Before I started my education in therapy, I had the image of someone laying on a couch with their eyes closed, talking about their childhood, while an old person with multiple PhDs wrote notes on a clipboard. Now, if that is your style there is nothing wrong with that! The point of therapy is that it helps, not whether you are using the “right” method. But I felt surprised at how little awareness there is for the breadth of therapy modalities available. You do not have to know what type of therapy your therapist practices to benefit from it. However, I think it is something that if more people knew about, more people would be interested in therapy, and find therapy that is better suited for their needs. Not only are different types of therapy good for different mental health concerns but some people will gravitate towards and find certain therapy techniques more effective. Personally, I found a connection to Solution Focused Therapy, not only as a therapist in training, but as a way to view my own life (I wrote a whole piece on it, check it out!). There are many different types of therapy, unfortunately I will not be able to cover them all, nor will I be able to deep dive into each type. However, I want to provide a look into the world of therapy as it may be much broader and exciting than you realize!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Currently, CBT is an incredibly popular therapy modality and has a lot of evidence that shows it is effective. It found its roots in the field behavioral psychology. If you have ever heard of Pavlov’s dog this is where it came from. But what is CBT? CBT in nutshell is identifying your thoughts and responses that do not positively serve you, intervening, and modifying those responses to achieve a more desired outcome. CBT has also been adapted and provided the foundation for other theories like Mindfulness-based CBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and more! CBT techniques often look at identifying your thought and action patterns, and can be used for a variety of mental health concerns.
There are also therapies that focus on how people interact with each other. Interpersonal therapy works with clients to communicate more effectively. This type of therapy works best for those with relationship or interpersonal concerns. Family system therapy is similar to interpersonal therapy. This type of therapy looks at the family unit as a whole and how each part contributes to its function and dysfunction. The goal of this therapy is also to help strengthen communication and interaction skills. There are also therapy options that focus on past interactions like attachment theory and psychodynamic therapy. These two look at how your relationships in your past have contributed to your current relationships and how you can grow from those experiences.
- Person Centered therapy consists of some of the most foundational elements of therapy. This style of therapy focuses on the needs of the client. A person centered therapist will view their client in a positive light, without judgment, and as someone capable of change.
- Narrative therapy helps clients separate themselves from their problems and helps them create new meanings to the events in their life.
- Multicultural therapy incorporates culturally relevant conversations into therapy.
- Emotion Focused therapy helps clients feel their emotions and learn to cope with them.
All the previous therapies I have discussed have something in common, they all involve talking with a therapist in an office-like setting. However, therapists have been incorporating other wellness-based techniques into counselling. Some common creative options include art therapy, music therapy, and animal therapy. Common therapy animals are dogs and horses. There are also nature and physical activity-based therapy options. Wilderness therapy, play therapy, and dance therapy are all unique options that can provide mental health benefits. There is such a wide variety of types of therapy, this list only captures and explains a small portion of what therapy can look like.