Different Types of Therapy [Psychotherapy]: Which is Best For You?

types of psychotherapy factors

There are dozens of different types of therapy that might be right for you. To make the choice manageable, we broke them down into the factors that make a “type” of psychotherapy (you can use the handy links below to jump around the guide):

Whether you are an aspiring therapist planning your career path or a potential client looking for the type of therapy that best fits your preferences, considering all of these factors is crucial. “Type of therapy” typically refers to therapeutic approach, but this factor is not more important than others. Many clients and therapists value the other factors far more than therapeutic approach.

In-Person or Online Therapy

therapist couch client smartphone

Most therapists see all or the majority of their clients in person, however, the number of therapists providing online therapy is rapidly increasing.

Regardless of therapeutic approach, online therapy produces results comparable to in-person therapy. There are, however, some types of therapy that are impossible to offer online, including dance therapy and art therapy.

With the exception of severe mental illnesses that require intensive in-person treatment, the choice between online therapy and in-person therapy is a matter of preference.

The Most Common Types of Therapy

There are more than fifty types of therapeutic approaches. Only a few of them are common, though. There are also some that act as broad categories and contain subtypes.

Below are the types you are most likely to encounter. These approaches apply regardless of the other type factors we will explore later in the guide.

Note: Remember, most therapists blend therapeutic approaches and customize an integrated approach for each client.

Client-Centered Therapy [Person-Centered Therapy, PCT, CCT or Rogerian Therapy] (Part of the Humanistic Category of Therapy)

Client-centered therapy focuses as much on the client as possible. The therapist provides little authority or direction. Instead he or she offers subtle guidance and encourages the client to take control of their destiny.

CCT therapists show more concern and care than more analytical therapists. They put more time and effort into empathizing with clients.

Cognitive or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT] (part of the behavioral category)

CBT treats dysfunctional thinking that leads to maladaptive behaviors, mental illness and negative emotion. It focuses on thoughts rather than the client as a person.

Existential Therapy (part of the humanistic category)

Existential therapy emphasizes and helps clients manage aspects of the human condition, including the givens of human existence: isolation, meaninglessness, mortality and freedom. Psychotherapists such as Irvin Yalom derived it from existential philosophy.

Gestalt Therapy (part of the humanistic category)

Gestalt therapy emphasizes personal responsibility and helps clients focus on the present. It also stresses the development of the therapist-client relationship/alliance, the social context of the client’s life, awareness, attitudes and direct feelings and perceptions rather than interpretations.

Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Therapy

The psychodynamic approach explores unconscious feelings/thoughts and the impact of the past on the present. It is the oldest type of psychotherapy and closest to what Freud created.

Less Common Types of Therapy

types of therapy heads

There are so, so many types of psychotherapy. To stop the information from overwhelming you, think about what you most want from psychotherapy. Then scroll through and see which keywords align with what you were thinking.

Note: To make the list manageable, we are mostly focusing on talk therapy for adults. We also excluded forms of psychotherapy that are controversial or do not have sufficient evidence to back their effectiveness.

Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Therapy [AEDP]

AEDP explores difficult emotional and relational experiences to develop coping tools that allow better functioning.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy [ACT]

ACT helps clients develop mindfulness skills with the goal of consistent values and psychological flexibility.

Adlerian Psychotherapy

This approach improves the ability to adapt to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority relative to others.

Anger Management

This approach teaches clients to identify stressors, remain calm and handle tense situations in a positive and constructive manner.

Bibliotherapy

This approach uses literature to improve mental health and explore psychological issues.

Coherence Therapy [Depth-Oriented Brief Therapy]

Coherence therapy helps clients empathetically and quickly delve into deeply held emotional beliefs.

Collaborative Therapy

In collaborative therapy both the therapist and client use knowledge and experience to make progress.

Compassion-Focused Therapy

This approach encourages people to be compassionate toward themselves and others.

Conflict-Resolution Therapy

This approach teaches clients how to resolve conflicts with great results and minimal stress.

Contemplative Psychotherapy

This approach integrates Buddhist teachings and Western psychotherapy to focus on self-awareness, improve overall health and use wisdom to heal.

Core Process Psychotherapy [CPP]

CPP is a mindfulness-based approach that emphasizes awareness of body and mind for self-exploration and healing.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy [DBT]

DBT uses a problem solving and acceptance-based framework — among other strategies —- usually to treat severe and chronic mental health conditions and issues, including borderline personality disorder, suicidal thoughts, self-harming, eating disorders and PTSD.

Ego State Therapy

Based on psychodynamic therapy, ego state therapy operates under the principle that a person’s psyche is composed of identities and roles he or she takes on. It addresses these identities and the mental health issues they might be connected to.

Emotion-Focused Therapy [EFT]

EFT uses emotions as a source of healing and insight. It is especially effective for moderate depression, issues of childhood abuse and couples in the middle of a conflict.

Holistic Psychotherapy

Holistic psychotherapy integrates other therapeutic approaches and focuses on the relationship between mind, body and spirit.

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy [ISTDP]

ISTDP helps clients permanently change character flaws in a short period of time by releasing emotional inhibitions and discussing the source of character issues.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy [IPT]

IPT focuses on interpersonal issues such as relationships and major life events. Its goal is to improve mood and interpersonal issues within 6-20 weeks.

Journey Therapy

In journey therapy the therapist guides the client on a mental and emotional journey to uncover repressed memories that have created issues in the present.

Jungian Psychotherapy

Jungian psychotherapy focuses on the balance of consciousness and unconsciousness. Clients can become more whole and well-adjusted by achieving this balance and exploring both sides.

Logotherapy

Logotherapy focuses on the pursuit of meaning and purpose in one’s life.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

This therapy combines the best of CBT with mindfulness strategies that help clients assess thoughts in the present.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy [MET]

MET focuses on improving motivations to make positive changes and eliminate maladaptive patterns.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy helps clients interpret their experiences as stories that give meaning to their lives and guide them. It encourages people to identify their skills, values and knowledge so they can use them to live well.

Positive Psychotherapy

This approach helps clients view their illness or issues in a positive way. It focuses on the abilities of the client, inner balance, storytelling and hope.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy [REBT]

REBT helps clients develop rational thinking to facilitate healthy emotional behavior and expression. It is similar to CBT.

Reality Therapy

Reality therapy focuses on present issues and encourages clients to change behavior that might be preventing them from addressing those issues. It operates under the principle that people experience distress when they are not meeting five basic needs: power, love/belonging, freedom, fun and survival.

Redecision Therapy

Redecision therapy helps clients examine messages from caretakers and adults in their childhood, as well as any negative decisions.

Regression Therapy

Regression therapy addresses three layers of consciousness and helps clients align them.

Relational Psychotherapy

Relational psychotherapy helps client become cognitively and emotionally healthy by forming and maintaining fulfilling relationships.

Schema Therapy

Schema therapy helps clients identify the cognitive and behavior patterns that are causing or maintaining their mental health issues. It is especially effective in treating borderline personality disorder.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy [SFBT]

SFBT focuses on goals for the present and future rather than addressing the past or symptoms.

Symbolic Modeling

This therapeutic approach uses symbols, progressive questioning, metaphors and modeling to enact positive change.

Integrated or Singular Therapeutic Approach

Most psychotherapists use an integrated approach that combines various aspects of the aforementioned therapeutic approaches. They then customize the approach based on the client’s needs and preferences.

An integrated approach is usually as effective as a singular therapeutic approach. There are, however, circumstances where clients might prefer or benefit more from a singular approach.

It usually depends on whether the client is coming to therapy for a specific issue. If a client has borderline personality disorder, a singular DBT approach might work better than an integrated approach. For general mental health issues or depression and anxiety, an integrated approach could be more effective.

Clients who like a more rigid structure of treatment should choose a singular approach. On the other hand, an integrated approach is better for clients who see therapy as a place to explore issues without limit.

Number of People Involved (Individual, Couples, Families or Group Therapy)

Therapists can apply aspects of the aforementioned therapeutic approaches to individuals, couples and groups.

While couples therapy only applies to couples, clients can use individual or group therapy to work on their issues. Individual therapy provides faster results because the therapist or facilitator isn’t dividing attention among clients/participants. Group therapy takes more time but is often free or at least significantly more affordable than individual therapy. People also might like the opportunity to connect with others who have similar issues or experiences.

All of the aforementioned therapeutic approaches apply to individual, couples and group therapies. There are, however, some approaches that only apply to couples therapy.

Couples Therapy [Couples Counseling or Marriage Counseling]

happy couple therapist

  • Collaborative Couple Therapy [CCT]: couples learn to help each other with problems rather than opposing each other
  • Developmental Model of Couples Therapy: focusing on partners’ development individually and as a couple
  • Gottman Method Couples Therapy: a structured and goal-oriented form of therapy that focuses on understanding, empathy, connectedness, disarming verbal conflicts and fostering interpersonal growth
  • Imago Relationship Therapy: using spiritual, behavioral and Western psychological methodologies to help couples relate to each other in healthy ways, resolve conflicts and explore childhood factors that might have lead to current issues
  • Relational Life Therapy: helping partners resolve conflicts, develop personal accountability, improve communication and foster intimacy
  • Relationship Enhancement Therapy: teaching couples and families to better communicate feelings and develop coping strategies

There are also therapies only for or primarily for families.

Family Therapy

mother father child therapy

  • Family Attachment Narrative Therapy: family therapy for behaviorally disturbed children, often children who suffered from abuse and attachment issues in the past
  • Family Systems Therapy: uses systems theory as a foundation to explore how behaviors influence the functioning of a family unit and vice versa, usually tackles family conflicts
  • Filial Therapy: teaching parents play therapy techniques so they can use the techniques with their children
  • Internal Family Systems: fully understanding individuals by analyzing them in the context of a family; using this analysis to address issues and assess various parts of “sub-personalities” of a person
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy [PCIT]: teaching parents how to improve their relationships with their children by better interacting with them, often with the goal of reducing negative behaviors and strengthening bonds
  • Parent Work: helping parents improve their parenting by analyzing the relationship between parent and child, exploring themes and developing a positive parenting narrative
  • Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy: improving relationships and communication within a family by addressing actions, emotions and perceptions in the context of a family dynamic

Group Therapy

therapist clients group

In group therapy there are types of groups and therapeutic approaches for groups. Most of them deal with some form of substance abuse. Nonetheless, the issues can range from trauma and grief to abuse and addiction.

Here are the most common types and approaches:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral/Problem Solving Groups: using the CBT approach to interpret addiction and dependency as learned behaviors clients can modify
  • Interpersonal Process Group Psychotherapy: healing by changing maladaptive internal and interpersonal psychological dynamics
  • Modified Dynamic Group Therapy [MDGT]: using an interpersonal approach to address the self-regulatory ego deficits of abusers and addicts
  • Psychoeducational Groups: educating clients about substance abuse, related behaviors and consequences
  • Skills Development Groups: teaching people the skills they need to abstain from abusing drugs
  • Support Groups: strengthening interpersonal skills and working with other clients to maintain abstinence and improve self-esteem, confidence, etc.

Short-Term [Brief] or Long-Term

When clients begin therapy, they can request short-term [brief] therapy and work with the therapist to set a timeframe. They can also seek a therapist who practices a form of brief therapy. If the therapist practices a form of brief therapy, he or she will suggest or insist on a timeframe.

The duration of treatment depends on the therapeutic approach, the severity of issues and both the client and therapist’s preferences. 12 weeks is the standard time it takes to see results and 10-20 weeks is the typical range for brief therapy. Therapy can be much shorter or longer than that, though.

Some clients — regardless of choosing short or long-term psychotherapy — leave therapy when they have dealt with the most acute symptoms of their condition or resolved the issue they sought treatment for. Others stay because they see therapy as a long-term journey to improve their mental health and become a better version of themselves. These people work with therapists for years, sometimes decades.

Most therapeutic approaches can be short or long-term depending on the client’s preferences, but there are a few that are only short-term. Here is a quick list of them:

Types of Psychotherapies That Are Only Short-Term [Brief]

  • Coherence Therapy [Depth-Oriented Brief Therapy]
  • Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Therapy
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Long-Term Therapy

There are no therapeutic approaches that are only long-term. If a client wants long-term therapy, he or she can choose an approach that is not brief only and then extend the treatment indefinitely.

Therapy for People of a Certain Sexual Orientation, Race, Income Level, Gender, Religion, Political Ideology and More

Talkspace lgbt therapists
This is an example of branding for LGBT therapy.

To address the needs of minorities and people who want therapy that focuses on a specific part of their identity, therapists created psychotherapies for clients of certain groups. Here are some examples:

Affirmative Psychotherapy (for LGBT community members)

Because of a history of mental health professionals pathologizing non-heterosexual orientations and trying to change them, psychotherapists created affirmative psychotherapy that focuses on authenticity and accepting sexual orientation.

Gender Aware Therapy [GAT]

GAT encourages male and female clients to explore gender-related experiences. It incorporates feminist therapy and is a great option for men and women who feel they need to address issues related to their gender.

Feminist Therapy

Feminist therapy acknowledges that women may experience mental health issues as a result of psychological oppression that targets them because of their gender.

Multicultural Counseling

Multicultural counseling incorporates an understanding, sensitivity and appreciation of the history, values and experiences of minority groups. It recognizes differences between the counselor and client.

Religious Therapy

There are therapists who specialize in working with clients of all religious backgrounds. Nonetheless, not all religious therapies have standardized names. Here are a few that have commonly-used terms to describe them:

  • Biblical Counseling, Christian Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, etc. (forms of therapy that combine psychotherapeutic practices and Christian philosophy)
  • Quranic Psychotherapy (therapy for Muslims or therapy that incorporates the teaching of the Quran)

Wealth Therapy

Wealth therapy is for wealthy clients who are dealing with mental health issues related to their wealth, including feeling lonely or isolated, guilt from inheriting or having more privileges than others, feeling persecuted or made to feel guilty about their wealth, etc.

Therapy for Certain Life Events, Medical Issues and Situations (Child Birth, Divorce, Death, Impotence, Infertility, etc.)

Sometimes therapy is simply a way to cope with a rough period of life or a medical issue with mental health consequences or roots. Here are some types of therapy that address these issues (remember that many therapeutic approaches can address these issues):

  • Addiction Counseling (helping clients beat their addictions and address the related psychological factors; the addiction can be for anything, including drugs, sex, pornography etc.)
  • Divorce Counseling (for couples who want to maintain good relationships and mental health despite going through a divorce)
  • Erectile Dysfunction Sex Therapy (addressing the mental issues that might be contributing to erectile dysfunction)
  • Grief Counseling (coping with the death of a loved one)
  • Postpartum Counseling (coping with life changes after having a child or postpartum depression)
  • Sex Therapy (treating sexual dysfunction when there is no medical reason for the dysfunction)
  • Therapy for Infertility (coping with the emotional pain of being unable to conceive a child)
  • Therapy for Infidelity (coping with the aftermath of an affair and deciding whether to end or heal the relationship)
  • Therapy for Miscarriages (coping with the emotional pain and trauma of a miscarriage)
  • Therapy for Pregnancy (coping with body and life changes during pregnancy)

Therapy for Certain Mental Health Issues and Illnesses

The vast majority of therapeutic approaches do not apply to only one mental health issue or illness. Psychotherapists can use an approach to treat depression, for example, but there is no “Depression Therapy.” Nonetheless, some types of psychotherapy are especially effective for certain issues and illnesses.

Below is a short list of therapeutic approaches and types that are especially effective for treating certain mental health conditions (listed in the parentheticals):

  • Behavioral Types of Therapy (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD])
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (borderline personality disorder [BPD], eating disorders, PTSD, self-harming or suicidal behavior)
  • Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (obsessive compulsive disorder [OCD])
  • Group Therapy (Addiction)
  • Schema Therapy (borderline personality disorder)

Most types of therapy can address the following issues and illnesses:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Relationships
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Media Dependency
  • Trauma

Which Combination of Type Factors is Best for You?

If you are an aspiring therapist or a potential client seeking a type of psychotherapy, use the factors in this guide to decide exactly what you want. Think about which factor you value most. Is it the therapeutic approach? Is it the issues you might tackle?

Here are some examples of combinations you could consider:

  • Long-term online therapy that uses an integrated approach and focuses on depression
  • Short-term couples therapy that uses the Gottman Method
  • Multicultural counseling that sometimes uses an existential approach

Once you figure out which type is best for you, it will be easier to structure your career or find a therapist who can help you rapidly improve your mental health and be happier.

Note: By using Talkspace’s matching system or chatting with our matching specialists, you can quickly and easily find a therapist who specializes in many of the types of therapy in this guide.

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Published by

Joseph Rauch

Staff Writer at Talkspace