Are you considering seeing a therapist? You might think that the way you will be treated, that is the therapy itself, will be the same no matter which therapist you decide to see. If you’ve never been to a therapist or psychologist before, you might imagine sitting on a couch, talking about your life concerns, and sitting across from a compassionate mental health professional, who is listening and responding to you.
Individual therapy most certainly fits this image, but the way that a therapist responds to and treats your concerns can indicate the type of therapy you’re participating in. And, believe it or not, there are hundreds of different forms of therapy. These include the ones listed below as well as feminine-based therapy, person-centered therapy, existential therapy, exposure therapy and more.
Essentially, there are two major groups of therapy – Those that promote insight or revelation regarding your thought pattern, history, behavior, or life choices are called insight therapies. They are typically concerned with the causes of your behavior and choices. On the other hand, those therapies that focus on how a disorder manifests in your life and aim to teach new forms of behavior, decision making, or thought patterns are called learning-based or cognitive therapies. These therapies are not so concerned with causes as they are with making change to patterns of thinking, feeling, or behaving.
The most common form of insight therapy is psychoanalysis, developed by Freud, and likely the source of the image described above. In psychoanalysis, certain techniques are used to uncover the underlying concerns that might be leading to your distress. For instance, if you continue to have trouble with maintaining financial stability, perhaps there is a deeply seated belief in unworthiness stemming from a childhood trauma. Psychoanalysis would safely attempt to bring those childhood memories to the surface in order to promote further understanding of who you are and why you do the things you do. Other ways to access insight in psychoanalysis is through dream analysis and exploring themes that are present in your life.
Learning-Based / Cognitive Therapies
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT essentially aims to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. This successful form of therapy emphasizes the link between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and more importantly, it attempts to identify the way that certain thoughts contribute to the unique problems of your life. By changing the thought pattern and by replacing it with thoughts that are aimed towards a specific therapeutic goal, you can slowly begin to change. For example, instead of “I am worthless”; the new thought might be “I can do this”. It is often used with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
DBT is a form of behavioral therapy that teaches the skills you need to move closer to your life goals and assists them in integrating those skills into everyday life. The therapy is a compassionate form of treatment method that can bring meaning into your life. Most specifically, DBT teaches skills to cope with challenging life circumstances in order to replace the self-defeating, dysfunctional coping mechanisms with healthier ones. It is often used with patients diagnosed with more severe forms of bipolar disorder.
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy was developed by Albert Ellis and is based on the idea that your cognitive interpretations of events and surroundings are the root of emotional turmoil. For this reason, this type of therapy focuses on the immediate interpretation of events in your environment.
This is a very short list of types of therapies. However, these are common ones. Since Freud’s day, the types of therapies continue to grow, each one having a different emphasis. Additionally, the various forms of therapy can be experienced in either individual (one-on-one) therapy or in a group.
Group therapy includes the presence of a therapist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional who is facilitating the group experience. Also in the room are others who are all experiencing the same diagnosis or life problem.
If you are interested in participating in individual or group therapy, know that you don’t necessarily need a diagnosis. Therapy can be a form of preventing stress and having a strong network of support.
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