Therapy methods abound. But what will work best for you? Here’s a list:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Emphasizes the role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. CBT stresses the fact that thoughts, rather than people or events, cause our negative feelings. CBT is a structured collaboration between therapist and client and often calls for homework assignments. Brief and time-limited, CBT includes rational emotive behavior therapy and cognitive therapy.
Many practitioners now take an eclectic approach by using various methods including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy, for example. Therapists often work with their clients to create a treatment plan that encompasses different techniques and orientations.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
An information-processing therapy that helps clients cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions or phobias. The patient focuses on a specific thought, image, emotion or sensation while simultaneously following the therapist’s finger. This causes swift eye movements that loosen one’s memory and allow negative memories to be reprocessed with positive ones.
A forensic psychologist holds a doctorate degree with additional study in the field of forensics. These professionals offer expert legal opinion in both criminal and civil cases. Their work can range from psychological autopsies to evaluating a person’s psychological competency to stand trial. In addition, forensic psychologists provide treatment to people whose situations or behavior have brought them into contact with the courts.
Through this method, which emphasizes the uniqueness of the individual, practitioners help their clients realize their potential. The individual works toward this goal through change and self-directed growth. Also known as client-centered psychotherapy, the humanistic method is an umbrella term for gestalt and Rogerian approaches, as well as existential theories of therapy.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
IPT is a short-term psychotherapy in which therapist and client identify the issues and problems of interpersonal relationships. They also explore the client’s life history to help recognize problem areas and then work toward ways to rectify them. There are also specific therapies, such as Imago therapy, which focus on intimate relationships. In addition, interpersonal therapy is not to be confused with transpersonal psychology, which is the study of states in which people experience a deeper sense of who they are, or a sense of greater connectedness with others, nature or spirituality.
Marriage and Family Therapy
Family influences the way we interact and communicate with others. In this type of therapy, the provider works with family members, both individually and as a group. The therapist reinforces the constructive aspects of a relationship and, at the same time, identifies the destructive elements. Marital therapy assists couples in finding problem-solving strategies.
Psychodynamic therapy is also known as insight-oriented therapy. It evolved from Freudian psychoanalysis in which the therapist interprets the patient’s words and behaviors. This approach holds that bringing the unconscious into conscious awareness promotes insight and resolves conflict. This therapy involves more frequent sessions than CBT does.
Psychological testing is used to describe a wide variety of evaluations, but when applied strictly, the term refers to tests administered in clinical settings. Tests are devised to make a psychological assessment based on answers a client gives the examiner. Neuropsychological testing, for example, addresses problems with cognitive functioning and can require hours of testing. Nonprofessionals, such as potential employers or educational institutions, now commonly administer achievement or aptitude tests to evaluate potential candidates. In addition, intelligence tests and personality tests are offered through Internet sites.
Additional Therapy Methods
Founded by Alfred Adler, Adlerian psychology is based on the belief that all human behavior has a purpose and is goal-oriented. We strive for social connectedness, as well as suffer emotional difficulties because of feelings of inferiority and lack of a sense of community. True change and growth results from identifying, exploring and changing mistaken goals and beliefs. Therapy is seen as a re-education leading to greater social participation and fewer feelings of inferiority.
The use of art and creativity may lead to greater self-knowledge. Accessing creativity may be helpful in identifying emotional issues and can help in the healing process.
A therapy that uses electronic systems to monitor heart rate, brain waves or perspiration to help individuals become aware of their physiological responses and learn to control them.
This approach to counseling is founded on the Bible and on the belief that Scripture should be the final authority for what kinds of decisions people make and how they live their life.
Clients are in the best position to resolve their issues if the therapist can establish a warm, accepting and safe environment in which the individual feels free to talk about issues and can gain insight into them. This therapy is nondirective because the therapist typically does not give advice or make interpretations. Founder Carl Rogers believed that people are trustworthy and have a great potential for self-awareness and self-directed growth, given a nurturing environment. The function of the therapist is to be genuine, accepting and empathic. Techniques are less important.
Determining the meaning of dreams through symbols, myths, free association and memories may help clients process their issues. There are a variety of philosophies and approaches for analyzing dreams, including Adlerian (dreams are projections of a person’s current concerns), Gestalt (every person and object in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer), and psychoanalytic (dreams are a key to what is happening in a person’s unconscious).
A philosophy of life, rather than a specific therapy, existentialism focuses on free will, responsibility for choices and the search for meaning and purpose through suffering, love and work. People are seen as constantly changing and becoming more their true selves. Searching within and finding one’s own answers is encouraged. Emphasis is on the present and future, not the past.
This therapy looks at the entire family as a complex system having its own language, roles, rules, beliefs, needs and patterns. Each family member plays a part in the system, and family systems therapy helps an individual discover how her childhood family operated, her role in that system and how the experience affects her in her current family.
This therapy focuses on empowering women and helping them discover how to break free from traditional molds that may be blocking growth and development. Feminist therapy tends to be more focused on strengthening women in areas such as communication, assertiveness, self-esteem and relationships.
Known as an experiential therapy, gestalt emphasizes what is happening in the here and now, helping individuals to become more self-aware and to learn responsibility for and integration of their thoughts, feelings and actions. Techniques include confrontation, role-playing and dialogue between two parts of a personality. This therapy is based on the belief that to reach maturity, people must find their own way in life and accept responsibility for who they are.
Jungian (Analytical Psychology)
The focus of Jungian therapy is to help people access their unconscious to develop greater self-realization and individuation. Founder Carl. G. Jung’s theory is psychoanalytic, but differs from traditional Freudian theory. Jung added the concepts of individuation (human potential), which includes transcendence and spirituality. People are seen in a positive light, and therapy considers the soul, which seeks to be nurtured by something larger than the self.
Life coaching is a new type of therapy that helps healthy people to realize their goals in work, family and life. Although many psychologists also consider part of their treatment to be a form of life coaching, this therapy doesn’t focus on treating mental illness. Executive coaches, for example, may be enlisted to help a chief executive become a better manager.
Founded by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis is based on the belief that true change and growth comes from an individual gaining more self-awareness. One must bring unconscious thoughts, motivations, feelings and experiences into the conscious so that behavior is based more on reality than instinct. Key concepts: Behavior is determined by unconscious motivations, irrational forces, instinctual drives and psychosexual events occurring during the first six years of life. Classical psychoanalysis is an intensive and long-term process with a focus on transference (transferring feelings about and reactions to past significant others onto the therapist) and uncovering unconscious material. Essentially, psychoanalysis strives for fundamental reconstruction of individual’s total personality.
Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)
According to RET, our emotions result from our beliefs, interpretations and reactions to life events. A type of cognitive therapy, RET is based more on thinking and doing than with the expression of feelings. Founder Albert Ellis is known as the father of RET and the grandfather of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Basing this method on the works of Freud and Jung, founder Heinz Kohut added the element of empathy. Self-psychology is a mode of psychoanalytic treatment that states that each individual’s self-esteem and vitality derive from and are maintained by the empathic responsiveness of others to his or her needs.
In this form of therapy, desirable behavior is modeled for clients, then reinforced and mimicked.
Most psychological problems are present only intermittently. People with panic disorder do not spend every minute in a panic; even depression fluctuates in severity. Solution-focused therapy tries to help the patient notice when symptoms are diminished or absent and use this knowledge as a foundation for recovery. If a patient insists that the symptoms are constant and unrelieved, the therapist works with him to find exceptions and make the exceptions more frequent, predictable and controllable. This therapy builds on working solutions already available to the patient.
A system of psychotherapy, it analyzes personal relationships and interactions in terms of conflicting or complementary ego states that correspond to the roles of parent, child and adult.
This branch of psychology is concerned with the study of states and processes in which people experience a deeper or wider sense of who they are—or a sense of greater connectedness with others, nature or the spiritual dimension. Transpersonal psychology extends into consciousness studies, spiritual inquiry, mind-body relationships and transformation. Carl Jung first coined the term transpersonal (uberpersonlich) when he used the phrase transpersonal unconscious as a synonym for collective unconscious.