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There are different types of psychological therapies out there. Films often portray therapists as having all the answers about you, but in reality, the process of healing can take many forms. A therapist can help you deal with your tumult in different ways, and not all approaches will work for you.
We’ll take you through the main types of therapies here so you can get a good idea of each one. If you do need therapy, you will then know a bit about what to expect with individual therapists you read about on PlusGuidance or elsewhere.
Therapists using a humanistic (also called human-/person-centred) approach to therapy focus on your awareness about your here-and-now feelings and thoughts. They work from the assumption you have all the answers yourself, because no one else than you will know better how you feel and think.
Humanistic psychologists don’t believe in imposed analyses of you. They will tune into your own thoughts, paraphrase what you’re saying, and ask clarifying questions that pushes your conversation further into self-realisation.
An old, but very insightful, 5-part video shows how the founder of humanistic therapy, Carl Rogers, conducted a session with a real person (not actor) called Gloria. The first part starts out with a formal introduction by Rogers himself, whereafter you need to click to the next parts to view the therapy session.
The basis of cognitive behavioural therapy (abbreviated CBT) is the assumption that your beliefs and thought patterns direct your behaviours. Identifying negative thought patterns is therefore an essential first step, whereafter alternative beliefs can be defined and used in real situations, ultimately changing the unhelpful behaviours of the patient.
The wonderful thing about CBT is that once you learn the techniques involved, you can use them again and again yourself in future situations. You sort of become your own therapist who can go through the same exercises in different situations to solve different problem areas.
To get an experience of the practical techniques involved in this type of therapy, watch this video:
Dialectical behavioural therapy (abbreviated DBT) uses a mix of CBT and mindfulness techniques to replace negative feelings, reactions and behaviours with better ones. It’s used to treat borderline personality disorder, substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders and eating disorders.
An overview of DBT principles is explained in a little more detail here:
We included psychodynamic - originated from psychoanalytic - therapy here because it’s probably the form of therapy most people think of when they think of a “shrink”. The reality today is that psychodynamic therapy is rare and requires long-term (sometimes life-long) attendance. It’s usually expensive for the patient and expensive to provide as a service, and the efficacy of the treatment has often proven inconclusive.
Psychodynamic therapy comes from Freud’s ideas of finding the root causes of people’s psychological problems believed to be formed by our parents and upbringing. It emphasises the idea you have a vast unconsciousness rooted in childhood that affects your whole personality today and causes internal conflicts that clash with your conscious thoughts and behaviours as an adult.
The following video explains in more detail about the ideas behind - as well as what you can expect from - a psychodynamic therapy session.
These are by no means the only therapies available to you. The effectiveness of each depends on what kind of issues you’re struggling with. Some therapies are designed specifically to treat a certain conditions, and some can treat many kinds of conditions. Some use a combination of therapy and drugs to treat serious conditions. Some therapy types can be conducted in groups or with your partner (to treat e.g. relationship issues).
The sheer variety of options makes it useful to have an initial consultation with a qualified practitioner who can point you in the right direction or tell you exactly how they can help you before you embark on the most effective path to a healthier mind.