More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Psychotherapy: An overview of the types of therapy
Mayo Clinic

Many types of psychotherapy are available. Some focus on changing current behavior patterns and others focus on understanding past issues. See who may benefit from each.
Psychotherapy is a general term for a way of treating mental and emotional disorders by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health professional. It's also known as talk therapy, counseling, psychosocial therapy or, simply, therapy.

Through psychotherapy sessions, you may:

  • Learn about the causes of your condition so you can better understand it.
  • Learn how to identify and change behaviors or thoughts that adversely affect your life.
  • Explore relationships and experiences.
  • Find better ways to cope and solve problems.
  • Learn to set realistic goals for your life.

Psychotherapy can help alleviate symptoms caused by mental illness, such as hopelessness and anger, so that you can regain a sense of happiness, enjoyment and control in your life.

Psychotherapy can be short-term, with just a couple of sessions, or it can involve many sessions over several years. It can take place in individual, couples, family or group sessions. Sometimes psychotherapy is combined with other types of treatment, such as medication.

Common types of psychotherapy include:

Art therapy
Art therapy, also called creative art therapy, uses the creative process to help people who might have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings. Creative arts can help you increase self-awareness, cope with symptoms and traumatic experiences, and foster positive changes. Creative art therapy includes music, dance and movement, drama, drawing, painting and even poetry.

Behavior therapy
Behavior therapy focuses on changing unwanted or unhealthy behaviors, typically using a system of rewards, reinforcements of positive behavior and desensitization. Desensitization is a process of confronting something that causes anxiety, fear or discomfort and overcoming those responses. If you have a fear of germs that triggers you to excessively wash your hands, for instance, you might be taught techniques to stop your excessive washing.

Cognitive therapy
Cognitive therapy is designed to help you identify and change distorted thought (cognitive) patterns that can lead to feelings and behaviors that are troublesome, self-defeating or self-destructive. It's based on the premise that how you interpret your experiences in life determines the way you feel and behave. If you have depression, for instance, you might see yourself and your experiences in negative ways, which worsens the symptoms of depression. Like behavior therapy, cognitive therapy focuses on your current problem, rather than addressing underlying or past issues or conflicts. Unlike behavior therapy, however, your experiences are an important part of the cognitive therapy process.

Cognitive-behavior therapy
Cognitive-behavior therapy combines features of both cognitive and behavior therapies to identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. It's based on the idea that your own thoughts ? not other people or situations ? determine how you behave. Even if an unwanted situation doesn't change, you can change the way you think and behave in a positive way.

Dialectical behavior therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavior therapy. Its primary objective is to teach behavioral skills to help you tolerate stress, regulate your emotions and improve your relationships with others. It was originally designed for people with borderline personality disorder, who often have suicidal behavior. But DBT has been adapted for people with other conditions, too, including eating disorders and substance abuse.

Dialectical behavior therapy is derived, in part, from a philosophical process called dialectics, in which seemingly contradictory facts or ideas are weighed against each other to come up with a resolution or balance. For instance, you might learn about accepting who you are while at the same time making changes in your thoughts and behaviors.

Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is a form of behavior therapy that deliberately exposes you to the very thing that you find upsetting or disturbing. It's especially useful for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Under controlled circumstances, exposure to the event or things that trigger your obsessive thoughts or traumatic reactions can help you learn to cope with them effectively.

Interpersonal therapy
Interpersonal therapy focuses on your current relationships with other people. The goal is to improve your interpersonal skills ? how you relate to others, including family, friends and colleagues. You learn how to evaluate the way you interact with others and develop strategies for dealing with relationship and communication problems.

Play therapy
Play therapy is geared mainly for young children at specific developmental levels. It makes use of a variety of techniques, including playing with dolls or toys, painting or other activities. These techniques allow children to more easily express emotions and feelings if they lack the cognitive development to express themselves with words.

In psychoanalysis, you examine memories, events and feelings from the past to understand current feelings and behavior. It's based on the theory that childhood events and biological urges create an unconscious mind that drives how you think, feel and behave. In this type of therapy, you explore those unconscious motivations to help make changes to improve your life. You might also do dream analysis and free association ? talking about whatever happens to come to mind.

Psychoanalysis is a long-term, intensive therapy that often involves several sessions a week with a psychoanalyst for several years. In formal psychoanalysis, you lie on a couch and the therapist sits unseen behind you. The practice evolved out of theories developed by Sigmund Freud.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy
Psychodynamic psychotherapy, based on the theories of psychoanalysis, focuses on increasing your awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviors, developing new insights into your motivations, and resolving conflicts to live a happier life. It's one of the most common types of psychotherapy. It's less intense than psychoanalysis and is usually done sitting face to face with a therapist. It's also less frequent ? usually once a week ? and is shorter term, usually a year or less.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy includes a variety of therapeutic techniques, such as exploring your past, confronting your beliefs and actions, offering support, and interpreting your thoughts and behavior. That process allows you to become aware of and acknowledge the link between a feeling, thought, symptom or behavior and an unconscious meaning or motivator. With that new understanding, you can modify unwanted behavior or thoughts.

Psychoeducation focuses on teaching you ? and sometimes family and friends ? about your illness. Psychoeducation explores possible treatments, coping strategies and problem-solving skills for your condition. You might learn about resources in your community, such as support groups or housing options. You can also learn about symptoms that might indicate a potential relapse so that you can take steps to get appropriate treatment. Psychoeducation can be especially useful for people with chronic or severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia.
Like behavior therapy, cognitive therapy focuses on your current problem, rather than addressing underlying or past issues or conflicts.
i'm not sure i understand how this can work. i can see that past issues don't really matter in this approach, it is about the here and now - but it seems to me that the underlying issue would be part of the here and now. if you are not looking at the underlying issue of your depression is this not ignoring the root cause?

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Initially, I see CBT as giving the individual tools to manage the symptoms -- rather like giving antiobiotics to treat an infection; later, you look to see what caused the infection and deal with that with other approaches.

But CBT is also valuable in helping to change negative and self-destructive thinking patterns. Sometimes, those ARE the underlying issue.


I think it depends a lot on the patient, too. For me, my depression was mostly situational (due to my daughter's attempted suicide), so this kind of therapy was exactly what I needed. Over the course of time, we dealt with other issues that contributed to my inability to cope. I had to learn that I couldn't control what others did. Approaching the problem from a practical, in-the-moment standpoint worked very well for me. :)
This is what I'm doing. I'm finding it exhausting and frustrating. I was already questioning almost every thought I had and now I'm double and triple checking myself trying to figure out if a thought is defective or not.

I feel overwhelmed with it.


I think the trick, Janet, is not to try to go too fast. Just let the new ideas take root in your mind. Then, try looking at some of the more disturbing thoughts and see if they might be distorted. Don't try to analyze everything or you'll really get frustrated. It's like trying to attack every room in your house at the same time on "cleaning day". One baby step at a time. It's hard not to over-do when you're first starting, but if you can control the tendency the therapy will be a lot more effective.

Hope that helps. :hug:


Theres one missing off that list. Attachment-based therapy!

Attachment Disorder is becoming more and more recognised as often being the basis of ongoing depression, eating disorders, BPD, Anxiety etc., I battled for years with emotional struggles and problems in the way I relate to others not really understanding what was wrong with other than I was always upset and unhappy frequently lapsing into despair and suicidal thoughts but its only been since being identified as having Attachment Disorder and having specific help for that that I feel that I have been dealing with the core of my problems. Its been widely recognised as a condition in children for years although I dont know what is thought to happen to those children when they grow up, whether their problems miraculously vanish in puberty as there has been very little information, research, specific therapy, or understanding even for adults. Often the criteria I have read for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is way off the mark and describes symptoms that are alien to me and many others, (although this may be a 'type') nevertheless for people that know they have attachment struggles this description can be misleading and upsetting. Things are slowly changing thankfully. The need for attachment therapy or attachment-based therapy for adults is become more widely accepted and recognised.

Anyway here's an interesting link

Attachment and attachment-based therapy.pdf :acrobat:


  • attachment%20and%20attachment%20based%20therapy.pdf
    191.8 KB · Views: 0


Hi Into the light

yes it was a bit! ... although attachment-based therapy is another kind of therapy .. I did wander off a bit!

am doing okay at the moment thanks .. well functioning is a good word! Hope you (and everyone) had a good Christmas and all the best for 2008

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