Psychotherapy: An overview of the types of therapy

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Psychotherapy: An overview of the types of therapy

Psychotherapy — An overview of the types of therapy, from art therapy to Freudian psychoanalysis.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Psychoanalysis

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.

Psychoeducation

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.

Last Updated: 09/01/2006
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