4 Types of Therapy Explained

Classics like The Sopranos and Frasier frequently described psychiatrists as the “feelings doctor.” Though you may have been taught not to believe what you see on TV, the mega-hits were onto something. Television psychiatrists often start a session with the line, “tell me how you feel.” In real life, using this type of open-ended question can ultimately segue into a productive session. It prompts the patient to open up and gives the psychiatrist a chance to focus the appointment. What the shows don’t typically reveal is that what happens next often depends on the type of therapy the patient is receiving. There are hundreds, but some  popular types of therapy are cognitive behavioral, psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy and family, couples and group therapy. If you or a loved one are looking into therapy, allow this guide to help you choose the best type.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used to reframe negative thinking and unhelpful behavior patterns. Think of CBT as addressing issues that are more current and acutely distressing to the patient, unlike other types of therapy. Panic attacks, obsessive behaviors, depression and low self-esteem are just a few issues that can be addressed in CBT.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a broad term to describe therapy that addresses issues from one’s past, rather than how a current stressor is affecting the patient’s life like CBT. Psychotherapy tends to be a more chronic form of therapy in order to visit deep-seated issues. For example, a patient and therapist may go over problems from one’s childhood and how they may have shaped their current psyche. Sometimes psychotherapy can go on for years, even decades. 

Interpersonal therapy is intended to be an intense but short duration of a few weeks-months that addresses how an individual’s depression or maladaptive communication patterns affect the relationships with other family members or friends. A goal can be to provide communication skills to help foster these interpersonal relationships. 

Family, couples or group therapy explores the dynamic between one or more people in the room. Issues can include child and adolescent behavioral patterns (family therapy), relationship counseling or acute crisis (couples therapy) and addressing some common issues relevant to the group (group therapy). 

There are many people that are licensed to do various types of therapy. Once you speak with a psychiatric provider to help figure out what type of therapy to pursue, you can contact a local psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or clinician to begin treatment.

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is Chief Resident of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.