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How to Choose the Right Type of Therapy for You

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Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC - Blogs
December 16, 2019
From the WebMD Archives

For many, the world of psychotherapy is an unknown, and it may feel foreign and intimidating. If you are considering therapy, you may have lots of questions. One of the most common: Which psychotherapy is best? This is a tough question to answer because it depends on what type of problem(s) you’re dealing with, as well as your personal preference. There are many different types of psychotherapy, but let’s focus our attention on four of the most popular.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is likely the most widely researched form of psychotherapy. It focuses on changing a person’s thoughts in order to change their behavior and emotions. CBT is a more active form of therapy, involving homework assignments, journaling, and role-playing. It is often the preferred form of psychotherapy for many types of mental health disorders.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This form of therapy is a specific type of CBT that was originally developed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder but is also used to treat other mental health disorders as well. This form of therapy is helpful for those who react to emotional situations in a more intense manner and lack effective coping skills. DBT is workbook-based and encompasses four main modules including mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): This form of psychotherapy is considered short-term and focuses on a person’s relationship with others. Since many people with mental health challenges often experience problems in their interpersonal relationships, IPT is often an excellent choice because the goal of this type of therapy is improving and repairing disrupted relationships. IPT is an active, non-judgmental form of psychotherapy that has been found to be effective in the treatment of depression and other mental health disorders.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): The primary goal of ACT is psychological flexibility. Unlike CBT the therapy does not attempt to change thoughts and feelings, but instead, focuses on learning to change your relationship with the experiences of life. ACT teaches that experiences should not be avoided but accepted. The goal is to be less reactive to thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations by learning to be more flexible.

These four types of psychotherapy are a good place to start as you begin to research options to learn more about what is available. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and it only provides a brief description of each. Please take the time to research each in depth as you decide which is best for your particular situation.

Once you decide on a type of psychotherapy, you will need to find a psychotherapist that specializes in that form of treatment. No matter which type of psychotherapy you select, finding a qualified psychotherapist and someone you trust is a critical next step.

As you begin to explore the different types of psychotherapy, I encourage you to approach the task with openness and curiosity. Keep in mind, that we are all unique and each of us must find our own path as we search for the type of psychotherapy that best fits our needs. Practice flexibility as you begin this journey. Your first choice may not be a good fit. No problem – there are many other types of psychotherapies. Take your time, be patient, and you’ll find the psychotherapy that works for you.

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About the Author
Saundra Jain, MA, LPC, PsyD

Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC, is a psychotherapist and Adjunct Clinical Affiliate of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin. She maintains a private practice focused on both wellness and a variety of mental health disorders. She is recognized both nationally and internationally for her work in wellness. Dr. Jain's most recent publication is a workbook entitled WILD 5 Wellness Ancient Practices for Modern Times: A Prescriptive & Proven 90-Day Mental Wellness Program.

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