Types of Therapy


Resource Center Types of Therapy

Mental health professionals use a variety of approaches to give people new tools to deal with ingrained, troublesome patterns of behavior and to help them manage symptoms of mental illness. The best therapists will work with you to determine a treatment plan that will be most effective for you. This sometimes involves a single method or it may involve elements of several different ones, often referred to as an "eclectic approach" to therapy.

Keep in mind that new research can yield rapid and dramatic changes in our understanding of, and approaches to, mental disorders. The following is a brief description of the methods mental health professionals most commonly use:

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment therapy is mindfulness therapy approach to help people open up to unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and memories. Clients learn to stop struggling with their emotions, accept these deeper feelings and use their energy to take action to change their life for the better. 


Adlerian therapy is a goal-oriented therapy in which the therapist helps clients to identify realistic goals and combat feelings of inferiority through encouragement and examining early childhood experiences. Clients are tasked to look outside of themselves and put focus into helping others to develop a further sense of security through positive social interactions.

Applied Behavioral Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an intensive, goal-oriented therapy used with autistic clients or those with other intellectual disabilities to improve social behaviors such as communication, reading, basic hygiene, and succeeding in a job. This therapy can also be applied to individuals who suffer other afflictions or injuries that affect memory, judgment and/or motor skills.

Art Therapy

Art therapy engages clients in creating artwork of various mediums (drawing, painting, coloring, etc). Creating the art has therapeutic value which has shown to reduce stress and anxiety, but the artwork and process is also analyzed by a therapist to find symbolism that may help in understanding the client's underlying issues. Art therapy is also a useful coping tool for those suffering from a physical illness or disability.


Attachment-based therapy is intended for clients who had childhoods where normal attachment to caregivers was inhibited. An attachment-based therapist explores the childhood experience with the client and aims to help them develop new interpersonal skills and the ability to form strong, healthy attachments with family and other intimates.

Behavioral Therapy

As the name implies, this approach focuses on behavior - changing unwanted behaviors through rewards, reinforcements, and desensitization. Desensitization is a process of confronting something that arouses anxiety, discomfort, or fear and overcoming the unwanted responses. Someone whose fear of germs leads to excessive washing, for example, may be trained to relax and not wash his or her hands after touching a public doorknob. Behavioral therapy often involves the cooperation of others, especially family and close friends, to reinforce a desired behavior.


Biofeedback therapy uses relaxation exercises and monitoring equipment (electrodes/sensors) to help a client learn how to control involuntary functions within the body such heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure. By being able to control these functions a client can potentially reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and even treat physical pain.

Biomedical Treatment

Medication alone, or in combination with psychotherapy, has proven to be an effective treatment for a number of emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. The kind of medication a psychiatrist prescribes varies with the disorder and the individual being treated. For example, some people who suffer from anxiety, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorders, and schizophrenia find their symptoms improve dramatically through careful monitoring of appropriate medication.

Christian Counseling

Christian counseling uses scripture and faith as the basis of their technique. A Christian counselor examines areas of the client's life where they may be out of sync with the principles and teachings of the Bible and are encouraged to seek solace in their faith in God. Some standard psychological principles are used as long as they are in agreement with the principle of the Church.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the present and helps clients address current issues within a limited number of sessions. A cognitive behavioral therapist will assist a client in identifying troubling situations and redirect the negative and unrealistic feelings about them to more realistic and positive ones. CBT is often used in combination with other types of therapy on a case-by-case basis.

Cognitive Therapy

This method aims to identify and correct distorted thinking patterns that can lead to feelings and behaviors that may be troublesome, self-defeating, or even self-destructive. The goal is to replace such thinking with a more balanced view that, in turn, leads to more fulfilling and productive behavior. Consider the person who will not apply for a promotion on the assumption that it is beyond reach, for example. With cognitive therapy, the next time a promotion comes up that person might still initially think, "I won't get that position..." but then immediately add, "unless I show my boss what a good job I would do."

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)

Compassion focused therapy (CFT) centers on a client's internal feelings of shame and self-criticism. These feelings affect a client from reaching their full potential and often inhibits their ability to display kindness and compassion towards others. Through CFT, a client learns to tap into their compassion both for themselves and for others to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors.

Couples Counseling and Family Therapy

These two similar approaches to therapy involve discussions and problem-solving sessions facilitated by a therapist - sometimes with the couple or entire family group, sometimes with individuals. Such therapy can help couples and family members improve their understanding of, and the way they respond to, one another. This type of therapy can resolve patterns of behavior that might lead to more severe mental illness. Family therapy may be very useful with children and adolescents who are experiencing problems.

Coping with serious mental illness is hard on marriages and families. Family therapy can help educate the individuals about the nature of the disorder and teach them skills to cope better with the effects of having a family member with a mental illness - such as how to deal with feelings of anger or guilt. In addition, family therapy can help members identify and reduce factors that may trigger or worsen the disorder.

Culturally Sensitive

Culturally sensitive therapy focuses on mindfulness of a client's cultural beliefs and specific struggles or behaviors related to identities such as race, religion, gender identity, socioeconomic status, age, and/or sexual orientation. Cultural sensitivity can be used with any other therapy to better understand a client and their unique needs.

Dance/Movement Therapy

Dance/movement therapy is a holistic approach to mental health that uses dance and other forms of physical movement as a form of mind, body, and spirit inter-connectivity. Movement increases endorphins and promotes physical well-being, which has been shown to directly affect mental health. Since movement is considered a form of language, therapists may also observe the movements of a client to make assessments.

Dialectical (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a skill building therapy that focuses on four key areas: Mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. A therapist works with a client individual as well as in DBT skills groups to improve the ability to live in the present, manage stress levels, control emotions, and communicate effectively.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Emotionally focused couples therapy (EFT) focuses on adult relationships where the therapist helps both partners be more honest and aware of their own feelings. Couples attempt to learn more productive ways of sharing emotions, listening, and repairing broken bonds. EFT may also be beneficial for couples who are experiencing an illness or the illness of one of their children.


Existential therapy is a philosophical approach to mental health. An existential therapist focuses on a client as a whole and in the present rather than on past experiences. The aim is to acknowledge the freedom humans have and help clients face the challenges of life by taking responsibility for the choices they make, find their own meaning, live more authentically, and live in the present.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) primarily deals with clients who have experienced trauma. EMDR aims to replace the negative thoughts related to traumatic events with positive ones. The therapist will guide the client's eye movement side-to-side while directing the client to reflect on their traumatic experience. This desensitization process and puts the client in a state believed to be similar to REM sleep where emotions can be transformed more readily.

Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy is a category of therapy that includes several subtypes of therapy such as recreation therapy, music therapy, wilderness therapy and many other kinds of interactive therapies. Unlike talk therapy, experiential therapy places more emphasis on activities. These activities aim to put clients at ease in a more casual setting and so they may open themselves up more to their therapist or support group.

Expressive Arts

Expressive arts therapy utilizes creativity to foster mental wellness and healing. This therapy is very similar to standard art therapy and uses the art as both a means of stress and anxiety release and as an assessment tool, but is not limited to just painting, sculpture, and other visual arts. Expressive arts draws from poetry, theater, music, dance, or any kind of art that appeals to the client.

Family Systems

Family systems therapy focuses on resolving family issues and conflicts. All family members are encouraged to participate and work to better understand each other and communicate through a series of exercises that are guided by the therapist. Family therapy can be beneficial even if just one member of the family is struggling with mental health or physical disabilities and needs the support of the rest of the family to heal.


Feminist therapy was originally developed for women to address the particular struggles that women face in society by making a strong connection with their therapist based on mutual respect and equality in the client/therapist relationship. This therapy has evolved to help empower other marginalized groups including the LGBTQI+ community, people of color, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty.

Forensic Assessments

Forensic assessment aims to evaluate and assess the risk of individuals who have committed crimes and work with them to find triggers and motivations for their criminal activity. Forensic therapists work with individuals to build self-awareness and help them understand the significance of their crime in an attempt to change their thought processes and behavior to prevent future criminal activity.


Gestalt therapy focuses on the present rather than revisiting the past and helps people concentrate on current emotions. If the past is talked about, role-play is used to live out past experiences to re-enact the event in the present. Self-awareness is the primary goal of Gestalt therapy. Through self-awareness a client can begin to change their patterns and negative emotions.

Gottman Method of Relationship Therapy

The Gottman Method is a couples therapy that uses a comprehensive assessment and interview of each partner and provides feedback to the couple about their relationship. Therapy includes relationship strengthening exercises that focus on friendship, conflict management, and understanding perspectives. Some of the goals of The Gottman Method are improving communication, intimacy, and respect.


Hypnotherapy involves a therapist guiding a client into a hypnotic state. This is not a state of unconsciousness, but a state of relaxation and focus to open the mind. In this state, the therapist asks the client to think about negative experiences and try to reframe them in a more positive way in hopes of building the skills to make important life changes or heal from past events.


Imago relationship therapy is for couples to work through conflict and reconnect with each other. Imago looks into early childhood and how each partner's experiences have shaped them and how they behave in adult relationships. Imago involves private therapy as well as group workshops and weekend retreats away from home where couples can be more immersive in their therapist guided exercises.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Internal Family Systems (IFS) centers on what is called sub-personalities or "families" within an individual's mind. These sub-personalities can be in conflict with each other, leaving client's feeling disconnected from their true Self. The goal is to find harmony among the separate parts through identifying the roles they play for the client, releasing them from those roles, and helping the client find their true Self.


Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a short-term therapy aimed targeting problem areas within a client that interferes with their ability to socialize or form fulfilling relationships, who is experiencing grief or going through major life changes and is feeling isolated as a result, or is dealing with an interpersonal conflict that is interfering with their quality of life, home life, or career.


Jungian therapy focuses on both the conscious and unconscious (or subconscious) mind. A Jungian therapist incorporates various activities such as word association, art therapy, journaling, and dream interpretation in addition to traditional talk therapy to bring out the root causes of a client's emotional issues that are held in the unconscious mind and bring them into the conscious mind.

Mindfulness-Based (MBCT)

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) uses cognitive behavioral talk therapy in collabration with meditation techniques to manage symptoms of depression and learn how to fight off future depressive episodes when signs first begin to appear. Other exercises to practice mindfulness are used in addition to meditation to give the client more tools to combat depression, anxiety, and other emotional disorders.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing uses positive encouragement to find the motivation for an individual that will encourage them to want to make difficult but necessary changes to their life. This is often used to deal with addiction but also physical health changes such as a heart patient who needs to make healthier choices in their diet and activity.


Multicultural therapy takes into consideration the unique experiences of marginalized groups (people of color, the LGBTQI+ community, those with disabilities, etc.). A multicultural therapist is educated in the particular struggles of these groups to better understand the unique experience of the client. Multicultural therapy can be used with other forms of talk therapies based on the client's needs.


Narrative therapy aims to help a client understand that they are not their problems. Through narrative therapy, the client will be helped in an effort look at their life as being full of possibilities and the client learns that they, alone, have the tools and ability to define their goals, their future and find their true self outside of the stories of their past.


Neurofeedback (EEG or electroencephalogram) is a therapeutic intervention that uses a computer program and sensors on a client's head to have the brain signals and signals from the central nervous system monitored. As these signals are recorded, the program guides the signals into more controlled activity to improve erratic patterns that are causing disturbances. It helps corrects irregular brainwaves and the brain re-learns the proper patterns it has forgotten which can decrease mental health symptoms.


Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) therapy is a behavior modification therapy that aims to help clients realize they have control over their perception of life including influence from others and teaches them they can not always control what happens in their life but they can control how you deal with it. NLP will work with a client to find what shaped their world view and help them reprogram patterns of thinking that create a negative outlook which contributes to anxiety, low self-esteem, and other issues in their life by using visualization techniques to show clients they can change the way they think and feel about past events, phobias and fears.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

"Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is for the parents or caregivers of children with emotional, behavioral, and developmental disorders find more effective ways for communicating and relating to their children. Phase one focuses on building a nurturing and secure bond between parent and child by using a toy or activity the child and parent play with together while being coached by the therapist. The second phase of PCIT concentrates on creating a structured and consistent approach to discipline. "


Person-centered therapy aims to helps those with self-confidence and identity issues to trust their own decisions and judgment. Person-centered therapy is a form of talk therapy, but the client does most of the talking. By repeating the client's words back to them, the client is given an opportunity to clarify and process what they've said and how they feel to help them find answers within themselves.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is primarily for children under 12 to give them a safe space to play and engage in creative activities with few limitations so the therapist can observe the child and their choices, both good and bad. The aim of play therapy is to help children who struggle with social responses to learn to have more positive interactions with others.

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is used in traditional therapy settings as well as in business or other settings where an individual or group are experiencing conflict or difficulties. The emphasis is on optimistic thinking, hope, creating positive experiences, happy thoughts, creative endeavors, and generally exploring strengths rather than weaknesses to help with self-esteem, confidence, life perspective, and goal setting.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET) aims to help individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to find ways to engage in experiences they have been avoiding out of fear or anxiety. A therapist will work with a client in stages to expose them to their triggers, starting in a safe, controlled environment and working up to a more real world, less predictable environment to build their confidence through positive reinforcement and reassurance.


Psychoanalytic therapy is an intensive, long-term, talk therapy for a wide range of issues including depression, personality disorders, and destructive behavior patterns. Through various techniques, a psychoanalyst analyzes early-childhood experiences to explore the unconscious mind to get to the root of present day behaviors and issues. By unlocking repressed feelings and memories from childhood and bringing them into the conscious mind, an individual can process those feelings and begin to heal.

Psycho-biological Approach Couple Therapy (PACT)

Psycho-biological Approach Couples Therapy (PACT) aims to improve communication between partners. PACT uses neuroscience and psychology to assess a couple's experiences that have affected their behavior, attachment style, and response to stressful situations. Through analysis, a therapist can help clients to manage their own negative and disruptive behaviors, thus fostering a more open and trusting relationship.


Psychodynamic therapy aims to uncover unconscious processes in the mind that may be determining an individual's current behavior and struggles. Through various exercises, a client learns to recognize and work through these unconscious thoughts and understand how they have affected their choices and behavior, and can then begin to adjust and make changes to improve their situation.

Psychological Testing and Evaluation**

Psychological testing and evaluation is a process to determine the psychological state of an individual. It is used in a range of scenarios from establishing if a person is of sound mind, to evaluate the effects of a brain injury, or to decide if someone is suited for a job position. Testing involves written exams, questionnaires, and an interview with a mental health professional to determine diagnosis and plan of treatment.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) aims to help eliminate or reduce irrational thinking that may be causing depression, anxiety, a range of emotional issues, and destructive behaviors. Through various exercises, a therapist will work with a client to identify the thoughts that are holding them back and find more affirming, rational thoughts that will help to improve their mood and behavior and make changes in their life.

Reality Therapy

Reality therapy focuses on current events and relationships and avoids reflecting on childhood or past situations In a therapy session, a client examines their current behavior and its affects and work with the therapist to find ways to make positive changes to improve their situation. Reality therapy emphasizes personal accountability and discourages the shifting of blame to outside factors as an excuse for their behavior.

Relational Therapy

Relational therapy aims to help a client who struggles with developing and maintaining healthy, positive relationships. Relational therapy considers a client's specific experiences and needs to assess how they relate to other people and society. The therapist then helps the client identify behaviors that are preventing relationships from succeeding and guides the client through developing healthier perspectives on people and relationships.

Sandplay Therapy

Sandplay therapy is an interactive therapy where a client (usually a child) is presented with a sandbox and various toys to build a small re-creation of their life and their current experiences. The therapist then assesses the build and discusses it with the client and gives the client the opportunity to make changes in their build for what they would like their life to look like. Through this exercise, clients (or the parents) are often able to find clarity about what needs to be changed in their life and find the motivation and confidence to make those changes.

Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented, short-term therapy that centers around the asking and answering of specific questions between therapist and client. Through this series of questions from a therapist, a client is able to identify small steps to achieve a larger goal, identify triggers that hold them back, and identify the coping mechanisms they already have and utilize them in a more productive way.


Somatic therapy centers on the mind-body connection and involves a holistic healing approach to mental health. Through both talk therapy and relaxation exercises, the client may release negative emotions that are creating stress and tension that leads to larger issues that affect both mental and physical health.

Strength-Based Therapy

Strength-based therapy focuses on a clients strengths and self-determination and encourages a client's ability to see their own resourcefulness and resiliency. This type of therapy is especially beneficial to those with low self-esteem and victims of abuse. The aim is to reframe the way a client thinks about their experiences to stop seeing themselves as a victim and start seeing themselves as a survivor.

Structural Family Therapy

Structural family therapy (SFT) focuses treatment on families as a whole to address conflicts and dysfunction. the therapist will help clients identify the roles, relationships, and boundaries within a family to understand the current structure and work with the family together to adjust the structure to create more harmony and understanding in the family.


Transpersonal therapy is a holistic approach to an individual's well-being that includes all aspects of their life, with an emphasis on the spirit. Through meditation, hypnotherapy, artististic activities, and other relaxation techniques a therapist will guide a client through spiritual exploration to help them find their inner strengths to find solutions for their problems.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT) is a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that specifically focuses on those who have suffered a serious trauma in life. TF-CBT is a short term therapy that uses traditional CBT techniques along with relaxation techniques and often incorporates caregivers or families in therapy to help the primary client heal from the trauma.