9 Unique Types Of Therapy For Improving Mental Health
Pop culture depictions of psychotherapy often involve traditional, face-to-face therapy sessions wherein a therapist listens intently and takes notes as their client speaks. While these elements may exist in one form or another in therapy sessions, psychotherapy is a diverse field, and therapists have developed many ways to approach mental health treatment.
Thus, many unique forms of therapy exist that defy popular understandings of psychotherapy, and these approaches may be preferable to more common forms of therapy. When considering whether to seek mental health treatment, it can be helpful to research several options, including some lesser-known forms of therapy. Below, you’ll find a guide to some unique therapy modalities that may be worth considering.
How to choose the right type of therapy
With so many options, deciding upon a particular type of therapy may be intimidating. Remember, however, that there may be no “right” type of therapy—each offers a unique set of benefits that can lead to positive outcomes for different people. To choose a therapy modality, it’s often worth taking some time to take inventory of your needs and weigh your options. Here’s how you can start the process of choosing the right kind of therapy for you:
- Assess your needs: Begin by identifying your specific mental health concerns and goals in therapy. Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, or relationship issues? Identifying your needs can help you narrow down the types of therapy that are most suited for addressing those issues.
- Research therapy types: Familiarize yourself with the various therapy approaches available and learn about their principles, techniques, and target areas. You might consider reading books, watching videos, or consulting trusted online resources to gain insight into each therapy type.
- Consider your preferences: Think about your personal preferences and comfort level when it comes to therapy. If you feel you may be more comfortable with a structured, goal-oriented approach, it may be worth considering CBT. However, if you prefer a more introspective and exploratory therapy style, existential or psychodynamic therapy may be beneficial. As you learn, reflect on what resonates with you and aligns with your values. You can also speak with a mental health professional for advice as you decide which therapy modality may suit you most.
- Cost and accessibility: Consider practical factors such as cost and accessibility. Some therapy types may require more sessions or longer-term commitments, which can impact the overall cost. If you are worried about the cost of therapy, or if you have limitations that make in-person therapy unrealistic, it may be worth considering online therapy.
- Trial and error: Sometimes, finding the right therapy type is a process of trial and error. It's okay to try out different therapy approaches and therapists to see what feels most helpful and comfortable for you. Remember that therapy is a collaborative process, and finding the right fit may require exploration.
Unique therapies for improved mental health
1. Expressive therapies
Expressive therapy uses various creative activities as a means of self-expression and emotional exploration. In these types of therapies, a trained therapist works with individuals to help them express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences through mediums such as music, art, writing, and drama.
The core principle of expressive therapy is that creative expression can promote healing, growth, and self-discovery. It can provide a non-verbal and non-threatening outlet for communicating, processing emotions, and gaining insight into one’s inner world. Some forms of expressive therapy include:
- Music therapy
- Art therapy
- Dance therapy
- Culinary therapy
Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique that uses hypnosis to facilitate positive changes in one’s thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Hypnotherapy can be effective in addressing a wide range of concerns, including anxiety, phobias, smoking cessation, weight management, pain management, and trauma recovery, among others.
During a hypnotherapy session, a trained therapist guides their client into a relaxed and focused state of consciousness where their subconscious mind becomes more open to suggestion and exploration. In this state, the therapist can help them access and reframe deeply rooted beliefs, patterns, and traumas that may be impacting their thoughts and behaviors.
3. Nature therapy
Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy or green therapy, is a type of therapy that recognizes the healing and restorative power of nature on mental health and well-being. It involves working with a therapist in natural environments, such as forests, parks, or gardens, and working through mental health challenges while engaging with the natural world.
Research has shown that nature therapy may offer numerous benefits for mental health, such as relaxation, stress reduction, and improved mood. The sights, sounds, and smells of natural environments can evoke positive emotions and provide a sense of tranquility. Additionally, the physical activity associated with nature therapy can release endorphins and promote improved sleep, which can have profound and positive effects on one’s mental health.
4. Jungian therapy
Based on the principles of analytical psychology developed by Carl Jung, Jungian therapy focuses on exploring the unconscious aspects of the psyche and promoting self-awareness and individuation. In Jungian therapy, the therapist helps the client examine dreams, symbols, and personal narratives to facilitate personal growth and psychological wholeness.
By delving into the unconscious and working through unresolved issues and conflicts, individuals may develop deeper self-understanding and achieve greater psychological wholeness. Jungian therapy offers a holistic approach to therapy that fosters self-discovery and the cultivation of a more authentic and balanced sense of self.
5. Existential therapy
Existential therapy offers a unique therapeutic experience that delves into an individual’s search for meaning and authenticity. In this form of therapy, a trained therapist helps the individual explore their existential concerns and engage in self-reflection. This often involves discussions around fundamental existential themes such as freedom, choice, isolation, and mortality.
This form of therapy may be beneficial for those having difficulty finding purpose and direction in life. Through introspection, individuals may gain insight into their values, beliefs, and desires, leading to a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Existential therapy encourages personal growth, self-acceptance, and the development of a more authentic and fulfilling existence.
6. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is designed to address traumatic experiences and other distressing life events. EMDR involves bilateral stimulation of the brain, which can be achieved through eye movements, auditory tones, or tactile sensations. During an EMDR session, the individual focuses on the traumatic memory or distressing event while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. This process helps stimulate the brain's natural healing mechanisms, allowing for the reprocessing of traumatic memories and the integration of new, adaptive information.
Through EMDR, individuals can experience a reduction in the emotional intensity and distress associated with traumatic memories, leading to a sense of resolution, increased self-esteem, and the development of healthier coping strategies. EMDR has been extensively researched and shown to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions.
7. Gestalt therapy
Gestalt therapy is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes the importance of the present moment, self-awareness, and personal responsibility. In gestalt therapy, the therapist works with the client to help them integrate thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that promote self-discovery and personal growth.
Through techniques such as role-playing, empty chair exercises, and focusing on bodily sensations, gestalt therapy aims to help individuals gain insight into unresolved issues, develop authentic connections with themselves and others, and cultivate a greater sense of wholeness and fulfillment.
8. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based therapeutic approach aimed at helping individuals accept their thoughts and emotions rather than suppressing or controlling them. The goal of ACT is to develop psychological flexibility and commit to actions that align with one’s values, even in the presence of discomfort.
Through mindfulness exercises, cognitive defusion techniques, and value-based goal setting, ACT enables individuals to develop a more compassionate and accepting relationship with themselves and their experiences. By embracing acceptance and committing to meaningful action, it may be possible to overcome psychological barriers, enhance well-being, and work toward fulfillment and life satisfaction.
9. Narrative therapy
Narrative therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the narratives individuals create about themselves and their experiences. It recognizes how identities can be shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and aims to explore, deconstruct, and reframe these narratives to promote positive change.
Through conversations and reflective practices, a therapist specializing in narrative therapy can help their client discover their inherent strengths and values, which may allow them to separate themselves from the problems they’re facing. By shifting the dominant narratives and constructing alternative stories, it may be possible to gain a stronger sense of agency, develop resilience, and renew one’s sense of self.
Finding a therapist
If you are seeking to improve your mental health, it may be worth exploring some lesser-known types of therapy. Once you have identified a therapeutic approach that feels right for your needs, you may begin your search for a licensed therapist who specializes in that approach to therapy. You can start your search in your local area or consider participating in online therapy.
Online therapy offers several advantages over traditional in-person therapy. It tends to be more affordable, and online therapy platforms such as BetterHelp often offer additional services such as webinars and messaging features that add additional value. Additionally, online therapy may be preferable for those who would like to attend therapy from the comfort of home, whether due to physical or mental limitations or personal preference.
The efficacy of online therapy
Research has found that roughly three-quarters of people who attend talk therapy receive some kind of benefit, and online therapy has been shown to be a successful method of treatment for those facing a variety of mental health disorders. In an analysis of 17 studies, researchers discovered that internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective than face-to-face CBT at reducing depression symptom severity. CBT is a therapeutic framework that seeks to alter an individual’s unwanted behaviors by teaching them how to recognize and change their negative, unhelpful thought patterns. If you are wondering whether therapy may be right for you, including CBT or another modality, consider reaching out to a mental health professional to discuss your situation.
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