Which Type of Therapy is Right for Me?
While the most important factor in successful therapy is your relationship to your therapist, it can be helpful to understand the different types of therapy available
Psychotherapist Katy Georgiou, author of How to Understand and Deal with Stress, explores
We have therapists and counsellors available to support you here
Counselling and psychotherapy can be incredibly useful to help you work through stressful periods in your current or past life. It uses talking to help you work through feelings, situations and events that have happened in your life.
Consider counselling to see you safely through difficult periods, such as divorce, sexual assault, redundancy or bereavement. Meanwhile, psychotherapy can help you take a deeper look back on your life to help you spot any unhelpful patterns you’re getting into in order to cope.
Psychotherapy can also support you with issues that don’t always have one clear, identifiable cause, such as chronic stress. It can help you make clearer connections between your physical and emotional health.
Counselling and psychotherapy are often done one to one with a trained professional, but you can have relationship and group therapy, too. There are many different approaches to talking therapy.
Types of therapy
Most therapy happens weekly at the same time and day each week, but in some cases, sessions are more frequent depending on the style of therapy and your situation.
For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a goal-oriented therapy, usually carried out over a shorter period of time, and it works on the idea that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interlinked. By having a trained practitioner gently challenging our fixed beliefs about ourselves or what people think of us, and inviting us to change our behaviour and notice what happens, we will change how we feel.
There are also creative art therapies where you can explore your feelings through music, art, drama or dance, instead of just through talking. They can be especially beneficial for anyone who is on the autistic spectrum, who has neurodiversity, or a neurological or learning disability.
If you’re experiencing more of the flop stress responses described earlier as a result of complex trauma in your life, then consider therapies that address trauma-related stress.
In Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), a professional works with repeated eye movements to address negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings resulting from unprocessed memories without going into detail about the event. This can increase your ability to cope and function in everyday life.
Remember that there is no right or wrong therapy, only what works for you, and you may need to try out a few to see which works best. Always ensure your therapist is licensed, qualified to do the work they’re offering and can show you their credentials when asked.
Psychoanalytic therapies focus more on your childhood development and early life experiences to help you understand how you relate to people today. This style of therapy is usually much longer term, with your therapist holding back a bit to give you a lot of space to talk.
Generally, your therapist will give you time and space to talk and explore. They may occasionally reflect back or offer insight. Usually, they’ll be fairly quiet, giving you space to work out what you need through talking.
In long-term psychoanalysis, you may be lying on a couch with your eyes closed with your therapist behind you, but you should be able to choose whatever makes you feel most comfortable and relaxed.
Humanistic therapies – such as person-centred therapy, Gestalt, existential or transactional analysis – are less goal-oriented and usually longer term (but not always). They involve deeper, two-way conversations between you and your therapist, helping you find meaning in your life and relationships, based on the point of view that you’re influenced by the environment around you.
Your therapist will use their skills to help you find insights and answers by reflecting back what you’re saying. They may help you notice connections or sometimes share with you what they’re feeling as you tell them things. It’s a powerful way to feel mirrored and seen.
It may also include raising awareness of your body and you may try some creative exercises.
In hypnotherapy, your therapist will explore goals with you and the techniques they’re going to use, before helping you access a relaxed state and provide positive suggestions to help you deal with stress.
You might feel tired or light-headed afterward, though mostly calmer, but it’s normal if you feel a temporary dip in mood, too. Think of it like a massage when you feel a bit sore or painful directly afterward before the benefits kick in.
You cannot be hypnotised against your will and you’re always in control. Always consult with your doctor first before undergoing hypnotherapy as it isn’t for everyone, especially if you are living with certain psychiatric disorders.
Stress often goes hand in hand with other mental health issues that you may be experiencing. These could be anything from genralised anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, an eating disorder, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Stress accompanies most clinically diagnosed mental health issues purely by how they impact your daily life.
There are many variations on the standard cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to address your specific issue. These include acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), narrative therapy, compassion-focused therapy and, in the case of OCD, exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP).
As for PTSD, the World Health Organisation recommends eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) as the first-choice treatment.
In other words, there will be a therapy out there to help you as you work through your problems.
Katy Georgiou is a verified Welldoing psychotherapist and the author of How to Understand and Deal with Stress