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I don't know if this has been defined and discussed elsewhere on the Forum, but I would like to have a better understanding of what is referred to as "talk therapy".

Isn't the method of treating psychological or psychiatric disorders largely done by talking with the patient? In what context is the term specifically used?

If it is a specific form of therapy, what are the indications for "talk therapy"?


Steve, when I searched for a simple list of the different types of psychotherapy , I was surprised to find it was not easy to come up with.

Talk therapy is just another term for psychotherapy. The words are interchangable.

Types of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a method of talking with a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or professional counselor. Although best in person, therapy is also provided on the phone, via e-mail, and online. Therapy can be held in one-on-one sessions, family or couple sessions, or in a group led by a trained counselor.

Family therapy or couples therapy

Family therapy includes discussion and problem-solving sessions with every member of the family. Some sessions are done as a group, in couples, or one on one. Family or couples therapy is helpful when one of the family member's physical or mental health is directly affecting family dynamics or the well-being of significant relationships. In therapy, interpersonal relationships shared among family members are examined and communication is strengthened.

Group therapy

In group therapy, a small group of people meet regularly to discuss individual issues and help each other with problems with the guidance of a trained therapist.

Different approaches to psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is not limited to a particular type or technique. Many therapists are trained in several different approaches. They then combine techniques from these various approaches that fit their own style and personality and the needs of the patient.

Medication may be used with psychotherapy. For many people, this is the best approach to treatment. People with moderate-to-severe depression typically do best with a combination of antidepressants and some form of psychotherapy.

The following are the common types of therapy available:

Behavior therapy

Behavior therapy, also called behavior modification or behaviorism, sets up rewards and punishments to change thinking patterns and shape behavior. Behavioral therapy can involve relaxation training, stress management, biofeedback and desensitization of phobias. Behavioral therapists help patients learn how to get more satisfaction and rewards through their own actions and how to unlearn the behavioral patterns that contribute to, or result from, their problems.

Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy seeks to identify and correct thinking patterns that can lead to troublesome feelings and behaviors. Beliefs and expectations are explored to identify how they shape a person's experiences. If a thought or belief is too rigid and causes problems, the therapist helps the client to modify his or her belief so that it is less extreme.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps a person to recognize his or her own negative thought patterns and behaviors and to replace them with positive ones. Used both with and without medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most popular and commonly used therapy for the treatment of depression. A major aim of CBT is to reduce anxiety and depression by eliminating beliefs or behaviors that help to maintain problematic emotions.

CBT generally lasts about 12 weeks and may be conducted individually or in a group. There is evidence that the beneficial effects of CBT last longer than those of medication for people with panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress syndrome and social phobia.

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a short-term therapy often used to treat depression. This treatment approach focuses on an individual's social relationships and how to improve social support. IPT therapy seeks to improve a person's relationship skills, working on communication more effectively, expressing emotions appropriately and being properly assertive in social and work situations. In depression, IPT helps patients learn how to deal more effectively with others to reduce conflict and gain support from family and friends. It is usually conducted, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, on an individual basis but also can be used in a group therapy setting.


Also called psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapy, this type of treatment helps a person look inside himself or herself to discover and understand emotional conflicts that may be contributing to emotional problems. The therapist (psychoanalyst) helps the client "uncover" unconscious motivations, unresolved problems from childhood and early patterns to resolve issues and to become aware of how those motivations influence present actions and feelings. This is a lengthy process, typically taking several years.

There are different types of psychoanalysis, each with a different focus. Freudian psychoanalysis has been criticized because of its tendency to create long-term dependent relationships between the therapist and the client. Other types of psychoanalytically oriented therapy have become popular, such as Jungian therapy. Jungian therapy sessions focus more on the immediate situation and life problems than on the root of the problem to help individuals develop greater self-realization.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
It's not specific. It simply refers to "psychotherapy", as opposed to other forms of treatment such as "chemotherapy" or "pharmacotherapy" (i.e., medications), physiotherapy, occupational therapy, play therapy, etc.


Thanks! The information from the Mayo Clinic is very informative and explains several forms of therapy I was not too clear on.

Using the term "talk therapy" almost sounds like a euphymism, to avoid saying "psychotherapy"


I also found the Mayo Clinic's description of the various therapies quite informative and learned a few new things, one being that Exposure Therapy being useful for people with PTSD. It is something that I would have never thought.

Great post HeartArt, thanks :)


I think that Art Therapy would be great for me as I often have a really hard time expressing my thoughts and feelings in therapy and having something to distract myself with while talking would be perfect.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
That's an interesting idea, Gemini. Have you ever taken an art class or done any drawing or painting on your own in the past? You might try it as a way of expressing yourself if you can't find an actual art therapist (depending on where you live, art therapists may be difficult to find).


No I have never taken an art class but I have done some drawing on my own in the past...nothing recent though. I am in a pretty large city so I am sure that I can probably find an art therapist but I think it would probably be too much between my regular therapist and an art therapist. Just the idea though of being able to keep busy or do something while talking to a therapist would be good so I can express myself openly.
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