Written by Samantha Carter

Mental health services have evolved significantly over the years, with numerous therapy modalities that have been developed to address a wide range of psychological issues. Understanding the different types of therapy can help individuals choose the best approach for their unique needs.

While it’s not necessary to know what kind of therapy you want prior to starting therapy, it can be helpful to do some research and find therapists who specialize in the modalities that resonate with you.

To make that process easier, we’ve compiled a list of 20 different types of therapy, explaining what each entails and offering guidance on how to decide which one is best for you. Ultimately, you get out of therapy what you put in, so it’s important to take steps to set yourself up for success.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used, evidence-based approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It combines cognitive therapy (changing thoughts) with behavioral therapy (changing behaviors). Cognitive therapy is most often used to address:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders

If you’re struggling with negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviors, CBT might be a good fit. It’s structured and goal-oriented, suitable for individuals who appreciate clear guidance and measurable outcomes.

2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT designed to help people manage intense emotions. It combines traditional CBT techniques with mindfulness practices to focus on acceptance and change. DBT is particularly helpful for people with:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Self-harm

If you experience intense emotional swings or have difficulty with emotional regulation, DBT may be an impactful therapy modality to try. It’s especially useful for those who need skills to cope with stress and improve relationships.

3. Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy explores how unconscious thoughts and past experiences influence current behavior. It is most often used to treat the following mental challenges:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Relationship issues

Psychodynamic therapy is best suited for individuals who are comfortable with deep, introspective work.

4. Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy focuses on personal growth and self-actualization, the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. It emphasizes the client’s capacity for self-healing and personal development and is often used on patients with:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of fulfillment
  • Personal growth goals

If you seek to understand and achieve your full potential and want to focus on personal growth, humanistic therapy is ideal. It’s a good fit for those who value self-exploration and personal empowerment who want to see big changes in their life.

5. Existential Therapy

Existential therapy focuses on exploring existential questions and finding meaning in life. It addresses issues related to existence, such as freedom, responsibility, and the search for meaning. Most often, existential therapy is used to treat:

  • Existential crises
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If you are grappling with questions about life’s purpose, meaning, and existential concerns, this therapy can help. It’s suitable for those seeking deeper understanding and philosophical exploration of life’s issues.

6. Person-Centered Therapy

Developed by Carl Rogers, person-centered therapy emphasizes the therapeutic relationship by facilitating the client’s capacity for self-directed growth. The therapist provides unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness to help accelerate connection, confidence, and motivation in the client. Person-centered therapy is often used to help with:

  • Self-esteem issues
  • Depression
  • Personal growth

This therapy is beneficial if you value a non-directive approach where the therapist provides a supportive environment for self-exploration. It’s ideal for those who seek to harness their innate potential for growth on their own terms.

7. Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy focuses on surrendering to the present moment by exploring the client’s immediate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It emphasizes personal responsibility and the experience of the here and now. Gestalt therapy can be particularly useful for people with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Relationship issues

If you prefer a present-focused, experiential approach that encourages awareness of your thoughts and feelings in the here and now, Gestalt therapy may be a good fit.

8. Family Therapy

Family therapy involves working with families to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen relationships. It addresses family dynamics and the role of each member within the family system. Family therapy is used to address:

  • Family conflicts
  • Parenting issues
  • Adolescent behavioral problems

If you’re dealing with family-related issues or seek to improve family dynamics, this therapy can be beneficial. It’s suitable for families who are willing to work together to address their problems.

9. Couples Therapy

Couples therapy helps partners improve their relationship by addressing communication issues, conflicts, and emotional needs. Therapists work with couples to enhance understanding and intimacy, thereby strengthening their bond. People often use couples therapy to assist with unresolved:

  • Relationship conflicts
  • Communication problems
  • Trust issues

If you are in a relationship that is experiencing difficulties and both partners are willing to work to improve the partnership, couples therapy can be an effective and transformative tool.

10. Group Therapy

Group therapy involves a therapist working with several clients simultaneously. It provides a supportive environment where individuals can share experiences and learn from each other’s stories and struggles. Group therapy can be particularly helpful in addressing:

  • Social anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Support for chronic illnesses

If you benefit from peer support and want to learn from others with similar experiences, group therapy can be a good option. It’s also a cost-effective option compared to individual therapy. While many people are initially concerned about their ability to open up to strangers, they often report group therapy to be a powerful, life changing experience that helps them put their experiences into perspective.

11. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a specific type of CBT designed to help people with PTSD. It focuses on modifying distorted thoughts related to trauma and developing healthier ways of coping. In general, CPT is used for:

  • PTSD
  • Trauma recovery

If you’re struggling with trauma-related symptoms and need a structured, evidence-based approach, CPT can be very effective.

12. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a specialized therapy for trauma and PTSD. It involves recalling traumatic events under the guidance of a trained therapist who takes you through bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements) to reduce the emotional impact of memories. EMDR is most often used for:

  • PTSD
  • Trauma
  • Anxiety

If you have experienced trauma and traditional talk therapies haven’t been effective, EMDR can be a powerful alternative.

13. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week program that teaches mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and improve mental health. It combines mindfulness practices with discussions on stress and coping. Many people can benefit from MBSR; however, it is often used to aid in:

  • Stress reduction
  • Anxiety
  • Reducing chronic pain

If you’re looking to reduce stress and enhance your overall mental well-being, MBSR can be a valuable approach.

14. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) focuses on accepting negative thoughts and feelings rather than fighting them. It emphasizes living in accordance with your values and committing to actions that enrich your life. ACT is primarily used to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain

If you struggle with negative thoughts and want to learn to accept them while focusing on meaningful actions, ACT might be a suitable therapy for you.

15. Art Therapy

Art therapy uses creative processes, such as drawing, painting, and sculpting, to help individuals express emotions and explore their inner experiences. It can be particularly useful for those who find it difficult to articulate their feelings verbally. While art therapy can be used for a wide range of diagnoses, it is often used to assist in the treatment of:

  • Trauma
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If you are inclined towards creative expression and find it easier to communicate through art rather than words, art therapy can be an effective modality. Alternatively, art therapy can be a great way to unleash your creative side that you may have previously been unaware of. By doing so, you can learn more about yourself in a safe, supportive environment.

16. Play Therapy

Play therapy is primarily used with children to help them express and process their emotions through play. However, it can also be used on adults who may want to get in touch with their childlike side. It utilizes toys, games, and creative activities to facilitate communication and emotional healing. Most often, play therapy is used for:

  • Behavioral issues
  • Trauma in children
  • Anxiety in children

If your child is experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties, play therapy can provide a safe and effective way for them to express their feelings and work through their issues. Alternatively, if you’re an adult who finds it difficult to set aside the serious side of life, you might want to talk to a therapist about how you could incorporate aspects of play therapy into your individual treatment plan.

17. Somatic Experiencing

Somatic experiencing (SE) focuses on the connection between the mind and body. It aims to release physical tension and trauma that is stored in the body by increasing overall awareness of bodily sensations. SE is particularly helpful for people with:

  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety

If you have experienced trauma and feel that it is affecting your physical body, somatic experiencing can help you release stored tension and energy.

18. Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy helps individuals identify and reframe their life stories. It encourages clients to view their experiences from different perspectives and construct empowering narratives. Narrative therapy is especially empowering for individuals who struggle with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Identity issues
  • Negative self-talk

If you feel stuck in a negative life story and want to explore and reframe your experiences, narrative therapy can be very beneficial.

19. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented, future-focused therapy that emphasizes finding solutions to current problems rather than exploring past issues. It focuses on what works and building on existing strengths. SFBT is often used for:

  • Short-term issues
  • Goal setting
  • Problem-solving

If you prefer a short-term, goal-oriented approach that focuses on finding immediate solutions, SFBT is a suitable choice.

20. Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy uses guided relaxation and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness through hypnosis. It is used to treat various psychological issues by accessing the subconscious mind. Hypnotherapists often use this modality to treat:

  • Phobias
  • Anxiety
  • Addictions

If you’re open to alternative approaches and believe in the power of the subconscious mind, hypnotherapy can be an effective treatment.

How to Decide Which Therapy to Try

There are several different things you may want to consider when determining which therapy may be right for you. Below is a list of things to keep in mind.

Consider Your Needs

Identify your primary issues. What is your diagnosis? What things have you struggled with in the past, and what do you still struggle with now? What goals do you have for the future? Are there thoughts, behaviors, or relationships in your life that you’d like to see change? If so, what? Writing everything down can help you better understand the bigger picture.

Evaluate Your Preferences

Consider your preferences in a therapeutic environment. Do you prefer a structured, directive approach (like CBT) or a more exploratory, non-directive one (like person-centered therapy)? Are you comfortable with deep introspection (like psychodynamic therapy) or do you prefer practical, present-focused techniques (like mindfulness)? Taking the time to understand your needs can help set yourself up for success.

Consult with a Professional

It’s OK if you don’t know what you want and/or need. Try to determine everything you can and then don’t be afraid to ask a professional for help. Many therapists offer initial consultations to discuss your needs and preferences. These sessions are often free or low-cost. A therapist can recommend the best modality based on their assessment of your situation.

Practical Considerations

Keep in mind the realities of your life. Check the availability of therapists trained in the modality you are interested in, and consider the cost and whether it is covered by your insurance. Additionally, make sure they offer time slots that work for your schedule and your preferred location (remote or in-person).

Choosing the Therapy That’s Right For You

Choosing the right therapy modality can significantly impact your mental health journey. By understanding the different types of therapy available and evaluating your needs and preferences, you can find the approach that best suits your needs. If you’re unsure where to start, reach out to a therapist who can help guide you through the process and make an informed decision.

At Plus by APN, we offer in-person and virtual therapy sessions to suit a variety of individual needs. Additionally, our therapists are invested in a holistic mental health approach, meaning they are trained and aware of both traditional and alternative mental health therapies. By offering multiple services beyond the scope of talk therapy, we strive to treat the entire person and assist individuals who have treatment-resistant mental health challenges. To embark on your path to mental wellness, reach out today by booking a free consultation or calling us at 424.644.6486.


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