While I was writing Tuesday’s post about my biggest misconception about therapy, I realized that, outside of mental health professionals, not too many people talk about the different types of therapy and what’s available for people. Most conversations I have about different therapeutic methods are with therapists, counselors and social workers, and even then there is a tendency for people to use fancy jargon or psychological terms that aren’t always the most helpful. SO, I decided to break down some of the most common types of therapy, what they look like, and what their purpose is. We as a community are stronger together, and knowing what’s available in therapy (rather than waiting to be told what’s available to us) can help us take charge of our therapy so that it works for us.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one of the most common forms of therapy, and is what most people think of when they thing about therapy. According to Medical News Today, CBT “explores the relationship between a person’s behavior and thoughts, feelings, or both.” CBT is about exploring thought patterns and trying to figure out their cause. In doing so, the client (person in therapy) can figure out harmful thought patterns and behaviors in an attempt to create new, heathlier ones.
Dialectal Behavioral Therapy
Dialectal Behavioral Therapy works to give skills to people who are working to “manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships” (Psychology Today). It’s a helpful therapy for people who are working to improve the way they interact effectively with others.
While mentalization is something that is used in many types of therapy, it is not usually the focal point, but it is on this type! “Mentalization is the capacity to understand both behavior and feelings and how they’re associated with specific mental states, not just in ourselves, but in others as well” (Psych Central). By emphasizing this specific need, you can work to improve understanding your mental state, and how those different states affect your thoughts and actions.
If you’re working to understand your emotions or learn more about them, emotion-focused therapy is one way to learn. In this type of therapy, the person in therapy is seen as the one who is the most capable of interpreting their own emotions – not the therapist. If you believe more in the power of emotions and how they can guide our lives, this might be worth exploring.
Family Therapy and Group Therapy
I included these together because even though they can be seen as very similar from their names, there is actually a big difference between these two types of therapy. While both types involve groups of people, family therapy often involves using a whole family unit to help an individual within the family help work through specific issues. This is different from group therapy, where a group is coming together to share all of their experiences as they look to work through their issues together. While both are places of support, it’s important to know the difference if you should bring this up with a mental health professional.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (aka ACT) is an action-based therapy that “aims to help patients accept what is out of their control, and commit instead to actions that enrichen their lives” (Positive Psychology). Derived from CBT and often used in connection with Mindfulness-based Therapy, ACT helps you commit to actions that help you improve your life alongside the negative existing feelings that persist. This help builds what professionals have termed “psychological flexibility.”
Therapy is a tool that’s best used when the client is making it work for them, rather than the other way around. A good therapist will respond to the needs of their client, and by being proactive about what your needs are, they can be better equipped to help. As I noted earlier this week, there are dozens of forms of therapy, and there are plenty of more specific forms of therapy that come from some of the types listed above. Therapy is like any other part of your mental health toolkit – you should use it for what you need, and what will help you be the healthiest person possible.
Have you gone through any of these types of therapy listed in this post? Have you gone through a type of therapy not listed, and how did that go? If you have any thoughts, comments or questions on what I’ve shared, I’m happy to talk with you!
Excellent descriptions of some of the most used therapies Nathan. I think some people get confused, thinking they go to therapy and the therapist ‘fixes’ you or tells you what to do. I’ve heard people say, “I know what’s wrong with me! I don’t need to go to therapy to find out!” Breaking it down like this makes it easier for people to understand what therapy is and isn’t.
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Totally! And I think part of the mental health stigma is the confusion surrounding therapy, so every time we talk about the reality of it, that breaks it down little by little.
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I agree, everyone tends to think ‘psychiatrist’ and ooh, something must be really wrong with you.
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