As therapy has evolved, many different types of effective therapy have been formulated. The inception of mental health therapy was, of course, Freudian psychoanalysis which aims to get at underlying themes of consciousness in order to gain insight. The idea was that each person has unknown themes created from childhood that impact their ability to deal with the world. These themes are in addition to the various strong drives in human beings such as the desire to bond and the desire for pleasure that can go awry. While there are still some professionals who practice purely psychoanalytical therapy which requires several sessions a week and can take years for an insightful breakthrough, most professionals will utilize aspects of this therapy and incorporate it into other types of talk therapy instead.
A more popular form of therapy is behavioral therapy which works under the idea that our behaviors affect our thinking and mood and that by identifying and changing dysfunctional behaviors, we can change our mental health. Pure behavioral therapy is often used with children through parenting and family assistance and special education work with mentally challenged children and adults.
Variations on behavioral therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy which was developed in the 1960s and 1970s and dialectical behavioral therapy which was developed in the 1990s. Cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) works on the idea that not only do our behaviors impact our mental health but our thoughts work in tandem with this as well and so works to identify and change both dysfunctional thoughts (such as the negative self talk many of us do all day long about ourselves “You’re so stupid,” “You’re so fat and lazy,” etc) and dysfunctional emotions. CBT has been found to be effective for many situations from depression to anxiety and phobias. In fact, CBT has even expanded and formed another off-shoot called Trauma Focused CBT which helps individuals who have been through trauma.
Dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT was developed on the concept that people cannot just be told to change all the time as they are in CBT. DBT aims to take a more balanced approach and work on change while also validating a person’s experiences and teaching them specific skills to deal with stress and interpersonal problems. DBT was initially developed for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and who were commonly self destructive and suicidal but it has been applied effectively for a broad spectrum of issues and populations.
Motivational Interviewing is a newer form of therapy which is helpful for individuals working to recover from substance abuse or who are not sure if they really want therapy. It works with the idea that change happens in stages and that not everyone is ready for change in the same way and it is the therapist’s task to help individuals become more motivated to change.
Other more specialized therapies include EMDR, narrative therapy, psychodrama therapy, and art therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is a fairly newer form of therapy which works to help individuals process traumatic experiences through becoming “desensitized” to the memories, or not as sensitive when remembering them. Narrative therapy works on the idea that we all write our own stories or listen to others who write them for us and that by changing the story, we can view ourselves differently to change our lives. Psychodrama works in a similar fashion and promotes the use of actually dramatically acting out our narratives through role plays. Art therapy is the use of art to express inner thoughts and emotions and is often used with children although it is effective with adults as well.
While each of these therapies requires special training, most therapists are at least aware of techniques of each and will use them eclectically as needed for the situation depending upon their comfort level in applying them. It can be helpful to speak with your therapist about what he or she uses as a theory in determining if this form of therapy is right for you.