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#2 Therapies and Counseling

Part 2: Types of therapies

Types of psychotherapies


A large variety of approaches exist in psychotherapy. Wikipedia, for example, identifies over 150 psychotherapies.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for consumers to figure out which approach works best for their needs. The distinction among approaches is blurry and is differentiated mostly by philosophical roots, not necessarily by consumer needs.

According to the American Psychological Association, approaches to psychotherapy fall into five broad categories. [1]

This is still a philosophical categorization and is not practical or useful for consumers. Instead of relying on dogmatic views, consumers should look at the practical purposes and features of psychotherapies. For that reason, we identify and discuss five therapy types:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),
  2. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT),
  3. Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT),
  4. Creative arts therapies (CAT), and
  5. Family counseling.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

basic idea of CBT cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT is not a single therapy method; rather, it is a class of therapies that share the same principle—changes in thoughts can improve feelings and behavior. The exact procedure varies among therapists, but the general features can be highlighted as follows:

CBT is commonly used to treat a variety of mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and dependence. The good news for consumers is that CBT is prevalent, and many online resources are available to learn more about it.

2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

basic idea of DBT dialectical behavior therapy

DBT is a special type of CBT originally developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan in the 1980s to treat suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Since then, DBT has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, substance dependence, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the term "dialectical" implies, DBT emphasizes the integration of opposite strategies: acceptance and change. While change is the core strategy of CBT, DBT recognizes that some patients do not respond well to the forced change that CBT demands. DBT integrates the concept of acceptance from Buddhism as a way of preparation and acclimatization for patients to make progress toward eventual changes.

DBT uniquely teaches four sets of behavioral skills:

The good news for consumers is that there are numerous online resources available to learn more about DBT.

3. Interpersonal Psychotherapy

basic idea of IPT interpersonal psychotherapy

IPT is a time-limited therapy that focuses on interpersonal issues. It aims to improve symptoms, interpersonal functioning, and social support in 6~20 sessions. It was originally developed in the 1970s by Gerald Klerman, Myrna Weissman, and Eugene Paykel to treat depression. Since then, IPT has been used for a variety of conditions, populations, and settings.

IPT appears to be more approachable than CBT for young people and older adults because it emphasizes relationships and requires less homework than CBT. In addition, IPT uses less technical words than other psychotherapies, making it more accessible to wider populations.

4. Creative Arts Therapies (CAT)

basic idea of CAT creative arts therapies

CAT (also called Expressive Therapies) is an umbrella term for a group of therapies that use creative, expressive, artistic activities as a remedy for mental conditions. Based on the principle that creative expression and imagination improve awareness of the body, feelings, and thoughts, CAT therapists use imagery, music, dance, movement, drama, poetry, storytelling, and visual arts in an integrated way to help patients heal or foster growth.

While most psychotherapies utilize a cognitive mode of action for healing, CAT is unique in its focus on sensory and physical modes. Consumers may find CAT a good alternative to classic talk therapies like CBT and IPT. The International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations are promoting CAT worldwide and in the US, respectively.

5. Family Counseling

basic idea of FC family counseling

Family counseling (or family therapy) is an important branch of psychotherapy that emphasizes relationships as an important factor in mental health. Although family counseling has a long history in various cultures, the contemporary therapeutic form originates from child guidance and marriage counseling in the early 20th century. Since then, the field evolved beyond the traditional family to include relationships among people who are not related by blood or marriage.

Like CBT and other psychotherapies, the exact method and procedure for family counseling differs among therapists. Some common features are:

Consumers may find family counseling an important resource to resolve issues at home, work, or school to avoid serious consequences if left unresolved.

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Home  >  The Principles of Mental Care  >  #2 Therapies  >  Part 2: Types of therapies

Next, we explore wellness services.

>>> #3: Wellness Services