While writing a post on Tuesday about my biggest misconception about therapy, I found that outside of the mental health professional, not too many people are talking about the different types of therapy and the options available to people. Most of the conversations I have about various therapeutic methods are with therapists, counselors, and social workers, and even then, people tend to use fancy jargon or psychological terms that are not 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 are stronger together as a community, and knowing what is available in therapy (rather than waiting to be told what is available to us) allows us to direct our therapy so that it works for us.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of therapy, and this is what most people think when they look at therapy. According to Medical News Today, CBT “studies the relationship between a person’s behavior and thoughts, feelings, or both.” CBT is about researching thought patterns and finding out their cause. In this way the client (person in therapy) can identify harmful thought patterns and behaviors in order to create new, healthier ones.
Dialectal behavior therapy
Dialectal behavior therapy teaches people skills that work to “manage painful emotions and reduce conflict in relationships” (Psychology Today). It is helpful therapy for people working to improve the way they effectively interact with others.
While mentalization is used in many types of therapy, it is usually not the focus, but it is that type! “Mentalization is the ability to understand both behavior and feelings, and how they are related to certain mental states, not only in ourselves but in others” (Psych Central). By highlighting this particular need, you can work to improve your understanding of your mental state and the effects these various states have on your thoughts and actions.
As you are working to understand or learn more about your emotions, emotion-centered therapy is a way to learn. In this type of therapy, the person in therapy is viewed as the one who is best able to interpret their own emotions – not the therapist. If you have more faith in the power of emotions and how they can guide our lives, this may be well worth exploring.
Family therapy and group therapy
I put these together because while they can be thought of as very similar in their names, there is actually a huge difference between these two types of therapy. While both types involve groups of people, family therapy often involves using an entire family unit to help one person within the family resolve specific problems. This is different from group therapy, where a group comes together to share all of their experiences while trying to solve their problems together. While both are places of support, it is important to know the difference if you should discuss this with a psychologist.
Acceptance and attachment therapy
Acceptance and Attachment Therapy (also known as ACT) is an action-based therapy designed to “help patients accept what is beyond their control and instead commit to actions that enrich their lives” (Positive Psychology). ACT is derived from CBT and is often used in conjunction with mindfulness-based therapy. It will help you take steps that will help you improve your life, as well as the negative feelings that may persist. This help builds what experts have called “psychological flexibility”.
Therapy is a tool that is best used when the client makes it work for them, not the other way around. A good therapist will be responsive to his clients’ needs, and by being proactive in addressing your needs he can be better equipped to help. As I discovered earlier this week, there are dozens of forms of therapy, and there are many 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 helps you be the healthiest person possible.
Have you gone through any of these types of therapy listed in this post? Have you done any therapy that is not listed and how did it go? If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions about what I’ve shared, I’ll be happy to speak to you!