When you are thinking of going to see a counsellor, psychotherapist, or psychologist, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide which one to see. You probably imagine laying on Freud’s couch, while the therapist sits behind you and listens to you talk. You may be surprised to learn just because you are going to therapy, does not mean you will be laying on a couch. Most people only know about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but there are different types of therapy out there. It’s important to make sure you pick the one that you think will best fit you! There are 4 main types of therapy, and below you’ll see a brief explanation of each one.
Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytic Therapy
While the psychodynamic and psychoanalytic theories are technically different, they are quite similar in their approach. Both of these therapy types emphasize that problems we experience now, can be traced back to our childhood and adolescent experiences. When you see a therapist who works from this approach, they will often ask you about your childhood and upbringing. They will also work to help you become aware of some of the unconscious “conflicts” that occur in your mind. Psychodynamic therapists believe that all behaviours have a cause, and will work with you to help determine the causes of behaviours, thoughts, and feelings that lead to distress.
According to this theory, mental illness is the result of being able to successfully progress through all stages of growing up. So, when we experience difficulties, they believe that we may be stuck in a certain stage.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is type of therapy that has become very popular recently. Therapists who work from this type of theory believe that problems arise when our thinking process goes awry. However, our thought processes are formed based on how we were reinforced and taught things throughout childhood. For example, if you grew up with parents who excessively worried when things might go wrong, you may have learned to worry a lot and feel stressed. If your parents never showed or shared their emotions, you may have learned to hide how you feel from others. So, the idea is that we learn by watching others and imitating them, this is also called social learning.
They also emphasize that difficulties now maybe caused from not learning effective coping skills when you were younger. So, in CBT you may be asked to do homework assignments made up of practicing new coping mechanisms. In the session, they may also do some teaching in addition to discussing your current difficulties, then tie them in together. CBT works by helping us change our thought processes from unhealthy to healthy ones.
Humanistic and Existential Therapy
The idea behind these types of therapy is that everything we do is motivated by attempting to reach our full potential. Another big point of this type of therapy is that we are all responsible for our own behaviour, it is not the result of bad parenting, or whatever life experiences you may have had. You are ultimately in charge of controlling how you think or feel. This therapy focuses on a few “struggles” that we tend to experience during life. The first one is called “being vs. non-being.” This is learning to accept some parts of yourself and not accepting others. It also focuses on being “authentic”, which would be if you put up a fake self to others, or if you act like yourself.
Because this therapy involves a lot of self-exploration, the therapist is more of a guide to help direct you, instead of being like a teacher or authority figure. In sessions with this type of therapist, they will be less likely to focus on your past experiences, and more likely to focus on the here and now.
Eclectic and Integrative Therapy
Therapists who have an eclectic (also called Integrative) approach to therapy tend to mesh together all of the therapy types listed above to meet the needs of each specific client. This is the type of therapy used by most therapists today. They believe that there is no one right way of approaching any particular problem; instead, there are many different ways that it can be approached. People who use this approach when they do therapy like to take this approach because not everyone comes from the same background or has the same views. This type of therapy is very good when working with people who come from a very diverse and multicultural background.
There are, in fact hundreds of different types of therapy; however, most are a spin off of one of the above four types, or even a mix. By having an idea of what kind of the different kinds of therapy are, it may help you to find the type of therapist you are looking for.