Types Of Psychotherapy

Updated November 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When people are facing many different stressors, they may turn to therapy to learn coping mechanisms and get support. There are many benefits to therapy, and there are a variety of methods available to help patients understand their problems and find ways to improve their mental health.

Interested In Exploring Therapy Or Need Someone To Talk To?

Common Counseling Methods

Just as there are a variety of treatment methods for physical ailments, there are a variety of treatment methods for mental health issues. Some of these types of therapy—for example, psychodynamic therapy—have been around for a while and are still in common use. Other types of therapy, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), are more recent additions to the therapist’s toolbox.

The method or methods a therapist uses often depends both on what the patient needs and also on the therapist’s own training and areas of specialization. Some therapists specialize in treating trauma-related issues, such as PTSD, while others focus on conditions such as depression. However, therapists usually have training and experience that allow them to treat a range of conditions.

Therapists also may differ with respect to which patients they will see. Some therapists may specialize in family therapy or working with children, while others specialize in working with adults who may or may not be in an intimate relationship.

Having some knowledge about the different types of therapy can help you decide which type of therapy is the right choice for you. Let’s explore some of the more common methods therapists use today.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a form of treatment for groups of individuals who are all experiencing the same type of mental health condition, for example, issues with substance use, PTSD, depression, or anger management. This type of therapy brings people together in a group setting moderated by a therapist who offers therapeutic support to the participants and makes sure the session runs smoothly. 

In addition to support from the therapist, group therapy provides an opportunity for the participants to listen to and learn from the other people in the group. Hearing about someone else's challenges can help the participants know that they are not alone in their feelings, and hearing how another person handled a particular situation may give the other participants hints about how they might approach a similar problem in their own lives.

Some therapy groups are open, which means that participants can join at any time. Others are closed, which means that they start and end on specific dates, requiring that participants sign up in advance. 

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

As the name suggests, the primary function of interpersonal psychotherapy is to help people who are struggling in their relationships with others. Interpersonal psychotherapy is intended to focus on the patient's ability to create and maintain healthy relationships with the people around them, rather than treating any underlying causes that might be affecting the patient. Situations in which interpersonal psychotherapy might be helpful include the treatment of unresolved grief, distress following a divorce, or conflicts within families or in the workplace.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) usually focuses on changing patterns of negative thoughts and introducing new, healthier ways of thinking, so that the patient can start to improve their mental health. In a CBT session, the therapist might discuss whether the negative or unhelpful thoughts that the patient is having are true or realistic, and then give the patient some skills to turn those patterns of thought around and look at them in a different light. Cognitive behavioral therapy is usually done only for a limited period of time and can be challenging, but this type of psychological treatment can have a significant positive impact on the lives of patients.

Family Systems Therapy

As the name suggests, family systems therapy is a type of psychological treatment that is intended to help families resolve any problems that might be affecting the family unit. 

Making Therapy More Effective

In psychotherapy, as in many other things in life, how we participate can have an effect on the outcome. While a therapist can guide the patient so that they can learn, heal, and grow, the actual work of the therapy is done primarily by the patient. Below is a discussion of some things that can help make therapy more effective.


Talking about certain experiences or issues can be challenging and even embarrassing. However, when you are working with a therapist, it is usually best to be transparent when discussing your feelings or events in your life. Being open and honest can help your therapist learn about who you are as an individual, give you guidance and feedback, and then discuss which next steps might be most be beneficial to you. 

Having Goals

Having an idea of what you hope to get from your therapy sessions can be an important step in your journey toward better mental health. This doesn't mean that you have to have everything figured out in advance; instead, it can mean having a general idea of areas that you would like to work on in therapy and how you want to improve your mental health. At the beginning of your sessions, your therapist may ask what you're hoping to get from psychological treatment, or which areas of your mental health you want to work on or need the most improvement. Having goals that you set in collaboration with your therapist can help your therapist track how you’re doing to see whether your treatment is helping you.

Interested In Exploring Therapy Or Need Someone To Talk To?

Have Patience With The Process

Sometimes people go into therapy expecting a quick fix, but psychotherapy is unlikely to work that way. Understanding that the therapeutic process takes time is one of the most advantageous things to remember as you embark on this journey.

It can take time for your therapist to get to know you and to understand your situation and what brought you to therapy. It can take time for you to see any improvements based on your sessions with your therapist. Remaining patient, open-minded, and receptive as you go through this journey is likely to be very beneficial to you.

Finding A Therapist

If you are interested in taking therapy, the first step is to find a qualified, licensed therapist who has experience working with the kinds of issues you would like to discuss. Some people prefer to do this in person in the therapist’s office, but for those who prefer online therapy appointments, services such as BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist who can help.


Psychotherapy is a broad field with a number of different therapeutic styles and approaches. Certain types of psychological treatment might work for some individuals, while other people might benefit from a different method. You can find a licensed therapist who specializes in treating people with your condition to help you get to the root of any issues that might be negatively affecting your mental health. Doing things like being honest and open with your therapist and setting goals for your therapy may make your therapy more effective.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.