The decision to attend therapy can be a big one – and even more so, knowing what type of therapy that is right for you, or which therapist to see. There are different therapy approaches available and certain therapies are said to be more effective than others for particular conditions. Often therapists will incorporate and blend aspects from a variety of therapies to best suit the client’s needs. Many therapists’ opinion is that having a good rapport with their client is more important than the mode of therapy they use.
Some common therapies include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most widely researched and commonly used therapy. It has a strong evidence-base that demonstrates its efficacy in the treatment of anxiety, depression, OCD, addictions and eating disorders.
CBT is based on the principle that many of the psychological problems we face are maintained by our thoughts. These inaccurate and often very negative thoughts about the world, ourselves and the future, all contribute to our emotional distress and problematic actions. Therefore, CBT helps you to identify these maladaptive thoughts and behaviours, and learn healthier habits of coping with challenging situations.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a modified version of CBT, that was initially designed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT is helpful in treating suicidal behaviours, substance use, eating disorders, and PTSD. DBT is generally conducted as a group therapy, but many therapists incorporate DBT skills and strategies into individual therapy sessions.
The term ‘dialectical’ means ‘working with opposites’. DBT teaches that two opposite things can be true at the same time. For example, it is important to accept yourself and strive to grow. It is important to recognise that you are doing your best and keep trying.
The therapist accepts you as you are, but also acknowledges the need for change for recovery and moving towards personal goals.
Over the course of DBT therapy, participants work through four modules. These include distress tolerance, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness.
The core principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is to accept what is out of your control and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. The aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a meaningful life.
ACT focuses on three areas:
A – accept your reactions and be present; accept the reality and work with the situation at hand. Worrying and obsessing can keep you stuck.
C – choose a valued direction
T – take action
Through ACT, clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions, and instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward. With this in mind, clients can accept their hardships and commit to making changes to their behaviour.
Psychodynamic theory is the oldest of the modern therapies.
The main goal of psychodynamic therapy is to enhance a client’s self-awareness and foster an understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in relation to past experiences (especially the experiences as a child).
Psychodynamic therapy helps highlight the hidden processes that drive human behaviour and emotion. By bringing these to the client’s awareness, they can better understand their patterns of thinking and behaving and develop healthier ways to change their lives.
What if my therapist doesn’t feel like a good fit?
It is perfectly okay to find yourself unsure about your therapist. This might be due to a specific issue that is present in other areas of your life and managing it in therapy could be really helpful. It is important to know that a therapy relationship, like any other relationship, is not always a good match and most therapists would encourage you to explore other options. It is important that your therapy is a helpful and productive experience.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 34.) Chapter 7—Brief Psychodynamic Therapy. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64952/
Chapman A. L. (2006). Dialectical behavior therapy: current indications and unique elements. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 3(9), 62–68.
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Haggerty, J. (2016). Psychodynamic therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/psychodynamic-therapy/
Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognitive therapy and research, 36(5), 427–440. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1
Linehan, M.M (2015) DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets 2nd Edition. The Guildford Press, N.Y.
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