What Do Different Types of Therapy Help With?

When looking for mental health counselling, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different types of therapy being offered. You may be wondering what it means when a therapist says they are trained in EMDR or CBT. Or you might want to know what to expect from a narrative therapist or an ACT practitioner. You may not have any idea what Somatic Therapies are even if you’ve heard someone talk about their effectiveness.

To further complicate matters, some clinicians focus on one or two modes of therapy, while others use a variety of interventions from a number of different therapy types. How can you make an informed choice about what kind of therapy is best for your particular concerns?

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list to introduce you to some of the most common and effective forms of therapy and identified some of the main presenting concerns each type can help treat. These are very brief descriptions and we recommend further research before deciding which type of therapy might be a good fit for you.

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – ACT is an evidence-based, behavioural therapy about taking mindful action that is guided by your core values. In other words, it aims to help you behave like the sort of person you want to be. ACT seeks to maximize your potential for a rich meaningful life while helping you effectively handle the pain that inevitably goes with it.

ACT can help with addiction, depression, anxiety, self-harm, post-traumatic stress, and eating disorders.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is based on the belief that psychological problems are based on unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours. CBT aims to help you learn better ways of coping to relieve symptoms and improve your functioning and quality of life.

CBT can help with a range of problems including depression, anxiety, substance use problems, relationship problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) – DBT is a behavioural approach that consists of a structured program with a strong educational component. DBT’s main goals are to teach you how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate your emotions, and improve your relationships with others.

DBT is often the treatment of choice for borderline personality disorder and can also help with emotion dysregulation, suicidality, self-harm, eating disorders, substance use problems, and PTSD.

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) – EFT is based on the principles of attachment science and focuses on the active processing and regulation of emotion. EFT uses experiential and relational techniques to help you identify and change patterns of behaviour that impact your self and key relationships.

EFT can help with relationship problems, individual depression, anxiety, PTSD, and family issues.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) – SFBT is a short-term, goal-focused therapeutic approach that uses positive psychology to help you change. SFBT focuses on creating solutions rather than fixating on problems and seeks to motivate you to achieve and sustain the behavioural change you desire.

SFT can be used with individuals, couples, and families. It can address a wide range of problems from normal daily stressors to high-impact life events. SFT is not recommended for more serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia or major depression.

Narrative Therapy (NT) – Narrative therapy is a method of therapy that views people as separate from their problems. It aims to empower you by encouraging you to rely on your own skills to minimize problems that exist in your life. A narrative therapist will collaborate with you to help you “reauthor” your life stories as a means of creating a future that reflects who you really are.

Narrative therapy can help with anxiety, depression, trauma, addictions, eating problems, anger, and emotion regulation.

Somatic Therapies – Somatic therapies such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Polyvagal Theory, and Hakomi aim to treat mental health issues through the connection of mind and body. Somatic therapies incorporate talk therapy and mind-body exercises such as movement, breathwork, and meditation to support mental healing.

Somatic therapies can help with PTSD, anxiety, addiction, grief, depression, stress, chronic pain, digestive disorders, and sexual dysfunction.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) – EMDR is a form of adaptive information processing which may help the brain unlock maladaptive material. EMDR is a structured therapy that encourages you to focus on trauma memories while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements) as a means of reducing the vividness and emotion associated with the traumatic memories.

EMDR can help people recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms as well as help with anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences.

 

Regardless of the type of therapy you choose to try, remember that research has shown that the most important factor promoting change in a client’s life is their relationship with their therapist. In other words, finding the right therapist for you is likely more important than the types of therapy a therapist uses.

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