The Different Types of Therapy (and How They Work)

The Different Types of Therapy (and How They Work)

Many of us, at one time or another, will need therapy to get through rough times. However, therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all category, nor is every therapist the right fit for every patient. There are a number of different therapies available, everything from cognitive behavioural therapy to EMDR to psychodynamic.

If you’re confused by all of the options, you don’t need to be. Yes, there are a lot of different types of therapy, but the distinctions are less rigid than you might think, as many therapists are trained in at least a couple of methods.

Therapists often switch between therapy types

“When I’m working with patients, most of the time it’s not just one type of therapy that I’m using,” said Dr. Gregory Scott Brown, a psychiatrist and the founder and director of the Centre for Green Psychiatry. Depending on the patient, he may switch strategies from visit to visit to adapt to their needs. If he feels that a patient needs a type of therapy that he is not specialised in, he will refer them to therapists who are.

Different therapies will have their own strengths. Depending on a patient’s particular situation, they may have complex needs for which a number of strategies are helpful. So, rather than strictly adhering to one therapeutic framework, a good therapist will be able to adapt to their patient’s individual personality and needs.

It’s important to find a good fit

More than any specific type of therapy, Brown stresses the importance of finding a therapist you feel comfortable with.

“The goodness of fit is really important,” Brown said. “You want to make sure that you have a therapist you trust, that you feel you can be honest with. Some of the meetings are going to be uncomfortable, they’re going to be intense, and that’s just part of the process.”

If you are able, it’s good to have an initial meeting with a therapist before deciding to commit to a full course of therapy with them. This meeting can be thought of as an interview, where a patient should ask any questions they might have, as well as get a sense of how comfortable they feel with that particular therapist.

If you’re working with a therapist and the sessions aren’t quite what you expect, it’s important to speak about your reservations, as well as what isn’t working, even if you feel uncomfortable doing so.

“We are trained to have weird, uncomfortable, tense, awkward conversations with people,” Brown said. “We’re used to it.”

With that in mind, these are seven of the major types of therapy a therapist might be trained in.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy?

One of the more well-known types of therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy is used to treat problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marital problems, eating disorders, as well as severe mental illness. CBT works to change the dysfunctional thinking and behavioural patterns, as well as help patients create coping skills.

What is cognitive processing therapy?

Cognitive processing therapy is a subset of CBT that helps reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CPT works by helping patients learn to identify and modify unhelpful beliefs about their trauma.

What is dialectical behavior therapy?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy helps patients manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships by focusing on four key areas: Mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.

What is EMDR?

Short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR therapy treats symptoms by encouraging patients to briefly focus on the traumatic memory, while experiencing bilateral stimulation, usually through eye movements, which reduces the vividness and emotion of the memory.

What is family therapy?

Family therapy is counseling that is aimed at helping family members communicate with each other, as well as resolve conflicts. This can consist of the entire family or only a subset of members. Often, family therapy helps during situations that cause stress, grief or anger, such as the mental illness of a family member, conflicts between family members, or financial or marital issues.

What is group therapy?

Group therapy differs from a support group in the fact that the meetings are led by trained psychologists. Most groups are aimed at a specific problem, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or grief. Group therapy can be used in combination with individual therapy. In addition to the therapy, group therapy can also function as a support system, while also helping people understand they are not alone in their struggles.

What is psychodynamic therapy?

This is an in-depth talk therapy that is primarily used to treat depression and other serious psychological disorders, with a focus on helping a patient work through their emotions in a healthy and productive way. This includes analysing issues, as well as modifying behaviours.

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