Different Types of Therapy and How to Decide Which Works For You

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It wasn’t too long ago that therapy was considered a taboo subject. 

Sure, people went to therapy, but no one talked about going. 

Seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist was what “crazy” people did, so we’ve been conditioned to keep it to ourselves. 

While it’s become socially acceptable to talk about, even to *gasp* admit to seeing a professional for mental health issues, you’d be surprised at how many refuse to seek help because of the past stigmas surrounding therapy. 

If you’ve arrived at the enlightened state of “Oh, I need professional help,” there are many different types of therapy — so how do you choose a doctor and figure out what kind of help you need?


The most traditional form is talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy. 

“This may simply serve as a safe place to discuss feelings and emotions triggered by daily stressors, a medical illness, relationship issues, grief and loss, or the impact of a specific trauma,” says Healthline. 

But what if talk therapy doesn’t meet your specific emotional needs? This is where newer forms of specialized therapy come into play.

Seeking Therapy

I’ve been in therapy most of my life. 

Being an anxious little kid, at 6 years old I began displaying signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

According to Psychiatry.org, OCD is a “disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).”

My OCD became apparent when my mom would say goodnight to me — if she didn’t say “See you in the morning,” I was panicked that I’d die in the night. 

Not only did she have to say it, but she had to close the door, reopen it and repeat “See you in the morning.” 

It had to be twice — that’s how my OCD worked, in twos. And if she varied from the routine or didn’t do it in a way that felt “right” to me, we had to start over or I would cry and not be able to sleep. 

As distressing as it was for me, it was more upsetting for my mom, who indulged me; otherwise I’d be up all night. 

My dad put his foot down and told her to stop doing it, so we did it in secret. 

But she knew I needed help, so I began seeing a child psychologist, and I was officially diagnosed and started what is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), one of the many treatments available. 

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is “a treatment approach that helps you recognize negative or unhelpful thought and behavior patterns — many experts consider it to be the gold standard of psychotherapy.”

This aids in identifying and looking into why your feelings and thoughts can frame your obsessive behavior. 

Once you recognize these patterns, you can start learning to rework your emotions and thoughts in a more constructive way.

Luckily, my OCD is not severe and mostly under control due to years of CBT, but it can be debilitating.

“A diagnosis of OCD requires the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions that are time-consuming (more than one hour a day), cause significant distress, and impair work or social functioning.”

“OCD affects 2-3% of people in the United States, and among adults, slightly more women than men are affected. OCD often begins in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood; the average age symptoms appear is 19 years old.”


CBT involves the use of many techniques, and a therapist will work with you to figure out what approach will benefit you.

The most popular techniques used in CBT include: 

  • SMART goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited.

  • Guided discovery and questioning: Questioning the assumptions you have about yourself or your current situation, your therapist can help you learn to challenge these and consider different viewpoints.

  • Journaling: You might be asked to jot down negative beliefs that come up during the week and the positive ones you can replace them with.

  • Self-talk: Your therapist may ask what you tell yourself about a certain situation or experience and challenge you to replace negative or critical self-talk with compassionate, constructive self-talk.

  • Cognitive restructuring: This involves looking at any cognitive distortions affecting your thoughts — such as black-and-white thinking, jumping to conclusions, or catastrophizing — and beginning to unravel them.

  • Thought recording: In this technique, you’ll come up with unbiased evidence supporting your negative belief and evidence against it. Then, you’ll use this evidence to develop a more realistic thought.

  • Positive activities: Scheduling a rewarding activity each day can help increase overall positivity and improve your mood.

  • Situation exposure: This involves listing situations or things that cause distress, in order of the level of distress they cause, and slowly exposing yourself to these things until they lead to fewer negative feelings. 

  • Systematic desensitization: A technique where you’ll learn relaxation techniques to help you cope with your feelings in a difficult situation.

How it Helps 

CBT can help with a range of things, including the following mental health conditions:

  • Depression

  • Eating disorders

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Anxiety disorders, including panic and phobia

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Schizophrenia

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Substance misuse

While CBT doesn’t focus on delving into your past, other therapy types do, and for good reason. 

One that does include talking about your past is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). 

Types of Therapy: What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is “an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. 

“EMDR is a type of therapy includes a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.”

How Does EMDR Work?

Through EMDR, individuals safely reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive to their lives. 

“Over time, exposure to traumatic memories will no longer induce negative feelings and distressing symptoms.”


EMDR has eight phases of treatment:

  1. History taking

  2. Client preparation

  3. Assessment

  4. Desensitization

  5. Installation

  6. Body scan

  7. Closure

  8. Reevaluation of treatment effect

“During EMDR, the patient focuses on a disruptive memory and identifies the belief they hold about themselves. 

“If it is connected to a negative memory, the technique teaches the person to change their view of themselves by learning to associate it with a positive belief instead.”

Another form of emerging therapy is ​Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).

What is DBT?

Psychiatry Today defines DBT as “providing clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships.”

DBT specifically focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four key areas. 

  • Mindfulness focuses on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment. 

  • Distress tolerance is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it. 

  • Emotion regulation covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life.

  • Interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.

When It’s Used

DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, according to Psychology Today. 

“However, research shows that DBT has also been used successfully to treat people experiencing depression, bulimia, binge-eating, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic-stress disorder, and substance abuse. 

“DBT skills are thought to have the capability of helping those who wish to improve their ability to regulate emotions, tolerate distress and negative emotion, be mindful and present in the given moment, and communicate and interact effectively with others.”

Another emerging therapy is called Client-Centered Therapy (CCT). 

What Is Client-Centered Therapy?

Client-centered therapy, according to Very Well Mind, is “also known as person-centered therapy or Rogerian therapy, a non-directive form of talk therapy developed by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers during the 1940s and 1950s. 

“In this approach, you act as an equal partner in the therapy process, while your therapist remains non-directive — they don’t pass judgments on your feelings or offer suggestions or solutions.”

“Mental health professionals who utilize this approach strive to create the conditions needed for their clients to change. 

“This involves a therapeutic environment that is comfortable, non-judgmental, and empathetic.”


There are three techniques to achieve these goals:

  • Genuineness and congruence

  • Unconditional positive regard

  • Empathetic understanding

The use of these techniques can assist patients in “growing psychologically, becoming more self-aware, and changing their behavior via self-direction.” 

Using this approach helps patients feel secure in an environment that’s judgement-free. 

Deciding to seek therapy is an important decision, so be sure to find a therapist that is right for you — together, you’ll figure out if any of the above types of therapy can help get you on the road to emotional recovery. 


Did you know there were many different types of therapy available to you? Tell us in the comments!

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