Table of Contents


Table of Contents

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What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy – also known as “talk therapy” – is a process where psychological and emotional issues are worked on through communication between a client and a therapist.

Psychotherapy is also referred to as talk therapy, psycho-social therapy, counseling, or, simply, therapy. Psychotherapy is the primary method for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or other mental health provider. It’s goal is the help them understand their illness and teach strategies and tools that manage unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

For many, psychotherapy alone may be sufficient treatment, depending on their mental  illness and its severity. Other times, psychotherapy is combined with medication. Your therapists will work with you (or your family) to develop the best treatment plan for your particular needs. 

What are the different types of psychotherapy?

Many approaches to psychotherapy exist. There is no single approach that works for everyone. Often times a therapist will use a blended approach, sampling techniques from several different types of psychotherapy. Other times, a single focused type of psychotherapy may be the best treatment approach. The kind of psychotherapy a person receives depends on his or her own unique needs.

Below is a short list of some of the more common types of psychotherapy. This list is not comprehensive and many of these therapies are constantly evolving. Some therapy techniques have been scientifically tested on a large scale basis; while others are newer and often combined with more established psychotherapies.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a blend of two types of therapy: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. The premise behind cognitive therapy is to focus on a person’s thoughts and beliefs, and how they influence a person’s mood and actions. The goal is to bring awareness to a person’s particular type of thinking and guide it to be more adaptive and healthy. Alternatively, behavioral therapy focuses on behavior. By bringing awareness to a person’s unhealthy behaviors, actions, or habits behavioral therapy can help to change behavior patterns.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of CBT developed by Marsha Linehan specifically to treat people with suicidal thoughts and actions. In more recent years, DBT has since been expanded to effectively treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT is structured to help clients gain insight and skills to manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of depth psychology. Its focus is to help you gain greater self-awareness and understanding over your own actions. This approach relies heavily on the relationship between client and therapist with the goal of identifying and explore how non-conscious emotions and motivations can influence behavior. Psychodynamic therapy tends to be more eclectic and is often interwoven with other types of therapy, like CBT or IPT, to treat various types of mental disorders.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy is most commonly used on an individual basis to treat depression or dysthymia. Interpersonal therapy focuses on a persons interpersonal relationships. The treatment approach is based on the premise that improving communication patterns and the way you relate to others will effectively treat your depression.  Interpersonal therapy helps you to identify when a behavior is causing problems, and guide you to change it.

Family Systems Therapy

This form of therapy is often called “couples therapy” or “relationship counseling.” It’s focus is to work with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. This school of therapy views the couple or family as a single system, and treatment is accomplished by direct participation of all members in the therapy sessions.

Family-focused Therapy (FFT)

Family-focused therapy was developed to help treat bipolar disorder. The therapy technique was designed with the assumption that a patient’s relationship with his or her family is vital to the success of managing their illness. Family-focused therapy sessions includes family members with the goal of improving family relationships and creating a support system for treatment.

Cognitive-Behavioral Hypnotherapy

Cognitive-behavioral hypnotherapy is an integrated approach combining clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy. This is sometimes referred to as CBT-hypnosis, where hypnosis is used as an additive benefit to traditional CBT. Studies have shown CBT-hypnosis can help reduce symptoms at post treatment and may have use in helping to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Often used to help clients break bad habits, hypnotherapy utilizes hypnosis or hypnotic suggestion to bring a client into a “trance-like”state in which they experience heightened focus and concentration. A hypnotherapist will use verbal repetition and mental images to help you feel calm, relaxed and more open to suggestions. It is important to note that at no time do you don’t lose control over your behavior.

Expressive Therapy

Expressive therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses various creative expression techniques as a form of communication with a therapist. This form of therapy is based on the premise that people can help heal themselves through the process of creating art, music, dance, writing, or other expressive acts. While clients who can use expressive therapy may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses – expressive therapy is particularly useful in treating mild depression. Expressive therapy is an umbrella term for a variety of creative art therapy types. Some common types of expressive therapy include: art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy, music therapy and writing therapy.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is an important therapy technique used with children. At a minimum, the use of toys and games can help a therapist establish communication and develop a relationship with a child. While research in play therapy is minimal, therapist can sometimes better understand a child’s problems by watching how he or she plays.

Humanistic Approach

The humanistic approach to therapy views human nature as basically good, with a potential to maintain healthy, meaningful relationships and to make choices that are in the best interest of oneself and others. The therapist is a guide to help clients free themselves from assumptions and negative self perceptions. The goal is to encourage growth, self-actualization and self-direction. For the humanistic psychologist, not being one’s true self is the source of problems.

Existential Approach

Similar to the humanistic approach the existential approach to therapy distinguishes itself from other therapeutic styles by its concern for positive growth over pathology. However, the two approaches differ by theme in that the existential therapist is interested in guiding clients to find meaning or purpose in their lives while simultaneously facing their issues. The existential psychologist assumes that the clients’ problems are caused by the failure to create meaning in their lives.

Please note this is a short list of the various methods used in psychotherapy. 

How does psychotherapy help?

Psychotherapy is based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change their behaviors and overcome problems in a desired way. It is a form of intervention between a psychotherapist and client that hopefully resolves in the client gaining new insight about their problems.

Psychotherapy is about opening up to a therapist about your struggles, in a way that allows your therapist to hear and empathize with what you are going through. Therapists often practice active listening, taking an objective stance and giving their clients useful tools and information to try to make real and meaningful changes in their lives.

A therapist can help you resolve a variety of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, relationship problems and anything else you may be struggling with. Psychotherapists are trained in a variety of techniques called treatment modalities in order to help their clients to get through whatever they are faced with. These changes can be made through open communication, behavioral changes, understanding patterns, changing perspectives, finding solutions and other methods a therapist may use to help improve a client’s quality of life and mental state.

Many different types of professionals practice psychotherapy – psychologists, family therapists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatrists.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that one-third of adults in the US experience an emotional or substance abuse problem or disorder in their lifetime. Almost 25 percent of adults in the US will experience depression or anxiety. These numbers show that facing problems and struggles in life don’t mean that you are crazy or alone. When problems like anxiety, depression or anything else you may be going through develop, don’t go at it alone – get help.

Should I consider psychotherapy as an option?

By talking to a mental health professional, those with anxiety, suffering from grief, and any other emotional struggles have found that their quality of life has improved. Change can happen anywhere from a small increase to feeling completely cured – the spectrum of help provided through psychotherapy is vast and can be long-term.

Those with mental health problems often feel like there is no way out of their problems. If they cannot be helped by a mental health professional, their first resource outside of medicine is usually self-medicating through drugs or alcohol. Others simply spiral out of control, which can lead to even worse mental disorders down the road or even suicide. By seeking the help of a psychotherapist, your problems and struggles can be minimized by receiving support and the tools you need to better respond to life’s difficulties.

The most common reasons someone might look to see a psychotherapist include:

– Feeling overwhelmed and in despair for long periods of time.

– Emotional problems making living life from day to day a chore and seem impossible.

– The behaviors brought about by these emotions harm their relationships, either through withdrawal or violence/aggression.

– They have no one else to turn to and an outside source for help is the safest option.

Is psychotherapy effective?

Many studies have shown throughout the years that psychotherapy is an effective form of treating and managing mental illnesses and other emotional problems. Those with depression, anxiety, and addictions can see an increase in their quality of life, as well as the potential for a cure in some cases.

The positive effects of psychotherapy can also be found in regards to physical illness. Psychotherapy can increase the survival time of those who have gone through heart surgery and cancer treatments because of the positivity and support it gives them. This means that psychotherapy affects both a person’s physical and mental well-being.

It is true, however, that no one can be cured overnight. The positive aspects of psychotherapy can be both short-term and long-term, but an effort on the part of both parties is required.

How do you get the most out of psychotherapy?

First, be willing and open to therapy. Many suffering from mental health issues, life’s many obstacles or addictions have a crippling fear of failure or aren’t fully committed to the recovery and healing process. It’s imperative that you cooperate with your psychotherapist and follow any at-home instructions they offer you.

Remember that therapy is a two-way street. Your therapist has responsibilities to treat you competently with approved therapy methods and understanding. You also have a responsibility to be open to what your therapist has to say.

How do I know the therapy is working?

First and foremost, your therapist will establish goals of therapy with you in regards to your current problem. These goals can be both long and short-term, but they should be set out within a few sessions. Short-term goals can be easily tracked, but your long-term goals may be more important to keep in mind. By focusing on the progress you’ve made towards your goals, should be a great way to track your success.

Also, remember to take baby steps, no one wants to be uncomfortable or have to go through a long process to recover, however, that might be what it takes. You probably won’t see instant results, so don’t be discouraged if change doesn’t happen right away. Any type of progress is a process.

Therapy works best when you have a good rapport with your psychotherapist. If at some point you feel stuck or like you aren’t moving forward with your therapist, they may not be a good fit for you, and you might have to look for someone that is a better fit.

Remember to take in your therapist’s opinions and observations, while bringing in your own mind and rational ideas. It is typical to become emotional and breakdown once you start therapy. You’re likely tackling a lot of tough subjects, and this can make you more emotional. Sometimes the more emotional or anxious you feel after therapy, the more proof there is that you are moving forward. Going through therapy isn’t always easy, but the results you’ll see for your effort are well worth it.

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