Why are there so many different types of therapy?

Why are there so many different types of therapy? And which one would be best for you? Psychodynamic, gestalt, existential, internal family systems therapy (IFS), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), emotionally focused therapy (EFT), EMDR - the list goes on and on.


The array of different types of therapy available can be bewildering and even off-putting for many people seeking help from a trained professional. Should you go for a more traditional kind of therapy such as CBT often offered by the NHS? Or would that new trending therapy popular on YouTube be the way to go?

Different types of therapy

To help you figure out what kind of therapist might be best for you, let's take a look at why there is such a proliferation of theories in the first place.

Theories of psychotherapy exist to try and help explain the complicated thoughts, feelings and often perplexing behaviours of us humans. They provide models that help therapists understand and work with the multitude of problems that people come to therapy for help in sorting out.

Each model offers a partial picture, emphasising different aspects of our psychological landscape, leaving out unnecessary noise whilst highlighting the important details. What a particular theory might consider important, another might miss out on.

Think of the various theories and models as different maps. A map helps you to navigate the real world but it’s only a simplified representation of it, displaying a limited amount of information. A road map is great for a lot of situations, especially if you want to drive somewhere, but what if you’re on a bike and want to avoid steep hills? A terrain map would probably be more useful. What if you’d like to see what that café looks like when you get there? The street view would come in handy at that point.

So, a cognitive model such as CBT might be a useful map to use if you’re wanting to explore the terrain of your thoughts and beliefs for example. A CBT-trained therapist will use this theory to identify and challenge the thoughts that are part of the problem, but will not typically focus as much on the details of what happened to you in childhood.

Other kinds of therapy, such as EFT will instead pay more attention to what is going on for you on a feelings level. EMDR does not focus on insight and understanding problems so much as it works with the body and emotions to process trauma.

With a little research, sometimes it becomes clearer which kinds of therapy might be helpful for a particular problem, but we are complex beings with complex lives and no one kind of therapy is going to be able to cover all the bases. A holistic approach, drawing on a number of different theories and models which address all of the aspects of being human would often be more beneficial.

Integral therapy and psychosynthesis are two such approaches which are more like frameworks than single theories. They are like the 'Google Maps' of therapy, integrating several maps into one. They are comprehensive and flexible enough to allow the practitioner to switch between different views at different points on the journey. The skilled therapist will be able to identify which stage of the psychological journey the client is exploring and know which model provides the most helpful way in which to view the territory.

As holistic approaches, integral therapy and psychosynthesis speak to us on thinking and emotional levels but also include what might be going on physically; on a feeling level. They also welcome ideas connected with what we feel our purpose might be, how we find meaning in life, and what our values are - this can be thought of as our 'higher' or 'spiritual' self. Most other kinds of therapy shy away from these aspects of being human so the therapist is left struggling to know how to work at this level and is likely to avoid even going there.

How to find the right therapist

As individuals, we are complex beings with multifaceted lives. Therefore, finding the most beneficial therapy often requires a nuanced understanding of our needs, preferences, and goals. Conducting thorough research, seeking recommendations, and engaging in open discussions with potential therapists can help guide us toward the therapeutic path that resonates most deeply.

Remember, therapy is a collaborative journey between therapist and client, where trust, empathy, and shared understanding play vital roles. The ultimate goal is to embark on a transformative process that honours the entirety of our human experience and helps us find healing, growth, and meaning in our lives.

In your search for the right therapist, embrace the diverse landscape of therapy models, stay curious, and trust your instincts. With the right therapeutic fit, you can embark on a profound journey of self-discovery and personal transformation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London N16 & W1G
Written by Matthew Gorner, BACP, MA, PGDip | Low Self-esteem & Dysthymia Support
London N16 & W1G

I'm a psychosynthesis counsellor and therapist with 7 yrs experience, specialising in anxiety and depression. I provide a safe, empathetic space for clients, focusing on your unique experiences and fostering personal growth. Together, we'll explore insights and strategies for life's challenges.

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