“There are many ways of getting strong, sometimes talking is the best way.”
―Andre Agassi, Open: An Autobiography of Andre Agassi
A general term for treating a range of mental health problems, psychotherapy, also known as ‘talk therapy’, involves a variety of treatment techniques. During the treatment, a person with a mental health disorder talks to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or any other licensed medical health care provider. In turn, the psychologist helps the patient identify and work through the factors that trigger the mental disorder. The basic principle of psychotherapy is to understand the behavior and emotions that contribute to the problem, such as a death in the family, or a financial problem. By identifying these problems, the psychologist is able to help the person by identifying adequate coping techniques, and developing problem-solving skills.
There are a wide range of therapies that are used to treat mental disorders. In psychotherapy, there is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. The treatment plan depends on the condition, and may differ in the duration and intensity. Sometimes, instead of one approach, psychologists prefer a blended approach, where two or more types of psychotherapy techniques are used to solve the problem. The range of psychotherapy techniques is aimed at dialog, communication, and changes in behavior to improve the mental health of the person. Here are some of the most common types of psychotherapy for mental disorders.
Types of Psychotherapy
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy, wherein the medium of art making is used as the primary mode of communication. The aim is not to judge the aesthetic level of the art, but rather to enable the patient to communicate, overcome stress, resolve conflicts and problems, and explore different aspects of their own personalities through the medium of art. The therapist combines the creative process of art making with psychotherapeutic techniques to enhance and improve the well-being of individuals of all ages. The therapist can work with individuals and groups in a variety of residential- and community-based settings.
At the end of the 19th century, British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby became interested in child development and attachment. He believed that attachment problems experienced early in life are subsequently re-enacted later in adult life. The opposite also holds true, where children in a safe and secure environment are able to develop a sense of who they are, later in life.
Attachment-based psychotherapy identifies basic attachments styles, such as secure, ambivalent, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized attachment. Based on this, the therapist makes the patient aware of why he feel a certain way in the past and present. The therapy allows a person to explore hidden fears, and mourn his losses. The aim is to help the person form healthier relationships, and take control of his life.
Behavior therapy focuses on studying overt behavior to understand underlying psychological problems. This is often done without discussing the internal mental state of the patient. An important premise of behavioral therapy is classical conditioning. Based on the work of Pavlov, this theory states that maladaptive behavior, or learned behavior, in response to certain experiences in the past, can be reformulated or unlearned. This therapy is especially suitable for people with fears, phobias, obsessive disorders, and addictions.
This is a type of psychotherapy where alterations to a person’s behavior are made by positive or negative reinforcements of behavior. For positive reinforcement, a system of rewards is used to encourage certain behavior. Punishment, or the removal of reinforcement (extinction), are the ways in which the therapy aims to replace undesirable behavior with desirable behavior.
Also known as somatic psychotherapy, body psychotherapy focuses on the interrelation of the mind and body. The therapist correlates somatic manifestations with the psychological process. A number of body-centered approaches, including breathing techniques, massages, exercises, and body postures are used to resolve problems.
Unlike other types of psychotherapy techniques that focus more on problem solving, brief therapy is a solution-based treatment, where the therapist focuses on the factors that prevent change now, rather than looking at long-term issues that may have led to the problem. This is especially suited for people going through a crisis, like a change of job, or a divorce. The therapist observes the emotional state of the person, which may be hampering his or her ability to deal with the crisis. Once this has been understood, the focus shifts to bringing the emotional level to normal.
Cognitive Analytical Therapy
A time-focused therapy developed by Anthony Ryle for National Health Service (NHS), cognitive analytical therapy identifies procedural sequences, like chain of thought, motivation, and emotion to identify the root cause of the problem.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Combining the cognitive and behavioral therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions. The therapist examines confused or distorted thinking patterns, and then helps the patient in understanding and recognizing the negative patterns. Efforts are made to replace these negative thought processes with appropriate feelings or behavior.
Dance Movement Therapy (DMT)
Like art therapy, dance movement therapy is a type of expressive psychotherapy. Therapists work on the premise that dance movements reflect a person’s thinking and feelings. They believe that the mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. The American Dance Therapy Association defines it as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of the individual”.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This psychotherapy technique was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, and was used to treat people with borderline personality disorder. This is particularly useful for people who are engaged in intentional self-harmful behavior. People with depression and social anxiety can also benefit from this therapy. Developed from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), this technique was further adapted to meet the needs of people with BPD. The treatment is done by acceptance techniques (focuses on making sense of you as a person, and the things you do), and change techniques (focuses on changing behavior, and finding ways to deal with distress).
This is a psychotherapy technique where role-play, theater games, puppetry, mime, and storytelling is used to facilitate imagination, creativity, and personal growth. The therapy aims to provide a creative environment in which individuals or groups can explore their personal and/or social problems.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) technique was developed by Francine Shapiro. Particularly useful for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this therapy addresses disturbing aspects of past and present memories. Eye movements, bilateral tactile stimulation, and bilateral sounds are used to stimulate the brain. This is often combined with visualized images, attention to body sensations, and other cognition methods to help people cope with the traumatic event.
This is a unique philosophical therapy, based on the belief that human life has no essential or predetermined meaning. The individual is entirely free, and ultimately responsible for finding or creating meaning in his life. The inner conflict is due to certain ‘givens of existence’, including freedom and the responsibility to attain it, inevitability of death, isolation, and meaninglessness. The therapist helps the patient in realizing a new awareness in the present. He or she realizes that his existence is simply coincidental. This enables a person to find new freedom, and overcome his anxieties.
This branch of psychotherapy focuses on family relationships, rather than viewing the problems of individuals. This therapy emphasizes the importance of family psychological health and well-being of a person. The focus of the therapy lies in the resolution of family conflicts and problems. The therapists seeks to bring family members together by direct participation. They are then provided with beneficial solutions, which would allow them to support each other, and function without any problem.
A Freudian analyst, Fritz Perls devised the Gestalt Therapy in the 1940s. The emphasis of this experimental form of psychotherapy is on personal responsibility. By living in the present, a person can take proper responsibility of his actions. When the person is aware of his or herself, and how he or she interacts with others, they can change the old patterns of behavior and create a natural cycle of wellness.
Group psychotherapy, or group therapy, refers to a branch of psychotherapy where one or two
therapists work together with a small group of patients. Interaction between group members and the therapist(s), along with other types of psychotherapy techniques, like body psychotherapy, psychodrama, and movement work, can help people deal with a variety of problems and difficulties.
From emotional problems, like anxiety and depression, to developing interpersonal skills, group therapy can benefit people with various mental disorders.
Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy
Presenting an optimistic view of human beings and their self-determining ability, this approach considers human beings to be solely responsible for themselves and the choices they make. It is based on a phenomenological view of reality. There is an emphasis on human dignity and the human capacity for fulfillment. The therapist’s role is to make the patient realize individual freedom, and his or her responsibility to one another, and to society.
A type of therapy wherein hypnosis is used to induce a deep state of heightened relaxation and altered awareness, hypno-psychotherapy, or neuro-hypnotism, is based on the perspective that the unconscious mind is highly receptive to new ideas. This helps in managing a wide range of mental problems caused by stress-related illnesses, anxiety, pain, and dysfunctional relationships.
A specialized form of psychotherapy, Jungian psychoanalysis works with the unconscious. The Jungian analyst believes that motivation, which includes thought and action, lies deep within your psyche. With the realignment of the conscious and unconscious aspects of the personality, the therapist aims to reduce psychological pain and suffering.
Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)
Created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s, neuro-linguistic programming is also known as the ‘instruction manual for your mind’. It looks at thoughts, the language patterns we use, and our behavior. Based on how these interact, they can have a positive or negative effect on individuals.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
This type of therapy is recommended for conduct-disordered young children. The emphasis of the therapy is on changing the interaction pattern of the parent and child, and to improve the quality of the relationship.
The therapy focuses on two basic types of interactions: Child-directed Interaction (CDI), which is a type of play-therapy to strengthen parent-child relationship, and Parent-directed Interaction (PDI), where parents learn to use certain behavior management techniques when playing with the child.
Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)
Developed by psychologist Carl Rogers, person-centered counseling is a talk therapy which, unlike the diagnostic and prescriptive approaches of psychotherapy, is more concerned with the relationship between the counselor and client. This therapy is also known as client-centered therapy, because the people coming for treatment are referred to as clients instead of patients. The relationship between the client and the counselor is believed to be meaningful and deep. The counselor strives to boost the clients’ personal power.
To provide relief from psychic problems, psychodynamic psychotherapy aims to reveal the unconscious material of the client’s psyche along past experiences.
Developed by Roberto Assagioli, psychosynthesis brings together different orientations of psychotherapy, such as psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, and transpersonal psychology, together. According to Assagioli, the superconsciousness, or the realm of the psyche with the highest potential, is the key to development. Repression of this could lead to mental health disorders. His core model categorizes human consciousness into ‘Lower, Middle, and Higher Unconscious’. The Lower Unconscious analyzes origins, the Middle focuses on the present or the here-and-now, while the Higher explores future potential.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Rational emotive behavior therapy, also known as rational therapy, was developed by American psychotherapist and psychologist Albert Ellis. According to this therapy, people are not only upset by unfortunate adversities, but also by how they construct their views through evaluative beliefs, language, meanings and philosophies about the themselves, others, and the world.
Solution-focused Brief Therapy
This talking therapy focuses more on what clients want to achieve in the present and future through therapy, rather than looking at past problems that may have prompted them to seek help.
Transactional Analysis (TA)
An integrative approach that has its roots in psychoanalytic, humanist, and cognitive approaches, transactional analysis describes how people are structured psychologically using the ego-state model. Our ego-states have three parts: the child, adult, and parent. There are ‘transactions’ between these parts, and during each social interaction, one self is dominant. The client can choose which part to adopt, and change his behavior accordingly. For example, if there are some unfulfilled needs during childhood, then they can be addressed by working with the inner child self.
This type of psychotherapy studies the spiritual nature of human experiences. It is concerned with the mystical and expanded experiences of people. According to the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, transpersonal psychotherapy is defined as ”… the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness”.