10 Types of Therapy You Should Know About Before Deciding Which Is Best for You

Jennifer Fritz
The Top 10 Types of Therapy You Should Know Before Deciding Which Is Best for You
Whether you decide to see a therapist face to face or online, you may be surprised to find how many different types of therapy that are available to you.

While some therapists adhere to one type, others are more eclectic in their approach. Therapy can be done individually, with your partner or family, or within a group setting, and there are many schools of thought about which therapeutic approach is best.

Whether you’re interested in face-to-face therapy or want to try out an online therapy service, here are the 10 different types of therapy you should know about before you get started:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is short term, problem solving-based talk therapy that is straightforward and common. CBT focuses on the present rather than the past and your therapist will teach you how to replace negative thought patterns and behaviors with those that are more positive. It is goal oriented and there is usually homework involved because practicing the new behavior patterns and thoughts helps with application and reinforcement of what is learned during each session. CBT is effective in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, some phobias, sleep issues, and substance problems, just to name a few. 

2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy is an evidence-based talk therapy in which the therapist must be specially trained. It is a type of CBT, but is more specific in that it often deals with clients who are facing some more extreme emotional reactions or who might be impulsive. DBT helps the client learn how to manage and change unhealthy behaviors and it works well with people who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, addictions, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. DBT includes homework in between sessions while focusing on managing the more immediate emotional trauma.

3. Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy is talk therapy based on the notion of being your true self and that everyone has a unique perspective in terms of how they see the world. It makes sense intuitively because it is true: Each person does see their world distinctively and in their own way. Using this approach, a therapist looks at a person’s whole self and tries to focus on the present rather than the past. It is a more generalized approach that characterizes several notions that adhere to the idea that people have the strength to make their own decisions; and with empathy and support, they can. It is a more nurturing and gentle approach to therapy and works well for many people.

4. Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is primarily focused on 4 life factors: thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and one’s early life experiences. With your therapist, you examine the repeated patterns in your life and examine unconscious processes as they exist in present behavior. This helps one to figure out the core of the problem to make changes in the present. Psychodynamic therapy can be short or long term, and it can be done individually or with couples, families, or groups. 

5. Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy focuses on the client being an expert in their own lives. It focuses on the stories (or narrative) that one creates as life moves forward and the meaning that the experiences have as they influence behavior. Therapy is focused on these stories and how people make sense of them in terms of values and ability to face the problems that are currently going on. It is non-blaming and interactive. Narrative therapy tends to be less defined and looser than some other forms of therapy. It is used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, anger, problems around divorce/separation, and anxiety. It is more commonly used with adults, children, and families.

6. Attachment-Based Therapy

Attachment-based therapy is an effective type of therapy, and it’s not just for treating attachment disorders, though it can be extremely relevant in these cases. Attachment begins in infancy and those who fail to attach to a caregiver or family member often have difficulty establishing relationships throughout their lives. This work can be done with children and adults, face to face or online, and promotes healthy ways to form attachments depending on the age of the client. It is quite different depending on age and requires someone who is specialized in attachment theory. This is especially critical for children who were unable to connect early on.

7. Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a short term, evidence-based therapy that supports people in resolving things that keep them from making healthier decisions about their lives. This approach works well with those struggling with addiction and problems related to physical health. Like most therapies, MI is empowering and encourages the clients to find their own ability for change. MI therapists are helpers in the change process as they encourage their clients with directives hoping they will respond with motivation and the will to change. It works well with individuals and can be done face to face or online. Oftentimes, MI is the first type of therapy for clients who then go on to explore other types as they dig deeper into other areas of their lives.

8. Family Systems Therapy

Family systems therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can be done with individuals or families. The premise is based on resolving issues from the framework of the family unit, of which many of the problems stem. Whether doing this work alone or with other family members, it is essential to understand the core underlying concept that what happens to one family member happens to all members. Members might react differently to the experience, but the incidents cannot be ignored. The family systems approach can work when treating personality disorders, bipolar, anxiety, depression, and addiction, and it can be done online or face to face. 

9. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy that is often used to support people who have experienced various types of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder/PTSD. EMDR must be done by a professionally-trained therapist and it has success with children and adults. Sessions typically run 60 to 90 minutes and are focused on one’s memories, emotions, and core beliefs. It involves the therapist using finger movements, vibration, or auditory oscillation to tap into certain experiences to change thoughts from being disturbing to more positive. This is a very general explanation and should be researched much more thoroughly if of interest. 

10. Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is what many think about when the word “therapy” comes to mind. It is what people often choose when they want to focus on building or strengthening relationships, or when they need to reflect on their own behavior patterns and how those patterns might impact certain relationships they have in their lives. A main goal is to learn to communicate better with others. It is often done individually or in a group setting. 

Your Therapy, You Way

These approaches are not all-inclusive or illustrative of the various forms of treatment and just present a brief description about the premise of each. There is some overlap among them, and when choosing what is best, it is important to do more research. There are many ways to learn about the various treatment options prior to beginning therapy. Talk to people you trust and if possible, explore what has worked best for what you are hoping to accomplish. This is the same approach when deciding whether to attend therapy face to face or online. Taking this step is amazing and critical for your self worth, self care, and self improvement. You have some choices and hopefully this will help you as you begin.

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Jennifer Fritz
Jennifer Fritz is a Licensed Social Worker. She received her MSW and PhD from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has been an online therapist for several years. She specializes in areas such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, anger, self-esteem and abuse.

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