Types of Therapy

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Mental Health America
Therapy

There are many different types of therapy, including those that are most effective with families or groups of people. You can learn about your options by talking with people you trust, like your family doctor or clergy, with people who have experience with mental health conditions, or with staff at your local Mental Health America affiliate.

You might ask therapists you're considering if they use a particular type of therapy and how it works. You may get more out of therapy if you think about what you’d like to work on and by understanding how the process usually works. Some therapists will blend a few different approaches together to suit your particular needs. If you think a specific type of therapy will work well for you, consider finding a therapist who is certified in that type of therapy.

The following are a few common types of therapy:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has two main aspects. The cognitive part works to develop helpful beliefs about your life. The behavioral side helps you learn to take healthier actions. CBT often works well for depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, but it can also be used for other various conditions.

  • Interpersonal therapy focuses largely on improving relationships and helping you express emotions in healthy ways. This approach often works well for depression. A variation of it called "interpersonal and social rhythm therapy" often works well for bipolar disorder because it also helps develop a daily schedule that supports recovery.

  • Family therapy helps family members communicate, handle conflicts and solve problems better. Forms of family therapy often are used for treating eating disorders and bipolar disorder.

  • Psychodynamic therapy helps people develop a better understanding about their unconscious emotions and motivations that can affect their thoughts and actions.

  • Art therapy can include using music, dance, drawing and other art forms to help express emotions and promote healing.

  • Psychoeducation helps people understand mental health conditions and ways to promote recovery.

In addition to different types of therapy, each type of provider has different amounts and types of training. For example, a psychiatrist health and medication options. A pastoral counselor will include a religious or spiritual approach to treatment. Other therapists may be trained to deal with substance use issues.

Treatment & Resources