The Four Main Types of Therapy and What You Should Know About Them

Life is complicated. Obligations and responsibilities fill our calendars and our thoughts week in and week out. Balancing our health, homes, families, work, and everything else can be a challenge. However, whatever the challenges you may face in life, there is always help available. Therapy comes in many forms and discovering what will serve you best may take a little research, but the concise description of four common forms of therapy listed below should be enough to help you get the ball rolling:

  1. Psychodynamic therapy
    Probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when asked to explain therapy is an image of some sort of armchair dialogue where the practitioner asks the patient penetrating questions about their youth or relationship with their mother. This classic picture is of a process called psychoanalysis; a form of psychodynamic therapy originated by the neurologist Sigmund Freud in the late nineteenth century. Among other accomplishments, this methodology of patient-doctor communication laid the foundation for much of modern practice in the space of therapeutic interventions and psychological theory. This type of treatment is oriented towards the patient’s past, and how events in one’s life affect thoughts and behaviors in the present. Some common themes include the unearthing of unconscious thoughts, dream interpretation, and the discovering the origin of certain undesirable behaviors and emotions.
  2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
    This form of talk-therapy is designed to help individuals identify and resolve issues that affect their daily life. Focusing less on the events of the past, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses the currently active elements in patients’ lives that influence their feelings, emotions, and behavior. There are multiple forms of this kind of therapy, each one tailored to fit the specific needs of the patient, but in each case the basic tenets are the same: modulation of thought patterns and behavioral habits in order to function better and achieve a higher quality of life. CBT is used with patients who struggle with anxiety, depression, addiction, PTSD, and other mental health related conditions.
  3. Humanistic therapy
    The purpose of therapy is not always to fix something that’s broken. While the majority of therapeutic approaches are implemented with some sort of corrective goal in mind, humanistic therapies center around reaching one’s full potential through focusing on the individual’s strengths. Also commonly referred to as holistic therapy, the humanistic approach attempts to guide the patient towards a complete integration of all of the parts of their personality in order to live more rich, meaningful lives. The highly individualized nature of this type of therapy makes it a great option for a wide range of people who are looking for their own form of personal improvement.
  4. Group therapies
    A therapeutic setting involving multiple individuals at once has unique benefits. Group therapy is common in programs that involve the treatment of mental health issues, addiction, PTSD, living with chronic disease, and more. Working through issues among other people who share similar backgrounds allows the patient to feel supported, encouraged, and most significantly, it helps them realize they are not alone. This environment simulates the group responsibility and support found within a family and has been shown to improve the lives of those involved. A prime example of group therapy is Alcoholics Anonymous. This program has had huge success in the treatment of addiction over the past few decades and is itself a testament to the efficacious role that community plays in therapy.