in the present moment. When you bring up past events, your therapist may ask you to try to experience that in the present and analyze how it makes you feel right now. Gestalt therapy uses a variety of techniques such as role-playing, reenactment, and guided fantasy.
Carl Rogers developed the client-centered approach in the 1940s. This type of therapy is also known as person-centered therapy or Rogerian therapy, and as its name implies, it makes the client the focus.
The idea is that the client needs to freely express themselves without judgment, and the therapist’s job is to offer a safe environment for that. Person-centered therapists use techniques such as accurate empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard to help a client feel comfortable opening up. Client-centered techniques are used in motivational interviewing, a type of therapy often used to treat addiction and substance abuse.
Existential therapy is based on the philosophical approach of the same name. The driving concept behind this technique is that each individual makes their own meaning in life. Therapists working with this method will guide you to make rational choices and reach your full potential. The key concepts of existential therapy are free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning.
Some therapists take a holistic approach, using different techniques to address each client’s needs. This is known as integrative therapy because it brings together different therapeutic methods for a more comprehensive treatment. This approach is helpful for addressing complex mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Which Therapy Is Right for Me?
Wondering how to find the right approach for you? Consider what your goals are, or what you want to get out of therapy. You should also have a clear understanding of any specific mental health conditions you’re living with, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or substance use disorder.
Need a mental health diagnosis? The Light Program offers psychological assessments.
Another thing to consider is your personal preference. Which of these therapies appeal to you? Is there a particular approach that you think would be beneficial? Also keep in mind that you are free to switch therapists at any time and try out new approaches. It may take some trial and error, but eventually, you will find what works for you.
Therapy with The Light Program
The Light Program has a team of trained therapists who use a variety of different techniques. If you’re trying to manage a mental health condition or need extra support for your mental well-being, get in touch with our admissions staff.