Therapy And Counseling :: Which Type Of Therapy Do You Need

You've decided that it's just too difficult trying to manage things on your own and now you're  ready to reach out for a little help, but web research has you completely overwhelmed. Understandable! Finding a therapist can be difficult especially if you don't have the benefit of a referral from a trusted friend or colleague, and you're likely unsure of the type of counseling that would best suit your needs. Sources such as Psychology Today and GoodTherapy can provide profiles of therapists in your area, as well as list the expertise of the counselors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. Professionals tend to specialize in many areas such as: grief and loss, aging, adolescent concerns, transitions, crisis counseling, anxiety, depression, addictions, alcoholism, stress reduction, trauma resolution, marital and relationship difficulties, family concerns, spirituality and more. To make your search a little less daunting, I've included a partial listing of psychotherapy modalities that licensed psychotherapists and psychologists use with their clients.


CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented treatment modality that aims to shift negative patterns of thinking as well as change problem behaviors. Therapist and client work together to identify faulty thinking patterns that contribute to symptoms such as depression and anxiety and create an action plan for change. Homework may be an integral part of this treatment modality and may consist of keeping track of feelings, thoughts and behaviors between sessions. Therapists who practice other forms of therapy may believe that CBT is less effective because it doesn't address the root cause of suffering. Proponents of CBT feel that this form of treatment is superior to other forms of talk therapy in that it provides clients with new skills to use as symptoms arise and it exposes clients to challenges, such as phobias, thus allowing them to become desensitized to the feared object. CBT is used for depression, anxiety, panic, phobias, worry, eating disorders and more. You can find a cognitive behavior therapist on sites such as Good Therapy and Psychology Today.


Psychodynamic therapy is all about talking and uncovering unconscious dynamics that may be driving problems and behaviors. Specifically, the patient is asked to speak freely about his or her thoughts, emotions, feelings and concerns. What happens in this form of therapy is that unconscious dynamics and patterns of behavior surface, and with the help of the analyst or therapist, the client is able to develop insight and self-awareness of the underlying dynamics that drive problem behaviors. In a collaborative manner, conflicts can be brought to light and explored. Dynamic therapy is helpful for unconscious conflicts that create anxiety, panic disorder, self-defeating patterns, feeling "stuck," blocks and inhibitions, depression, and other difficulties that interfere with optimal functioning and a more satisfying life. Sessions may be conducted once or twice weekly. It's important to find a therapist who has training in psychodynamic or psychoanalytic psychotherapy.


People often struggle with relationships and feeling connected to others. Interpersonal therapy is an attachment and communication-focused therapy that is typically used to treat clients with depression. The focus is on the individual's significant relationships with others and how depressive symptoms have impacted their ability to connect and relate to friends, family and significant others. Initially patient and therapist assess the problem areas of one's life then create a plan to focus on and improve their interpersonal skills which will generalize to more fulfilling and satisfying personal relationships. Improved relationships have been demonstrated to reduce symptoms of depression.


Originally developed to treat individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD, client symptoms included: suicidal thoughts, unstable moods, transient paranoid ideation, distress symptoms such as fear of abandonment, panic and anxiety. DBT has been demonstrated to be a useful treatment for other concerns such as eating disorders, addictions and substance abuse. DBT helps clients gain validation for their feelings and learn to understand the extreme nature of their thoughts and feelings, as well as learn more adaptive coping and interpersonal skills that lead to a more balanced, rational and moderate way of being. This therapy is helpful for those who experience rapid mood shifts, emotional reactivity, black and white thinking, feelings of emptiness, problems related to abuse and trauma, Eating Disorders and substance abuse or addictions. Patients can work with individual therapists, and many find group settings to help them address skills, problem-solving and interpersonal deficits. Homework and monitoring is an important part of this treatment.


EMDR Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapeutic technique that is effective for removing performance blocks, changing negative thought patterns, emotional reactions, entrenched habits and even physical discomfort that people can’t “think" or "talk" their way out of. EMDR is one of the most successful treatments for PTSD and for resolving troubling emotions, negative thinking and thought patterns linked to painful past experiences, ongoing trauma or traumatic events such as a medical trauma or accidents. Information processing theory reveals that multiple elements such as thoughts, feelings, sounds, body sensations and images of experience(s) are stored as memories in accessible and useful forms in the brain. However since emotions and cognitions are stored in different places in the brain, the lack of integration leads to psychological symptoms and suffering. EMDR psychotherapy, eye movement or other forms of bilateral stimulation facilitates healthy integration within the brain leading to lasting healing and resolution at the level of the nervous system. 

During EMDR treatment, negative cognitions, images, feelings, emotions, sounds, smells and body sensations that are often linked with negative experiences are replaced with positive, accurate and more helpful, healing information. During the EMDR session, the therapist uses the information provided by the client to help them correct and free the "stuck" material. Eye movements or any form of bilateral stimulation (tactile or auditory) is used to neurologically stimulate both sides of the brain so that images, feelings, negative cognitions become desensitized and experienced differently. EMDR is a technique used as a primary therapy, integrated into traditional psychotherapy sessions or as an adjunct form of treatment to facilitate the progress of psychotherapy sessions. 


Family therapy considers the family unit to be a system with its own unique dynamics, as such, members are identified as having specific roles. People seek family therapy for specific problems such as an addiction in the family, mental illness, eating disorders, abuse, financial concerns, a crisis with one or more members, communication problems and dysfunction patterns within the relationship between family members.


Some psychotherapists and marriage and family counselors have received specialized training to help clients seeking relationship counseling address concerns such as: problem dynamics, communication challenges, work life balance, mental health issues, loss and grief, transitions, attachment deficits, betrayal (emotional or physical affairs), sexual concerns, sex therapy, intimacy, divorce, separation and more. Additionally, relationship counseling can support other types of significant relationships such as siblings and colleagues.   


Group therapy involves psychotherapists or psychologists leading a group of individuals seeking help, meeting weekly for 1-2 hours and may range from 5-15 members. Groups are designed to address a specific problem, examples include: depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic and phobias, OCD, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum, trauma, abuse, eating disorders, habit control, LGBTQ, obesity, chronic pain and substance use/abuse. Some groups may focus on improving social skills and self-esteem, loneliness, parenting, postpartum depression, loss and grief, single/dating, divorce support and anger and rage. Many group members also participate in their own personal therapy, although group therapy alone can be incredibly healing and supportive. 

Group therapy is useful for patients who want to explore the conflicts and challenges he or she regularly experiences at work, in life and with relationships. The group setting is therapeutic because group members struggle with similar issues and benefit from feedback. Dynamics begin to surface within the group setting and can be worked out. The supportive nature of the group experience can be healing. Group therapy is less expensive and therefore a better option for those on a budget.