A Guide to Different Types of Therapy


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So you are interested in exploring therapy, but aren’t sure where to start? Don’t worry, this guide is an overview of some common therapy methods you might encounter in a session with a mental health provider. 

Psychotherapy, commonly referred to as talk therapy, is a common tool used by mental health providers.

Therapy and counseling are often used interchangeably. While there is overlap and counselors use many of the same techniques, counseling may be best equipped to address a specific issue. 

An example of this could be adjusting to college after moving away from home or addressing a period of diabetes burnout.

By contrast, therapy may be aimed at understanding your past to address patterns of thoughts or behaviors that are disruptive to your life. Or, it could be ongoing support to treat a mental health condition. 

You don’t need to live with a mental health condition to benefit from therapy or counseling. Talking to a skilled professional often helps people manage stress, cope with major life changes, improve relationships, or deal with grief.

If you have questions about a certain type of therapy or are curious if a particular method would benefit you, don’t hesitate to ask your provider. 

Psychologists and other licensed professionals may use one or a combination of the following research-based techniques to help you reach your goals

Types of Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on understanding your emotions and getting to the root of feelings and beliefs you hold about yourself.

It’s common to talk with your therapist about all areas of your life, including your childhood, relationships and past experiences to identify patterns or connections.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is a more action-oriented method of therapy that focuses on examining behaviors that may be negatively impacting you.

Behavioral therapy can help you change your behavioral responses in a way that improves your life. For example, a counselor may help you overcome a fear of flying or anxiety associated with speaking in front of a group that’s holding you back from fully participating in your job.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on how you think. This method emphasizes changing thought patterns that are causing you distress. A therapist may help you identify unhelpful thoughts or beliefs you hold about yourself.

This type of therapy doesn’t look to examine your past experiences but focuses on identifying thought patterns and changing the way you feel and respond to them.

You may be given homework outside of sessions. This could include noticing recurring or negative thoughts and writing them down.

Humanistic therapy

This method is based on a belief that individuals know what is best for their own life and is focused on acknowledging every person’s unique nature and ability to make rational choices.

The humanistic approach is based on a core belief that you are the expert of your own experiences and are inherently able to reach your full potential. The therapist may act as a source of support, concern and care, more so than an authority on what your thoughts or feelings mean.

This type of therapy may emphasize the importance of being true to yourself, taking responsibility and developing self-acceptance.

Integrative or holistic therapy

Many providers don’t limit themselves to one approach. Integrative therapy refers to the approach many therapists take of blending therapy methods to meet their client’s needs.

Mental health tends to be generalized

There are many kinds of mental health challenges and concerns. Needs can range in severity. If working with a professional will help to address your mental health needs, please seek out support.

Check out these resources on how to find mental health support:

Educational content related to mental health therapy is made possible with support from BetterHelp, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Thank you to BetterHelp for offering everyone in our community two free therapy sessions. Learn more at BetterHelp.com/BeyondType1.

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WRITTEN BY Julia Sclafani, POSTED 04/29/22, UPDATED 12/15/22

Julia Sclafani is a writer, editor and multimedia producer whose work on human rights and public health topics lead her to Beyond Type 1. She received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. An award-winning journalist, Julia cut her teeth at her hometown newspaper. You can find her past work in print, on the radio and across the web.