There are a lot of reasons to start therapy even if you’re not going through a crisis or struggling with your mental health. It can help you find insight into yourself, your past, and what you’re searching for. But it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are some of the most common types of therapy and who might benefit from them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (“CBT”)
Let’s start with the big one. CBT is one of the most common forms of therapy and is aimed at helping you cope with current struggles. Do you ever feel like your own worst enemy or stuck in unhealthy patterns that you can’t break? Maybe you have panic attacks or turn to compulsive behavior when you’re stressed. CBT takes a practical, results-oriented approach by retraining your brain to respond differently to challenging situations.
In contrast to CBT, psychodynamic therapy takes a retrospective approach. This may be the most common image that comes to mind when someone mentions therapy. It’s the oldest and most well-known form of talk therapy and stems from Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic therapy involves delving into your subconscious to uncover uncomfortable but enlightening clues to your current self. You’ll probably talk about your childhood a lot. It’s more likely to be ongoing than the short time frame of cognitive behavioral therapy but continues to stand the test of time.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
This is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy but incorporates meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness into the equation. It’s often done in a group setting, which is something to consider when deciding whether it’s right for you. It is used primarily for recurrent depression and “chronic unhappiness”. Through MBCT, you will learn to view your mind as a safe space rather than an enemy.
Anyone who has found joy in creative activities knows that art can be a powerful tool of self-expression and healing. This type of therapy is especially beneficial for those who struggle to articulate their emotions. During art therapy, clients create artwork and discuss it with their therapists. The process of creation is therapeutic in itself, but the analysis of the work can also reveal repressed emotions, memories, and the sources of negative behavior and thought patterns. Among other conditions, it is used effectively for people struggling with severe stress, grief, depression, and eating disorders.
This type of therapy focuses on how trauma, depression, and other mental disorders manifest in the body. It is rooted in the fact that our bodies reflect our inner selves, especially when it comes to trauma. If you are struggling with PTSD, depression, or need help with your mental health but don’t feel like talk therapy is right for you, somatic therapy could be your best option.
If you are stuck in a pattern of self-criticism or feel a constant sense of inadequacy, humanistic therapy can help you restructure your narrative. It is based on the idea that everyone has goodness and strength inside them, and that these qualities can be drawn out through compassionate and personal work with a therapist. Instead of searching for buried childhood trauma, humanistic therapy focuses on one’s conscious experiences of the world. It is largely client-led, meaning the therapist will act more as a listener than a facilitator. This type of therapy focuses on holistic healing and helps those who struggle with seeing themselves in a positive light.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (“ACT”)
Sometimes we can’t change ourselves. Many of our fears, feelings, and regrets are not in themselves negative. Rather, it’s how we respond to them that is unhealthy. ACT focuses on acceptance. For example, it can help people with permanent disabilities come to terms with their condition instead of retreating into themselves and mourning their loss. This type of therapy is especially useful for people with longstanding anxiety disorders.
A theme in many types of therapy is accessing repressed or subconscious thoughts. Hypnotherapy takes this to the next level by attempting to bypass the conscious mind and go straight to the innermost level. Hypnosis is not as mystical as it is often portrayed. You won’t lose consciousness, and your therapist won’t force you to bark like a seal or tap dance. Instead, they help you lower your defenses and feel safe. This type of therapy is often used to help people quit smoking, lose weight, and cope with anxiety.
Sometimes struggles with mental health are circumstantial, and nothing plays a bigger role in our emotional lives than relationships. If you and your partner are struggling with communication, intimacy, or trust, couples therapy may be the quickest way to fix things. Ultimately, you need to take care of your own mental wellbeing first, and this type of therapy can identify how your relationship needs to be changed for that to happen.
If you are feeling solid within yourself and are interested in strategizing your future rather than healing from your past or unpacking your psychology, you may want to pursue life coaching. This is not strictly categorized as therapy but could be attractive to those who are seeking guided personal growth. It’s common to feel lost and overwhelmed, especially in the 21st century when we have more options than any previous generation. A life coach can help you break down your goals and create a game plan to achieve them.
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