Our at-a-glance guide to the types of talking treatments for mental health problems.
Psychoanalytic – it was the first practice to be called a psychotherapy. It encourages the verbalisation of all the patient’s thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst formulates the nature of the unconscious conflicts which are causing the patient’s symptoms and character problems.
Behaviour Therapy/applied behaviour analysis focuses on changing maladaptive patterns of behaviour to improve emotional responses, cognitions, and interactions with others.
Cognitive behavioural – generally seeks to identify maladaptive cognition, appraisal, beliefs and reactions with the aim of influencing destructive negative emotions and problematic dysfunctional behaviours.
Psychodynamic – is a form of depth psychology, whose primary focus is to reveal the unconscious content of a client’s psyche to alleviate psychic tension. Although its roots are in psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy tends to be briefer and less intensive than traditional psychoanalysis.
Existential – is based on the existential belief that human beings are alone in the world. This isolation leads to feelings of meaninglessness, which can be overcome only by creating one’s own values and meanings. Existential therapy is philosophically associated with phenomenology.
Humanistic – emerged in reaction to both behaviourism and psychoanalysis and is therefore known as the Third Force in the development of psychology. It is explicitly concerned with the human context of the development of the individual with an emphasis on subjective meaning, a rejection of determinism, and a concern for positive growth rather than pathology. It posits an inherent human capacity to maximise potential, ‘the self-actualising tendency’. The task of Humanistic therapy is to create a relational environment where this tendency might flourish. Humanistic psychology is philosophically rooted in existentialism.
Brief – “Brief therapy” is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches to psychotherapy. It differs from other schools of therapy in that it emphasises (1) a focus on a specific problem and (2) direct intervention. It is solution-based rather than problem oriented. It is less concerned with how a problem arose than with the current factors sustaining it and preventing change.
Systemic – seeks to address people not at an individual level, as is often the focus of other forms of therapy, but as people in relationship, dealing with the interactions of groups, their patterns and dynamics (includes family therapy & marriage counselling). Community psychology is a type of systemic psychology.
Transpersonal – Addresses the client in the context of a spiritual understanding of consciousness.