- Types of therapy
Types of therapy
When deciding on an appropriate counsellor or psychotherapist, it can be useful to understand the different therapies they may use. Although all can be effective, you may find one approach more appealing than another, or find that some approaches are better for a certain area of counselling or psychotherapy than others.
Psychological therapies generally fall into three categories. These are behavioural therapies, which focus on cognitions and behaviours, psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies, which focus on the unconscious relationship patterns that evolved from childhood, and humanistic therapies, which focus on self-development in the 'here and now'.
This is a generalisation though and counselling or psychotherapy usually overlaps some of these techniques. Some counsellors or psychotherapists practice a form of 'integrative' therapy, which means they draw on and blend specific types of techniques. Other practitioners work in an 'eclectic' way, which means they take elements of several different models and combine them when working with clients. There are also a number of specific other therapies that can be used.
Below is a summary of some of the psychological therapies available. To find out further information on any approach, click on the link at the bottom of the relevant section.
Behavioural therapies are based on the way you think (cognitive) and/or the way you behave. These therapies recognise that it is possible to change, or recondition, our thoughts or behaviour to overcome specific problems.
› Behavioural therapy
Behavioural therapy focuses on an individual's learnt, or conditioned, behaviour and how this can be changed. The approach assumes that if a behaviour can be learnt, then it can be unlearnt (or reconditioned) so is useful for dealing with issues such as phobias or addictions.
› Cognitive therapy
Cognitive therapy deals with thoughts and perceptions, and how these can affect feelings and behaviour. By reassessing negative thoughts an individual can learn more flexible, positive ways of thinking, which can ultimately affect their feelings and behaviour towards those thoughts.
› Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) combines cognitive and behavioural therapies. The approach focuses on thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions, and teaches clients how each one can have an affect on the other. CBT is useful for dealing with a number of issues, including depression, anxiety and phobias.
› Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (or ACT) is a form of behavioural analysis that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help increase psychological flexibility. While the therapy isn't considered a long-term treatment, it is considered helpful in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.
Find out more about cognitive and behavioural therapies ›
Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies are based on an individual's unconscious thoughts and perceptions that have developed throughout their childhood, and how these affect their current behaviour and thoughts.
Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud and focuses on an individual's unconscious, deep-rooted thoughts that often stem from childhood. Through free associations, dreams or fantasies, clients can learn how to interpret deeply buried memories or experiences that may be causing them distress.
› Psychoanalytic therapy
Based on Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Therapy also focuses on how an individual's unconscious thoughts are influencing them. However, Psychoanalytic Therapy is usually less intensive than Psychoanalysis.
› Psychodynamic therapy
Psychodynamic therapy evolved from psychoanalytic therapy and seeks to discover how unconscious thoughts affect current behaviour. Psychodynamic therapy usually focuses on more immediate problems and attempts to provide a quicker solution.
› Jungian psychotherapy
Jungian psychotherapy is a specific branch of psychodynamic therapy that works from the theories of Carl Jung, considered to be one of the forefathers of psychology.
Find out more about psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies ›
Humanistic therapies focus on self-development, growth and responsibilities. They seek to help individuals recognise their strengths, creativity and choice in the 'here and now'.
› Person-centred therapy (also known as "client-centred" counselling)
Person-centred therapy focuses on an individual's self worth and values. Being valued as a person, without being judged, can help an individual to accept who they are, and reconnect with themselves.
› Gestalt therapy
Gestalt therapy can be roughly translated to 'whole' and focuses on the whole of an individual's experience, including their thoughts, feelings and actions. Gaining self-awareness in the 'here and now' is a key aspect of gestalt therapy.
› Transactional analysis
Transactional analysis is based on the theory that we each have three ego states: Parent, adult and child. By recognising ego-states, transactional analysis attempts to identify how individuals communicate, and how this can be changed.
› Transpersonal psychology and psychosynthesis
Transpersonal psychology means "beyond the personal" and seeks to discover the person who transcends an individual's body, age, appearance, culture etc. Psychosynthesis aims to discover a higher, spiritual level of consciousness.
› Existential therapy
Existential therapy focuses on exploring the meaning of certain issues through a philosophical perspective, instead of a technique-based approach.
› Human Givens psychotherapy
Human Givens psychotherapy is a relatively new approach that has been described by its founders as a 'bio-psycho-social' approach to psychotherapy. The therapy's basic assumption is that humans have innate needs (called givens) that need to be met for mental well-being.
› Solution focused brief therapy
Also known as solution focused therapy or brief therapy, this approach predominantly looks at what the individual wants to achieve rather than historical problems. Questions are asked by the therapist to help the individual uncover their own strengths and resources. Solution focused therapy can be especially helpful to those who are goal-orientated and have a desire to change.
› Reality therapy
Reality therapy is an approach to therapy that focuses on the here and now rather than issues from the past. Developed by William Glasser in the 1960s, the theory behind the therapy is that an individual in mental distress is not suffering from a mental illness; instead they are suffering from a socially universal human condition as they have not had their basic psychological needs met.
Find out more about humanistic therapies ›
Although psychological therapies generally fall into the three categories above, there are also a number of specific therapies too.
› Family/Systemic therapy
Family Therapy, also known as Systemic Therapy, is an approach that works with families and those in close relationships, regardless of whether they are blood related or not, to foster change. Changes are viewed in terms of the systems of interaction between each person in the family.
› Art therapy/Art psychotherapy
Art Therapy or Art Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art materials such as paints, clay and paper. These tools are used to communicate issues, emotions and feelings and can provide an insight into any conflicts that may be present.
› Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that was developed in the 1980s by American clinical psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro. EMDR is used to treat psychological traumas, such as war experiences, natural disasters, road accidents, rape and assault.
Integrative counselling means drawing on and blending specific types of therapies. This approach is not linked to one particular type of therapy as those practising integrative counselling do not believe that only one approach works for each client in all situations.
Mindfulness is a technique that originated from Buddhist meditation that helps people focus on the present to gain greater awareness of their emotions and improve general well-being. Mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based therapies are becoming popular tools to help those with depression and anxiety.
› Equine assisted therapy
Equine assisted therapy is a form of animal assisted therapy that uses horses to help people build confidence and develop a greater understanding of their own behaviour. Challenges are set by a therapist and normally require the individual to work with the horse in a way that challenges their way of thinking.
› Group therapy
This type of therapy takes place with a group of people going through similar difficulties and is facilitated by one or more therapists. Group therapy can offer emotional support and help develop interpersonal skills.
› Music therapy
Music therapy is a type of creative therapy that harnesses the communicative power of music to foster positive change. Versatile by nature, music therapy can be used for a range of issues including autism, dementia and anxiety.
› Drama therapy
Drama therapy is a form of psychological therapy that applies acting and performance techniques within a therapeutic environment. The aim of drama therapy is to help those taking part to express themselves while helping to address difficult emotions in an indirect way.
Find out more about other therapies ›
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