Even the idea of seeing a therapist might feel overwhelming, or strange. Especially if it isn't something you've done before, or you don't know anyone who has - or who has been open about it, anyway. On top of this, there are hundreds of different kinds of therapy out there - so how can you know which is the right one for you?
It's important to note that research indicates that, beyond the type of therapy you have, it is the relationship with your therapist that is the most important thing when it comes to successful outcomes in therapy or counselling. However, there are certain types of therapy that are more commonly used for particular difficulties, and our personalities might be drawn more intuitively to one kind over another. This article aims to give an overview into some of the common types of therapy available to you, and who they might be suitable for, but this isn't a prescriptive list.
A psychodynamic psychotherapist is interested in learning about your past. This therapy type provides you with the space to explore your childhood and early relationships, and uncover in collaboration with your therapist how these might be affecting your life today. Psychodynamic counselling aims to illuminate the unconscious aspects of your thinking and behaviour, and work through any defence mechanisms (such as humour or relational detachment) that may have once served you and are now an obstacle to living life to the full.
For this reason, psychodynamic therapy can be helpful for those who find themselves repeating similar patterns in life and / or relationships, who suffer from depression or anxiety (or other mental health difficulty) that they feel might be rooted in the past, and those who are interested in self-exploration.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT focuses on your thoughts and your behaviours, and how these interact, often in a cycle. The idea being that our thoughts influence our behaviours, and our behaviours reinforce our thoughts, and so on. Cognitive behavioural therapy is often a more 'hands-on' approach and might involve writing exercises and work to do away from your therapy session.
Cognitive behavioural therapy might be useful if obsessive or intrusive thoughts are part of your experience of anxiety, depression, or however it is that you are feeling and wanting support with. NICE recommends CBT for depression and anxiety disorders.
In CBT, your therapist can help you learn how to identify your thoughts and break them down so that they cause you less distress. CBT can also be helpful for OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, and phobias, and is much more present-focused than past-focused.
During a hypnotherapy session, you will be in a deeply relaxed state. It is in this state that change is more likely to occur. You are however fully in control while in this state, and furthermore hypnotherapy will only work if you want to be hypnotised. Hypnotherapy can be particularly helpful if you want to break long-term habits or phobias, overcome insomnia, or find relief from body-focused repetitive behaviours such as skin-picking. Hypnotherapy can also be used for a range of physical conditions, including IBS.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, and is a form of therapy that was developed in the 1980s. EMDR is most commonly used to support people who have experienced a traumatic event. Therapists who are trained in EMDR follow an 8-stage protocol that helps you safely access and process painful or traumatic memories. An EMDR therapist may employ bilateral stimulation techniques such as left-to-right eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR therapy, to help distressing memories lose their intensity and become more like "ordinary" memories.
EMDR is a specific therapy (carried out by therapists with specific training) used to treat conditions such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or help people move forward from traumatic experiences even if they don't have a diagnosis of PTSD. NICE recommends EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD.
Psychosynthesis therapy has its roots in psychoanalysis, but is in some ways a more holistic approach. A psychosynthesis therapist aims to work with the entire person, not to deny or ignore certain 'unwanted' aspects (such as anxiety or depression), but to bring these in harmony with the person as a whole, with the focus on personal growth.
Psychosynthesis might suit you if you have an interest in spirituality, and / or if you are struggling with a sense of inner conflict or ambivalence.
An integrative therapist will make use of a range of different disciplines, tailored to the individual client. Integrative therapy might involve both elements of CBT and psychodynamic therapy, for example, and is therefore appropriate for a wide range of difficulties.
The term 'integrative' also refers to the belief that all aspects of the person should be considered: behavioural, cognitive, psychological, social and spiritual.
As the name might suggest, relational therapy is largely focused on how we relate to others. In relational therapy, emphasis is placed on the idea that our relationships (friendships, work-place, romantic and familial) are central to our wellbeing. At the centre of this is your relationship with your therapist: in relational therapy (similarly to many other types of therapy), the relationship between therapist and client can come to reflect relationships outside of the therapy room. Through creating a relationship based on respect, trust and acceptance, relational therapy can help you create more fulfilling relationships in daily life.
For this reason, relational therapy might be suitable for you if you feel that your interpersonal and romantic relationships are at the centre of your distress. Relational therapy can also be useful for depression, working through difficult past relationships, divorce or bereavement.
As mentioned above, this is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a definitive guide to which kind of therapy is right for you. Ultimately, it is the relationship with your therapist that is the central component of the therapeutic process. By using the questionnaire on welldoing.org, you'll be directed to a range of therapists in your area who are suited to support you.