14 types of therapy
Therapy is a form of treatment that aims to help resolve mental or emotional issues. There are many types of therapy available.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, involves a person speaking with a trained therapist who can help them understand certain feelings and behaviors.
Therapy can help people deal with these issues by teaching coping skills or by working to eliminate them.
This article will provide an overview of the different types of therapy available.
1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
A therapist uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to explore the relationship between a person’s behavior and thoughts, feelings, or both.
A CBT therapist will work with an individual to uncover unhealthful thought patterns. The therapist will discuss with the person how these patterns might or do cause self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.
Together, the therapist and their client can work on developing constructive ways of thinking. These changes can offer a healthier, more positive outlook and help a person change their behaviors and beliefs.
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) indicate that CBT is an effective treatment for a variety of disorders, including:
- anxiety disorders
- bipolar disorder
- eating disorders
- trauma-related disorders
2. Dialectical behavior therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is similar to CBT. However, DBT focuses more on regulating emotions, being mindful, and accepting uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
A therapist uses DBT to help a person find a balance between change and acceptance. Using DBT, a therapist can teach a person new skills, such as new ways to cope with a situation and mindfulness practices.
Psychotherapists first developed DBT to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who were experiencing thoughts of suicide.
An article in The Mental Health Clinician indicates that DBT has reduced medical care and medications by 90%.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Find more links and local resources.
Therapists now use DBT to treat several different conditions, with significant and long-lasting effects. These conditions include:
- eating disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- substance use disorders
- mood disorders
3. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is a technique that therapists primarily use to treat people with PTSD.
EMDR involves a person recalling a traumatic event while performing specific eye movements.
EMDR aims to replace adverse reactions to painful memories with less charged or positive responses.
The benefits of EMDR remain controversial, and a 2016 review of studies was unable to identify what part of the treatment is beneficial. One conclusion was that the benefits derive from a person’s exposure to the trauma rather than the eye movement.
4. Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is a form of CBT. An article in Behavior Research and Therapy notes that therapists have successfully used exposure therapy to treat people with fear and anxiety disorders.
Therapists may use exposure therapy to help treat:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
A person undergoing exposure therapy will work with their therapist to figure out what triggers their anxiety. The person will learn methods to avoid ritualistic behaviors or anxiety after exposure to these triggers.
The therapist will then expose the person to their triggers in a controlled environment to put these methods into practice.
5. Interpersonal therapy
Interpersonal therapy aims to help a person work on their relationships with others. According to NAMI, therapists often use interpersonal therapy to treat depression.
During interpersonal therapy, the therapist evaluates a person’s social interactions and helps them to notice negative patterns. The therapist can then help the person learn ways to understand and interact positively with others.
6. Mentalization-based therapy
According to Psychology and Psychotherapy, mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is an effective treatment to treat BPD.
MBT involves a technique called mentalizing. This therapy helps people with BPD to notice and understand their thoughts and feelings and those of others.
Its primary aim is to give a person with BPD a sense of self and help them connect to other people.
7. Psychodynamic therapy
Psychodynamic therapy aims to help a person combat negative patterns of behavior that derive from past experiences.
This form of therapy involves a person speaking freely in response to a therapist’s questions, which allows a therapist to identify patterns of behavior and thought.
Once a person understands how experiences have created unhelpful behaviors and feelings, they can learn to overcome them.
One 2018 article indicates that psychodynamic therapy is successful in treating depressive disorders, BPD, and anxiety. However, therapists employ this technique to treat a wide range of mental health issues and personality disorders
Psychoanalysis is a more intense type of psychodynamic therapy. According to the American Psychiatric Association, therapy sessions generally take place three or more times a week.
8. Animal-assisted therapy
Animal-assisted therapy involves a person spending time with a trained therapy pet. A therapy pet can help reduce a person’s anxiety, as well as help those with PTSD.
Some hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities use therapy pets to provide support or comfort.
NAMI indicate that therapy dogs are particularly helpful to patients with cancer, heart disease, or mental health disorders.
An article in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers recommend using animal-assisted therapy, alongside music therapy, an enriched environment, and other supportive therapies, to minimize stress and trauma for hospitalized people who may require compulsory admission or seclusion.
9. Emotion-focused therapy
Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) focuses on building awareness of emotions and regulating and resolving them. EFT encourages people to work on their emotions rather than suppressing them.
According to a 2018 article, EFT can treat:
- social anxiety
- interpersonal problems
- eating disorders
- relationship issues
10. Family therapy
Family therapy involves working with a family unit to help an individual within the family resolve specific issues. Family therapists help a family understand and work through patterns of negative behavior that may cause underlying problems.
An article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that family therapy can help families with adolescents experiencing mental health issues.
This type of therapy can also help people with:
- substance misuse disorders
- eating disorders
- behavioral problems
- medical issues
11. Group therapy
Group therapy allows people experiencing similar issues to join together as a group to resolve them. In group therapy, a therapist leads the discussion, and individuals can comment or contribute personal thoughts and experiences.
Group therapy helps a person see that they are not alone, and it offers people an opportunity to support each other.
However, a disadvantage of group therapy is that a person does not get the same amount of one-on-one attention as they would in a one-to-one therapy situation.
Group therapy is also less confidential, meaning some people may be reluctant to share their experiences.
According to the American Group Psychotherapy Association, group therapy can benefit people with:
- interpersonal relationship issues
- behavioral, learning, or family issues in children and adolescents
- medical issues
- aging issues
- difficulty recovering from a loss
- lifestyle issues
- personality disorders
12. Mindfulness-based therapy
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming present in the moment. Mindfulness aims to encourage a person to observe and accept things as they are and without judgment.
A 2015 study found that mindfulness-based therapy helped relieve anxiety and depressions in people who had cancer. However, the researchers indicate that the benefits of the therapy may not be long-lasting.
Another study found that mindfulness-based interventions were beneficial to people with:
Meditation can be a big part of practicing mindfulness.
13. Creative arts therapy
Creative art therapy aims to engage the mind through various methods of creativity. Creative art therapy allows people to express how they are feeling through different mediums, such as art, dance, music, or poetry.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapists use these sessions to:
- improve cognitive and motor function
- improve self-esteem and self-awareness
- encourage emotional strength
- build social skills
- resolve conflicts and distress
14. Play therapy
Specialists use play therapy to help children talk about their thoughts and feelings. Play therapists provide a child with a space where they feel safe and cared for.
Children in play therapy may show their feelings or experiences through how they play. This type of therapy allows a child to deal with behavioral problems, stress, or trauma in a safe environment.
A 2019 case study showed how play therapy could have a therapeutic effect on children.
There are many types of therapy available for a person who would like help working through certain issues.
Certain types of therapy may be more effective for some conditions as opposed to others.
It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, so choosing the best form of therapy for an individual is a personal choice.
If a person is not sure about which type of therapy is best suited to them, they should speak to a doctor or healthcare provider.