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What Are the Most Common Types of Therapy? 

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When seeking mental health support, many people see one therapist and are unsure if the treatment is effective. But many people don’t realise there are multiple types of treatment. It’s easy to assume that every therapist uses the same approach with their patients, and you may have certain conceptions of what a counseling session looks like.

However, the truth is that various kinds of therapy are available, and most therapists train and specialise in varying methodologies. Some therapeutic approaches work better for certain people, while others are specifically suited to treat various mental health conditions.

Understanding the basics of common types of therapy can help you discover what is most helpful to you. In this guide, you’ll learn some of the most common types of therapy and their benefits. 

Psychotherapy: an important umbrella term

Most types of therapy fall under the psychotherapy umbrella, which includes various options for talk therapy. Talk therapy is a primary way to address mental health concerns, and involves speaking with a trained, licensed psychiatrist, counselor, or psychologist.

Along with psychotherapy, some individuals benefit from medication. However, remember that not all professionals who offer therapy are licensed to prescribe medication. 

Common types of psychotherapy

Many therapy options exist, and it can sometimes require trial and error to find the therapeutic approach that works best for you. It’s also common for many therapists to use a variety of approaches, so it’s not always completely cut and dried.

One of the best ways to determine which type of therapy would work for you is to talk to various talk therapy professionals in your area. You can discuss the issues you’re having and the help you’re looking for, and they can make recommendations.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common kinds of talk therapy:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT is one of the most widespread therapy approaches. This approach helps patients change their thoughts and beliefs. The underlying theory is that by changing harmful thought patterns, patients can change their moods and behaviours for the better. 
  • Family systems therapy. Family systems therapy is commonly used in couples counseling. Simply put, family systems therapy focuses on changing behaviours in the relationship and developing better-coping mechanisms. This therapy approaches the couple, or sometimes the family, as a single unit. Everyone works together in this system. 
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy. Known as DBT, this theory is similar to CBT. However, it’s meant to treat patients with more specific concerns, such as suicidal ideations or those with borderline personality disorder.
  • EMDR. Eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing is a kind of therapy that’s become more popular. It’s specifically used to help people dealing with various types of trauma This therapeutic approach is meant to help rewire the brain’s pathways regarding traumatic events.
  • Psychodynamic therapy. Psychodynamic therapy usually involves a mix of various types of therapy, including CBT. It focuses on the relationship between the therapist and the client and is centered around identifying emotions in order to change behaviour. 

While these aren’t the only types of therapy, they are some of the most common. Some other frequently used therapeutic approaches include play therapy, humanistic therapy, and exposure and response prevention (ERP). 

Remember that some options, like CBT, are more broadly applied while others, like ERP, were developed to treat specific mental health conditions. 

If you have further questions about what type of therapy would work for you, talk to your family doctor to learn more or to seek referrals.


Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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