A Breakdown of Common Types of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy involves meeting with a trained mental health professional—psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, social worker, clinician—to identify specific problems that you want to address. Your therapy sessions will be tailored around these issues and will involve listening, talking, and other forms of expression.

Understanding the different forms of therapy could help you know what treatment options are available to you and also give you a better sense of what to look for in a therapist. There are several forms of psychotherapy, but we’ll discuss the most common types.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that’s geared toward cognitive restructuring. During CBT therapy sessions, you’ll work in collaboration with your CBT therapist to learn how to recognize negative thoughts or beliefs that may be affecting your quality of life. Your therapist will also teach you how to take a different approach when responding to life’s challenges.

For example, if you have the habit of thinking, “I’m a bad person,” whenever you make a mistake, a cognitive behavioral therapist will help you identify this thought and replace it with evidence-based thinking. For instance, “I’m human, and human beings make mistakes.”

Cognitive therapy is a short-term treatment option that’s effective in treating mental health conditions and a range of problems. Some of these include drug use problems, PTSD, depression, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem, emotional distress, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mood disorders, and phobias.

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to create self-awareness based on the premise that although you may not be able to solve your current problems, you can change the cognitive approach you take when addressing or reacting to them.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

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Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is focused on understanding how learning takes place and how behavior works. As a form of psychotherapy, ABA is an effective treatment option for children and adults living with developmental disabilities that may affect how they behave in different social situations.

Today, ABA is the most preferred form of therapy and is commonly practiced as a therapeutic intervention for individuals on the autism spectrum. Significant improvement in the patient’s verbal behavior can be noticed when ABA is consistently applied for “more than 20 hours a week and before the age of 4.” In older people, ABA is effective in the management of age-related memory loss.

ABA therapy services are facilitated by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). To become a BCBA, one has to have a master’s degree in behavior analysis, pass a board-certification exam, and apply for a license to practice. Applied behavioral analysis degrees are available to study through online or in-person learning.

ABA therapy programs also involve registered behavior technicians (RBTs). These therapists receive specialized training that allows them to work with individuals living with an autism spectrum disorder. They’re also referred to as behavioral therapists, ABA therapists, or behavior technicians.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

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Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on changing maladaptive behaviors, emotional issues, and unhelpful thoughts by discovering the motivation behind them. This form of treatment is offered by a specially trained psychologist or clinical social worker. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is similar to CBT treatment in that the patient is an active participant in the treatment process. This form of therapy is commonly used with clients suffering from anxiety and depression.

If you need help finding a therapist, the American Psychological Association’s website can be a helpful online resource. As you look through their lists of prospective mental health practitioners, consider the mental health challenges you want to address. It’s also important to remember that it’s okay to change therapists until you find the best fit for your individual needs.

Evelyn Marshall

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