There are a huge range of talking therapies in existence. Given the complexities of the human mind, it is understandable that so many different forms of therapy exist.

Talking therapy is incredibly useful for most people, and can help treat the vast majority of mental health conditions. Therapy is usually the first-line of treatment for mental health conditions.

For individuals using the NHS for treatment, there is usually a limited choice unfortunately. For those using the private sector, there is an unlimited choice, albeit with the caveat of having to pay for treatment.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size fits all type of therapy. Certain therapies are known for being effective for certain conditions.

Here, we summarise all of the different types of therapy, with most of the types having individual profiles with further information. One final note is that many therapists will overlap two or more therapy types when treating a patient.

List of Different Types of Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Acceptance and Commitment therapy is closely-related to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but instead of trying to improve thoughts, feelings and actions, ACT looks at changing patterns that seem to prevent us from living an enjoyable and desirable life. ACT can help treat several mental health conditions, with a focus on those who appear to be treatment-resistant. It is based on providing help for the present day.

Arts Therapy: Arts and creative therapy (also known as expressive arts therapy, creative arts therapy, expressive therapies etc) can help people find a way to express their thoughts and feelings in an easier way. This type of therapy involves an individual creating art, an object or piece of music, which can normally be used by a therapist to link to certain problems. Arts therapy can be a good alternative to talking therapy if needed.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT): Cognitive Analytical Therapy provides a form of therapy that combines cognitive and psychoanalytic approaches to mental health. The aim is to instil techniques into an individual that should help improve the symptoms of their condition. There is a very strong focus on the relationship between therapist and client in this type of therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that is used to treat a range of mental health conditions. CBT involves an individual talking face-to-face with a therapist, although sometimes CBT can be conducted in a group setting. CBT attempts to improve an individual’s wellbeing and mood. The therapy focuses on the link between thoughts, feelings and actions. This can be useful for those with low self-esteem, anxiety, unhelpful personality traits or intrusive thoughts. CBT can help an individual understand their feelings more, and in the long run should lead to an improvement in quality of life.

Couples Counselling: Also known as relationship counselling, this type of therapy focuses on the dynamics of a couple – and looks to improve areas that need adjusting in their relationship, such as communication, trust and problem-solving. The couple will learn many new skills that should prove useful for their relationship.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of therapy that is tailor-made for Borderline Personality Disorder, though can also be useful for many other conditions. The therapy runs on the basis that an individual is emotionally vulnerable, and that the individual grew up in an environment where emotions were dismissed and not treated. These factors cause an individual to feel guilty or ashamed for having upsetting emotions, which leads to more upset. DBT aims to change this system, using a range of techniques to help, with a focus on acceptance and problem-solving.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): Electroconvulsive Therapy (commonly referred to as shock treatment) is a treatment that sees an electric current sent through the brain of an individual. The aim is to trigger an epileptic seizure, with the ultimate objective to relieve symptoms of a mental health problem. The human body is fully restrained during the procedure, which also involves a general anaesthetic. Electroconvulsive therapy is normally a last resort. Despite this, ECT actually has an impressive efficacy rate, with many people finding it helps immeasurably.

Existential Therapy: A rather unique therapy, Existential Therapy uses the philosophy of existentialism to guide its process. While some therapies are focused on the past, this form of therapy is very much focused on the present day. The therapy gets the individual to learn more about themselves, and has the aim of easing symptoms.

Exposure Therapy: Exposure Therapy – also known as Desensitisation – is commonly used for cases that involve either traumas or phobias. This type of therapy involves an individual being gradually exposed to their fear/trauma. A therapist can help set up a program for this. Over time, the individual will gradually become accustomed to their problem – though this takes time. The eventual aim is to overcome the problem. Relaxation methods may also be taught as part of this therapy.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR): While more of a newer treatment, EMDR is an exciting intervention that has helped many people cope with trauma-based conditions. This therapy involves an individual moving their eyes from side-to-side, with the therapist directing their eye movements. During this, the individual recalls their traumatic experience. EMDR is believed to help an individual change how they think about the traumatic event, with the therapist aiming to facilitate change.

Family Therapy: Family therapy is a form of therapy that is delivered with close family members. The therapy can focus on how a person’s actions have caused problems for their wider family. In many cases, the family will be told not to condone nor reward behaviour that is associated with their problematic behaviour. In theory, by seeing the damage their behaviour can cause, this can help the individual change their behaviour.

Gestalt Therapy: Gestalt Therapy places a large degree of focus on self-awareness, suggesting it is very important in developing potential, and can help with personal growth. Symptoms of mental illness can interrupt this. This form of therapy works on the idea that an individual’s mind, body and soul are all one and interconnected with another at all times. The therapy is focused purely on the present day, and attempts to change how an individual thinks, feels and acts. 

Grief Counselling: Grief Counselling is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people cope with a loss. The therapy treats multiple facets of grief – such as emotional and physical areas. The therapy will provide an individual with a chance to speak their mind, with feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, confusion and numbness all being treated. A wide array of techniques are used to achieve this. The therapy will have the overall aim of helping an individual process the loss in a more positive way, with the aim of improving long-term quality of life.

Human Givens Therapy: Human Givens Therapy is a rather unusual type of talking therapy, which uses the basis that humans have certain needs (givens) to live comfortably. The suggestion is that when these needs aren’t met, that mental illness will develop. The needs include water, food, sleep, as well as a plethora of emotional needs such as attention, emotional intimacy, sense of status and sense of achievement. When someone is missing a need, a therapist may believe they can lessen the symptoms of their condition – achieved through changing areas of a life. As such, Human Givens Therapy is focused on the present day.

Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that uses hypnosis in an attempt to treat a condition. Hypnotherapy normally involves an individual being in a deeply relaxed state. The therapy also uses focused attention and concentration to induce a heightened state of awareness. This allows the patient to focus on specific thoughts or factors. Hypnotherapy will commonly involve suggestion therapy, which allows a person to be more inclined to changing behaviours (including pain management). It can also be used to explore causes of a condition or symptom. This may include events that have been hidden in an individual’s unconscious memory.

Interpersonal Therapy: Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a type of therapy that helps people with mental health problems to address issues with their behaviour towards family, friends and colleagues. It is primarily designed for Depression, but can be used for other conditions too. It revolves around the idea that a person’s mood is impacted by relationships with others, and vice versa. Therefore, by improving a person’s relationships with others, it should ease their psychological suffering. A range of techniques are used to achieve this.

Jungian Therapy: Also known as Jungian analysis, this therapy is based on Carl Jung’s theory on the mind. The aim of this therapy is to bring the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind together, which should lead to a more balanced state of mind. It can be used for a variety of conditions. The therapy tries to look at the real person, rather than the person seen by the outside world. The therapist will use different techniques to elicit responses.

Light Therapy: Light therapy is a form of therapy that is best known as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It involves an individual sitting in front or near a specially-constructed light box for around 30-60 minutes a day. The light box simulates sunlight, which appears to be crucial in the treatment of SAD. This therapy can help other mental health conditions too.

Maudsley Anorexia Treatment: Also known as MANTRA, this is a relatively new treatment type, developed by senior clinicians at the Maudsley Hospital in London. This model of treatment attempts to change the factors that contribute to the condition in the individual. Harmful personality traits can be addressed, with certain goals made for the future. Various behavioural experiments can be made, which can result in changes in eating behaviours. So far, this form of treatment has proved very helpful for many.

Mentalisation-based Therapy (MBT): MBT uses a range of techniques to try and help an individual understand themselves and their thoughts more. Mentalisation itself is the ability for an individual to think about thinking – essentially allowing an individual to examine their own thoughts, and the effect they have. MBT can help an individual understand what goes through the mind of others, as well as making an individual more aware of what happens in their own mind. This form of therapy is useful in various personality disorders.

Person-centred Therapy: Person-centred therapy is a very logical therapy that puts the entire focus on the person, and looks at what they consciously think about themselves. The idea is that a person can fulfil their full potential, but some negative life experiences can distort this. As a result, a therapist will aim to get the person back on track, realising their self-worth, and hopefully improving their self-image – to the extent where symptoms are alleviated.

Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy: Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy is a talking therapy that aims to help uncover and resolve unconscious beliefs that cause psychiatric conditions. Traumatic experiences that may or may not be buried in the unconscious mind can be highlighted and processed. Psychoanalytical psychotherapy involves talking to a trained therapist. The therapist can show the individual how early memories and past traumas have affected their thinking, behaviour and attitude in the modern day. Psychoanalytical psychotherapy is especially useful for any condition that involves past trauma. Renowned neurologist Sigmund Freud developed this therapy, which is typically completed over a long-term basis.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is a talking therapy that is closely related to Psychoanalytical psychotherapy, though combines more areas into the therapy process. This talking therapy aims to bring to light thoughts and memories in the unconscious mind. It works on the idea that past trauma is pushed to the back of the mind, with the conscious mind neglecting to process them. This may cause long-term problems though, when a person develops defence mechanisms to cope with the issues. This tends to be a shorter-term therapy than others.

Reality Therapy: Reality Therapy is somewhat controversial, though can be helpful in some cases. Reality therapy suggests that mental distress and general psychological suffering is not down to mental illness. Instead, it is the result of basic psychological needs not being met. These needs are love and belonging, power and achievement, fun, freedom and independence, and survival. This therapy looks for ways to for an individual to meet their needs and become aware of harmful thoughts, with the aim of changing behaviour for the better.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a type of therapy that can be used to treat an array of mental health conditions. The therapy involves a trained therapist using a magnet in order to apply multiple magnetic pulses to the areas of the brain which are believed to be responsible for the regulation of mood and emotions – called neurotransmitters. In theory, the higher the level of these neurotransmitters, the better mood and emotions become. It is very rarely used as a first line treatment, but if someone has little success in lessening their symptoms with a range of other treatments, then rTMS may be used.

Schema Therapy: Schema Therapy is a talking therapy that combines aspects of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Gestalt therapy and psychoanalytical thinking into one form. It can be useful in treating personality disorders due to its ability to help people change longstanding patterns of thought and behaviour. The therapy is normally based on the idea that childhood needs were not met, leading to deeply-held obstructive beliefs. The therapist will attempt to change long-standing patterns that have contributed to problems, and can be very useful. Schema therapy is mainly intended for use in the treatment of personality disorders.

Sex Therapy: Sex therapy is a form of counselling that can help individuals or couple with sexual problems. Sex therapy can enable changes to be made in the sex life of an individual or couple, which should result in more enjoyment. A range of sexual problems can be helped with Sex therapy. Past sex-related trauma can also be spoken about. This is particularly useful for any condition that involves psychological problems linked to past issues. The therapist can suggest ways of getting around problems, and suggest possible causes or areas that are inhibiting the current relationship. Sex therapy involves talking face-to-face with a therapist – many people find having someone non-judgemental to talk to about intimate problems is very useful.

Therapeutic Communities: Therapeutic Communities are for people with long-standing and complex emotional problems. These communities host groups of people, where individuals will often attend for weeks, and even months in some cases – typically attending a large house. Most therapy is provided in small groups. Patients are taught about interacting with others, and by partaking in group activities, learn the importance of getting on with others. When disagreements arise, the patients in the treatment are entrusted with setting rules to prohibit conflict. The patients also improve social skills by engaging in common behaviour – such as meal preparation. Not everyone is allowed into a Therapeutic Community, with the patients already situated at the community deciding whether or not an individual can enter. Overall, these measures can lead to an improved chance of recovery.

Transference-focused Psychotherapy: Transference-focused Psychotherapy is a very structured talking treatment that involves a therapist attempting to identify, analyse and alter unconscious processes. This therapy uses elements from psychoanalysis, and is specifically designed for treating Borderline Personality Disorder. Attempts are made to help an individual understand themselves further, and to change the way someone feels about the world.      

Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Vagus Nerve Stimulation is a relatively new treatment that is mainly intended for epilepsy, though can also be used for treatment-resistant Depression. This form of therapy involves the stimulation of the vagus nerves – a pair of nerves in the body. Electrical impulses are delivered to the nerve, with a stimulator placed under the skin during the procedure – which does involve a small operation. It is unclear if this is effective for Depression, though it remains an option if warranted.

Summary

Ultimately, while the type of therapy you either choose or receive is important, what counts the most is how you engage with therapy. To get the most out of therapy, it is important for an individual to be fully committed towards their sessions.

Throughout therapy, it is crucial to have the mindset that recovery is always possible. The aim is always for improved mental wellbeing, with therapy certainly capable of this.

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