What Kind of Therapist Do I Need?

Published on: 30 Aug 2016
Clinically Reviewed by Cynthia V. Catchings LCSW-S
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Updated 9/22/2021.

There are dozens of types of therapists (or psychotherapists), each with a different method, specialty, or education. If you’re thinking about getting in-person or online therapy, you first want to figure out what kind of therapist do I need? 

This guide offers all the information you need, so you can find the type of therapist who’ll be best suited to your specific challenges, lifestyle, and preferences. 

Why Are You Seeking Therapy?

There are dozens of reasons why you may be motivated to seek therapy. Identifying the underlying motivation, along with your goals for seeking treatment, can be instrumental in figuring out the type of therapy and arrangement that may work best for you. 

Some common reasons people decide to seek therapy (and the types of therapy they find the most helpful) might include: 

  • Relationship issues for a couple: They may enter couples counseling. 
  • Grief over loss: You might begin grief therapy.
  • Personal challenges, past issues, or mental health conditions: You may look for individual therapy (which is also the most common type). 
  • Addiction or substance abuse: You might find that group therapy is effective.

Consider the Types of Therapy Arrangements

There are many types of therapy arrangements to choose from when it comes to therapy. When answering the question of what kind of therapist do I need, it’s important to look at a variety of therapy styles and arrangements. Which one will work best depends on your needs, your personality type, and your goals for your mental health care. 

Deciding on the most effective option requires you to really look at and understand what each of the styles or arrangements entails for mental health care.

  • Individual therapy – The most common type, individual therapy, is exactly what you’re picturing. One-on-one therapy where you’ll meet individually with a licensed therapist at relatively regular intervals. 
  • Couples therapy Couples therapy is, again, exactly what it sounds like. It’s therapy for couples who want to work on anything in their relationship. You can focus on communication, infidelity, parenting or trust issues, mood disorders, family issues, or anything else that’s interfering in or affecting a relationship. 
  • Family therapy – Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that allows families to work together in a safe and neutral space. Areas of focus might include improving communication skills, resolving conflict, navigating substance abuse issues, or a variety of other issues. 
  • Group therapy – Group therapy can be a very effective format if you’re looking for support in addiction recovery. It’s also a great option if you’re hoping to find a support group to help you with grief, trauma, or physical or sexual abuse. 
  • Life events therapy – If you’re dealing with or expecting to go through a major life event now or in the near future, you may want to find a licensed therapist who can help you. Maybe you’re seeking guidance on how to manage grief (expecting someone to pass away or you’ve recently lost someone). Maybe you’re nervous about the birth of a child. You might want help as you go through a divorce. Or, you might just be having difficulty accepting and dealing with something like infertility, chronic or serious medical issues, or a host of other life complications. 
  • In-person therapy – As the name would suggest, in-person therapy is when you physically meet face-to-face with a therapist or with a mental health counselor. This is the most traditional type of therapy arrangement. 
  • Online therapy – Online therapy allows you the convenience of seeking mental health help from anywhere. It’s also commonly referred to as distance therapy, e-therapy, internet therapy, teletherapy, and web therapy. Connecting with a mental health professional via the internet is safe, easy, and effective. By eliminating the additional time it takes to travel to and from appointments, it’s often the solution that many people have been looking for.   

Choose a Type of Therapy

When you first start wondering “what type of therapist should I see,” you may feel overwhelmed with all your options. How do you know what to try? How do you know what will work? 

Deciding which type of therapy you’ll start with largely depends on what you want to focus on regarding your mental health condition or current situation. Some therapy styles are better for certain work than others. Learn about some of the main types of therapy here. 

What Are the Different Types of Therapy?

Talk therapy 

Talk therapy is also commonly referred to as psychotherapy. It can take many forms and be further broken down into several subcategories. Each is going to have specific nuances and styles that may be more effective for certain conditions. Some of the most common types of talk therapy include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of talk therapy focused on changing thought patterns. It’s effective for a number of conditions and can have positive results in improving quality of life and the ability to function. CBT techniques are based on core principles that explain that psychological difficulties stem from negative, unhelpful ways of thinking and learned patterns of negative behavior. A final core principle notes that learning to better cope with your psychological issues will ultimately relieve symptoms and allow you to live a healthier, more fulfilling life. 
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of cognitive behavior therapy that uses an evidence-based approach to help you be in the moment so you can have more stable, improved relationships. It helps you develop effective coping skills and regulate your emotions. DBT can work in three ways: phone therapy, one-on-one therapy, group therapy
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT): This action-oriented therapy is another type of CBT that helps those who may be dealing with irrational behavior and beliefs. It can help you find constructive ways to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a healthy and realistic way. REBT works by helping you first recognize and then alter negative thought patterns and beliefs.
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP): ERP is yet another type of psychotherapy in the CBT category. It’s a type of exposure therapy meant to help people who have obsessive thoughts, like people who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). ERP works by exposing you gradually to things that may trigger you so you can become less reactive and find healthier alternatives. 
  • Psychodynamic therapy: Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy focus on how you can work to change any problematic thoughts and behaviors. Through the therapy structure, you work to discover your motivation for doing things, even if it may be unintentional. This type of therapy tends to work best when you have a very close working relationship with your therapist.
  • Humanistic therapy: Humanistic therapy focuses on you and your individual nature. It separates your association with groups or classes of people so you can focus on being your true self. This type of therapy is built on a foundation and principle belief that you are born with individual, unique potential. With the right training or nurturing, you can learn to reach it. 

Talk therapy can be used to treat multiple conditions, including:

Other types of therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)

EMDR therapy is a form of therapy that helps people recover from symptoms that result after experiencing major trauma. It’s often used for those who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

With EMDR, a therapist asks you to recall a traumatic event or memory, and then they use what’s known as bilateral stimulation. This can be in the form of specific, intentional, rapid side-to-side eye movement, or through hand tapping. 

Holistic or integrative therapy

Holistic therapy stems from blending different approaches and elements from a number of therapy styles. A good therapist may use this approach in order to create an almost custom-tailored treatment, according to your specific needs.

How to Choose the Right Therapist For Your Needs

Are you still asking yourself: what kind of therapist do I need? Great! That’s the first thing you should be thinking about if you’re serious about getting help. Therapy can be work, and it may even be exhausting at times, but putting in the effort pays off. Having the right mental health therapist in your corner is critical. That’s what will help you navigate the process so you can heal. It means you can go to every session confident that the effort you’re putting in toward improving your mental health is going to be rewarding.  

Sources Cited:

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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