What Are the Different Types of Psychotherapy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Individual therapy sessions can help the patient learn how to function better in their relationships.
Individual therapy sessions can help the patient learn how to function better in their relationships.

Hundreds of types of psychotherapy are recognized and practiced worldwide. They incorporate a broad range of approaches, from traditional psychoanalysis to play therapy for traumatized children. Practitioners may use one or more of these approaches in their work. Learning about different theories and schools of thought can be helpful for people looking for a therapeutic relationship, as it may help them identify a therapist who is most likely to meet their individual needs. Therapists are usually happy to provide information about their approach and training to help clients determine if they are a good fit.

People may receive individual, family, or group psychotherapy. Some types of psychotherapy focus specifically on relationships, and thus may encourage people to receive treatment with family members and friends. Individual sessions can also help people identify their roles within these systems so they can function more effectively and appropriately. Some types of psychotherapy stress working with other patients for mutual support and coping skills.

Psychoanalysis, the first school of modern therapy, involves verbalizing, bringing internal emotions to the surface and talking with a therapist. Numerous schools incorporate this approach. In psychodynamic therapy, for example, patients work to be more aware of their emotions and the origins of feelings, and a similar approach can be seen with cognitive therapy. Some patients may prefer behavioral therapy, where they identify, discuss, and treat specific maladaptive behaviors.

Other types of psychotherapy can encourage people to use media like play, art, and music for expression. Working with a therapist, people may be able to explore emotions they have trouble verbalizing and defining. Transpersonal approaches integrate spirituality, which can be important when this influences someone’s emotions. In body psychotherapy, patients work on physical and mental issues together as a complete system to address problems like chronic pain.

The most suitable among the various types of psychotherapy can depend on the patient and the therapist. Some people may be more comfortable with some approaches than others. For example, someone with a specific problem might want to enter brief therapy to discuss the problem and focus on addressing it, not other issues. Other people might prefer traditional psychoanalysis to work on ongoing complex problems in their lives.

In the first few sessions, therapists and clients can interact to see if they may be a good fit for one another. If they are not, the therapist may have a recommendation for someone who could work more effectively with the patient. Therapy can sometimes be challenging, but fundamental personality conflicts like a lack of trust can make it difficult to progress and are a good reason to terminate therapy.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Individual therapy sessions can help the patient learn how to function better in their relationships.
      Individual therapy sessions can help the patient learn how to function better in their relationships.