If you’ve been thinking of getting into therapy, you may not know all your options or may be confused by them. In fact, choosing a therapist and the type of therapy you specifically need may seem like a chore. You may end up postponing therapy, something that can dramatically improve your life.
Therapists and counselors have extensive training in mental health techniques, mental health issues and what interventions to employ based on goals that are determined collaboratively with the client and counselor or therapist.
There are several types of mental health providers and therapies. Knowing the differences can help you understand which type best meets your particular needs. We hope the breakdown below provides more clarity for you.
Types of Therapists and Counselors
If you’re looking for a good therapist, it may be helpful to know what are the types of therapists and counselors available, as well as the differences between the services they provide.
For example, in New York state the most common types of mental health providers are:
- Licensed mental health counselors (MHCs)
- Licensed social workers (MSW or MSW-LCSR)
The educational and training requirements for each may be different in your state, but the definitions below are pretty similar across states.
Mental health counselors and social workers
Mental health counselors and social workers have master’s degrees, and while there is some difference between the two, there is far more overlap.
Psychologists have attained either a doctorate in philosophy or a doctorate in psychology. While psychologists have more extensive training, they are also more expensive and less likely to accept insurance, although they generally work on a sliding scale based on income.
Psychologists are also more difficult to find in less densely populated areas. MHCs and CSWs often work in community mental health clinics, which are more likely to accept a wider variety of insurance, including Medicaid.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized in psychiatry. Along with psychotherapy, they can dispense medication if needed to help with the overall course of therapy.
Most Common Types of Therapy
There are a great many different types of therapies in the field of mental health. They vary widely in approach and certain types have proven to be more effective for certain things.
The first thing you must decide when choosing which type of therapy is right for you is whether you want to seek:
- Individual counseling
- Couples counseling
- Group therapy
- Child or adolescent therapy
- Marriage and family therapy
Once you have made that decision, next you can explore the type (or method) of therapy that suits you best. Once you begin therapy, your therapist may recommend a different method depending on your diagnosis, but this is a good way to start.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
One of the most popular forms of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
This therapeutic approach is typically manualized to some degree, meaning that each session teaches different skills that are built upon over the course of therapy. It teaches the client to be aware of and recognize the patterns of their thoughts and develop coping skills.
CBT is very focused on what is happening in the present and is based on the premise that when we can learn to control negative or distressing thoughts, we can then change our behavior.
Although it is often used with depression and anxiety, it has proven to be effective for a wide range of mental health issues.
One of the main benefits of CBT is that it tends to be “time-limited” in the sense that it isn’t meant to be a long-term therapy. Typical durations range from six to twelve weeks on average. This makes it very appealing to insurance companies and a good choice if your insurance provider only covers a set number of sessions.
One of the other pros of CBT is that there are new versions for different issues, such as trauma-focused CBT and mindfulness-based CBT.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) has gained increasing popularity since its development in the early ’90s.
DBT was designed to treat a particular type of personality disorder, which is a pervasive pattern of behaviors, thoughts and beliefs that color virtually every aspect of the individual’s personality and their patterns of relationships.
DBT is somewhat unique in that it has a strong “mindfulness” component (think relaxation techniques and mediation). It is also designed to help people who tend to think in terms of black and white or good and bad.
Ultimately, the goal is to learn to tolerate good and bad aspects of the self and begin to see things as containing both good and bad elements and tolerate the good and bad in the self as well as others.
DBT is especially effective for borderline personality disorder, trauma history, bipolar disorder, and may be used in the treatment of eating disorders.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is very different from the two previously mentioned approaches.
It examines early life experiences and how certain behavioral and thought patterns as well as relationship patterns learned early in life and helps to develop a deeper insight into why we behave in certain ways. Through this insight, the client learns how to change the thoughts, behaviors and relationship styles that aren’t healthy.
This particular form of therapy tends to be more time-intensive but in many ways it is far more in-depth.
Integrative therapy is a crucial therapy to note, as it combines features of several different therapies as deemed to be what will work best for a particular problem.
Sometimes referred to as an integrated approach or eclectic therapy, integrative therapy is very well suited for creating a tailored approach to the individual’s needs and goals.
There are a host of other therapies out there. Common ones include humanistic therapy, solution-focused therapy, and interpersonal therapy.
Taking up therapy is one of the most important things you can do for improving your health and life overall.
Knowing your options when it comes to therapy is essential for determining the best course of action for your own specific situation.
We hope we’ve helped you with that.
Clinical Psychology PHD Student