What Are The Different Types Of Therapy Available?

By: Michael Puskar

Updated December 29, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Robin Brock

The word “therapy” is synonymous with the word “treatment” and encompasses a broad range of categories and topics, including medical therapy, physical therapy, and psychotherapy. As you can see, there are many different types of treatment available. How can you tell which one is right for you? This article will look at psychotherapy in particular, focusing on the many different types of therapy that fall under this umbrella.

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What Is Psychotherapy?

In simple terms, psychotherapy (also known as Talking Therapy) is described as the use of psychological techniques and methods to help improve or strengthen an individual's mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.

Most psychotherapy treatments are done one-on-one between the individual and the psychotherapist, but depending on the issue, some types of therapy can happen in a couple, group, or family setting as well.

Psychotherapists are typically mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and clinical social workers. They can also be professionals like a counselor who are trained in a specific field of therapy. Most therapists will not prescribe medications because only psychiatrists have the ability and authority to prescribe medication; other therapists and counselors cannot.

Therapy is highly recommended as a first-line treatment for essentially every kind of mental disorder, and it's often used in conjunction with medication from a doctor. If you're considering therapy for the very first time, don't worry. Countless people have been in the same boat, and therapy has helped them to successfully manage their conditions or other challenging aspects of life.

Please consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options.

What Are The Different Types Of Therapy?

Read on to learn about the many different types of psychotherapy.

Counseling: This is the most common type of therapy and is frequently used by individuals to help them get through a rough patch. It has less to do with medical problems and more to do with receiving help or support to get through common, everyday problems. It can be used to help an individual grapple with anger management issues or to help a couple looking to resolve relationship concerns. It can even help someone consider their career options. Counseling sessions are usually one hour long, and the client can decide how often they want to see their counselor, whether that's once a month, once a week, or any other amount.

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Mindfulness-Based Therapy: Used to treat depression, stress, addiction, and anxiety, mindfulness-based therapy helps individuals accept and focus on their emotions without feeling overwhelmed by them. It encourages letting go of the past and disregarding future worries by living in the present. Similarly, stress-based therapy (MBSR) uses activities like exercise, yoga, and meditation to help individuals manage and cope with an illness. Sometimes these exercises are combined with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to help overcome depression.

Family Therapy: This type of therapy is designed to help families come to terms with or overcome a problem. It's particularly useful when the actions of an individual or a group of people are hurting the family unit. These problems could include the following:

  • Divorce
  • Substance use disorder
  • Domestic violence
  • Death
  • Grief
  • Adolescent issues
  • Mental health disorders or disability

Four different types of therapies are available under the branch of family therapy:

  1. Cognitive-based Therapy (CBT): This method helps people change their mindset and/or behavior to address and solve the problem at hand.
  2. Systemic Family Therapy: With this method, the feelings, ideas, and problems of the whole family are reviewed and deconstructed to figure out what's causing a rift in the family.
  3. Supportive Family Therapy: This type of therapy is designed to provide a safe environment where family members are encouraged to openly and honestly discuss their feelings about a particular issue or problem they're facing.
  4. Psychodynamic Method: This method looks at an individual's subconscious mind. It focuses on getting to the root cause of the underlying issue rather than addressing surface problems. By understanding and resolving the real problem, the therapist can help an individual and their family members cope with the difficulties they're facing.

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With the assistance of a trained therapist who uses one of the methods listed above, a family dealing with a particular issue can understand the root cause of their problems, learn to communicate better, and ideally find a happy medium that benefits everyone.

Couples Therapy: This type of therapy is designed for couples who are going through a rough patch or trying to recover from a serious problem. These problems could include dealing with the aftermath of an affair, money troubles, or the need to understand each other better. During the process, the couple is encouraged to share and talk through their problems while going through trust exercises and activities. Sessions can be done together or individually.

Group Therapy: This type of therapy allows a group of people who are going through a similar problem to share, discuss, and relate their experiences in a group setting with the help of a therapist. It's usually most effective in a small group of up to a dozen individuals, and the rules of confidentiality apply. One of the key benefits of group therapy is the knowledge that others are going through a similar experience and that you're not alone. It's enormously helpful to have a support system of people who can relate to your experiences and emotions. Plus, you can learn from what others have gone through.

Group therapy can help with things like the following:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Depression
  • Medical problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Grief

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is often used to help people deal with depression and anxiety, but it can be used to treat a host of other mental health issues as well. The CBT approach focuses on the present instead of delving into problems of the past. The goal is to change a patient's negative mindset and bring back positive feelings in their life. Studies have shown that CBT is useful for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, phobias, and many other conditions.

CBT is a goal-oriented approach to counseling. It works to change patterns of thinking to improve how a person feels. However, it must be stressed that CBT does not provide a physical cure for symptoms. It simply provides people with the ability to deal with their symptoms, thereby lessening the distressing effects. In many cases, it's a far more effective treatment than using medication, but in some cases, it's most effective when combined with medicine.

Because it's such a specific style of therapy, CBT is not useful for everyone, and it requires a strong commitment and willingness to cooperate with the therapist. Like most types of therapy, CBT can be done in either individual or group settings.

Exposure Therapy: A type of CBT, exposure therapy helps with illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder. It allows people to face their fears and phobias by continuously exposing them to the things they fear until that fear is gone.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT is usually used to treat milder forms of depression. It's a twelve- to sixteen-week program with weekly one-hour sessions in which the therapist and individual follow a specific science-based treatment regime. The treatment tackles the three components of depression: symptom formation, personality issues, and problems functioning in society.

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The purpose of IPT is to understand depression, address its components, provide the individual with coping mechanisms, reduce their symptoms, and repair their interpersonal relationships with friends, families, etc.

Behavioral Activation (BA): This is a technique used in CBT to treat depression. Studies have shown that BA is every bit as effective as other more complicated treatments and even medication in some cases. This method works to reverse depression by monitoring the individual's moods and encouraging them to be more engaged in positive activities they normally wouldn't do. Then it helps them find value and happiness in those interactions. The goal is to create a strong support system around the individual, have their positive feelings outweigh the negatives, and provide them with the skills they'll need to get through future rough patches.

Psychotherapy: While the types of therapies listed above all fall under the umbrella of psychotherapy, psychotherapy in itself is also a type of therapy. Instead of focusing on the present like CBT, psychotherapy delves into the past to understand the issues and difficulties a person may be facing in the present. Psychotherapy sessions are longer than CBT, lasting an hour instead of half an hour and can continue for as long as the person needs them.

Is Therapy Only For People with Mental Illnesses?

There is a common misconception that therapy is only for people who are mentally ill, and there is often a stigma attached to the idea of seeing a therapist. In fact, there's even a myth that you must be diagnosed with a mental illness to get help from a therapist. In reality, this is absolutely false, and therapy is so much more than a treatment for mental illness.

As we live our everyday lives, it's normal to feel a range of emotions. We all feel overwhelmed, stressed, sad, depressed, and confused from time to time. Going to see a therapist can help us muddle through this jumble of emotions. Sometimes it's necessary and can even be the smart thing to do when you need to take control of your life and take care of yourself.

Everyone deserves to enjoy life to the fullest. If there are treatments and therapies available to help you do it, then it's definitely worth seeking professional help. It's easy to forget that pain isn't always physical; it can also be emotional. That's where psychotherapy comes into play. If you feel like you need to speak to someone or get help with a problem or issue, reach out to get some relief right away.

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Plenty of information about therapists and counselors in your area can be found online. If you need immediate guidance or assistance, you can also go to the nearest hospital; they are staffed with therapists who can help you in urgent situations. Most companies and workplaces also have counselors available to discuss any problems you might be experiencing.

If you're worried about privacy and concerned about sharing deeply personal things, know that therapists are bound by law to maintain confidentiality, so patients can discuss their issues and problems in a free and unrestricted manner. As mentioned previously, the same code applies in group therapy sessions.

Furthermore, it's important to remember that therapy is not a quick fix, band-aid solution to a problem. It's a careful, methodical practice that creates a proper foundation, so the individual in need can find contentment in their life. Therefore, it can take months or even years before you see any significant changes or results, but results will come.

If you're currently in therapy, stay committed and keep participating because it can give you the necessary tools to lead a positive, successful life.

If you’re considering therapy, find one who specializes in a type of therapy that you think will work best for you. An in-person or online therapist can guide you toward the therapy goals you and your therapist have come up with.

If finding time for therapy is an issue for you, online therapy is an option. A study has shown that online therapy can feel more personal than traditional therapy. Ninety-six percent of people using online therapy reported feeling a personal connection with their online therapists as opposed to 91 percent who saw face-to-face therapists. They were also more invested in completing homework the therapists assigned them and occasionally reviewed correspondence between them and their therapists, leading them to move forward with their lives.

BetterHelp Can Help

If you're looking for someone to talk to, you can find a licensed and professional online therapist at BetterHelp. They can assist you with gaining tools to help you deal with issues in your life. You’ll be able to see your therapist at your own convenience and at an affordable rate. Be sure to read some of the reviews below to see what others have said about BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Chris has been instrumental in my recovery, partnering with me these few months from a deeply broken place to where I am now: healing, a positive work-in-progress. He is patient, he listens without judgement and he offers a different perspective on how I can and should approach a challenge. Chris, thank you for your support, it meant a lot to me."

"Kelli is fantastic and knowledgeable at what she does. On top of that, she is incredibly passionate about each of her clients and goes above and beyond to make sure they succeed and find answers to their questions. I highly recommend Kelli to anyone who needs guidance in their life and the structure to send them in the right direction. Kelli offers many exercises and worksheets to help you understand yourself better and reach your goals. Not to mention, Kelli is very easy to talk to and offers a safe space to openly talk about problems or even share a highlight of your day. I've literally laughed and cried with her! Highly recommend Kelli!


Hopefully, this article helped you gain a better understanding of the different types of therapy available and what they entail. Finding the right one for you might seem overwhelming at first, but a great therapist can support you. Take the first step today.

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