9 Common Types of Therapy – Which is best for you?


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Everyone’s therapeutic journey is different. It is important to explore the various types of therapeutic interventions when choosing a therapist or to discuss with your mental health professional which intervention fits your unique needs. Different counseling approaches often view human development differently, such as where psychological problems originate, and the best ways therapy can help.

Common Types of Therapy 

Common Types of Therapy 

Everyone’s therapeutic journey is different. It is important to explore the various types of therapeutic interventions when choosing a therapist or to discuss with your mental health professional which intervention fits your unique needs. Different counseling approaches often view human development differently, such as where psychological problems originate, and the best ways therapy can help.

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented approach that focuses on the here and now. ACT therapists help clients stop denying and avoiding unwanted emotions, thoughts and life hardships by learning how to focus on accepting them and committing to making the changes necessary to move forward in their life.

Art Therapy

Art Therapy is an expressive and creative treatment that helps people explore their emotions and improve their mental health. A major goal of art therapy is to restore functioning and personal well-being. Art therapists have training in art as well as psychotherapy. Therapists will often have their clients draw, paint, color and use other art mediums to express and explore their feelings. They will then collaboratively explore the client’s artwork and identify and examine the psychological and emotional found in their art.

Brief Psychodynamic Therapy

Brief Psychodynamic Therapy is a short-term therapy that focuses on exploring the unconscious processes to gain insight on how past and present experiences play a significant role in current behaviors. A psychodynamic therapist will help clients explore how current situations are rooted in unresolved conflicts from earlier in your life. A psychodynamic therapist will ask their clients to talk freely about anything that comes to mind, will guide them through exploring their dreams, and will pay close attention to how their personal relationships might be playing out in your therapeutic relationship with them. 

Brief Solution-Focused Therapy (SBFT)

Brief Solution-Focused Therapy (SBFT) is an approach that enables people to build change into their life in the shortest possible time. Solution-focused therapists focus on a particular issue and promote positive change, rather than having the client dwell on the issue or past problems. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is commonly used and is based on the idea that our thoughts and beliefs cause our feelings and reactions. CBT therapists often focus on challenging current or past negative thinking or behaviors. The goal of doing this is to better equip clients to respond to future situations in a healthier way.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that focuses on helping individuals who struggle with managing intense and overwhelming emotions and face behavioral difficulties. DBT is often used for individuals who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have engaged in suicidal behaviors. DBT services are normally a combination of group therapy and individual therapy. DBT therapists assist clients with learning how to live in the here and now, how to develop healthy ways to manage stressors, ways to regulate their emotions, and steps to take to improve relationships with others. 


Existentialism focuses on independence and the ability of individuals to determine their own life. Existentialists believe people are free to choose among alternatives, and thus we are responsible for our lives, actions, and any failure to take action. The primary goals for existential therapy is to increase self-awareness, self-conceptualization and acceptance of responsibilities and failures to improve one’s ability to make meaningful decisions about how to live their life. In short, Existential therapists help clients find their voice, focus on their potential, not what’s making them feel stuck, and overcome anxieties related to isolation and death. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a non-traditional form of talk therapy that is a common and effective approach for addressing trauma. Unlike most talk therapy, EMDR therapists help clients work through painful and unresolved past experiences by addressing the emotions and symptoms, rather than the actual traumatic event. Common techniques require the client to engage in rapid side-to-side eye movement or tapping of their hand as they recall distressing images. EMDR therapists use these desensitization techniques to help clients process their emotions and let them go. 

Person-Centered Therapy

Person-Centered Therapy always focuses on the individual and their unique needs. Person-centered therapists believe that each person has the ability and desire to grow as a person. Person-centered therapists will provide you with empathy, non-judgment, and guidance to help you find your own direction.

Additional Tips when choosing a type of therapy

Additional Tips

  • Many therapists use an eclectic approach and combine multiple approaches based on your specific needs and preferences.
  • Although the type of therapy is important, the main driving force of therapy is the therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist. It is important that your therapist makes you feel safe, respected, and helps you challenge things in a healthy way.
  • Make sure your therapist is a licensed professional or is working under someone who is licensed & providing them with supervision.
  • Oftentimes your campus counseling center will list a brief bio and theoretical approach for their therapist. Take a look and request a therapist you feel connected with. 
  • If you are trying to find a therapist outside your campus consider calling a few therapists and asking for a phone consultation to see if you click prior to scheduling an appointment.
  • Sometimes therapy doesn’t feel like it is helping right away. Stay the course and give yourself time for things to improve. 

Scholarly Sources

Forman EM, Herbert JD, Moitra E, Yeomans PD, Geller PA. A randomized controlled effectiveness trial of acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive therapy for anxiety and depression. Behavior Modification. November 2007;31(6):772-799 

Panos PT, Jackson JW, Hasan O, Panos A. Meta-analysis and systematic review assessing the efficacy of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Research on Social Work Practice. 2014;24(2).

Beck Institute of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved August 27, 2021. https://beckinstitute.org

Acceptance and commitment therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy

Shapiro, F. (2017). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. (3rded.). Guilford Press.

Slayton SC, D’Archer J, Kaplan F. Outcome studies on the efficacy of art therapy: a review of findings. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 22 April 2011; 27(3): 108-118.

Art therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/therapy-types/art-therapy

Eye movement desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/therapy-types/eye-movement-desensitization-and-reprocessing-therapy

Ratner, H., George, E., & Iveson, C. (2012). Solution focused brief Therapy 100 key points and techniques. Hove, East Sussex, NY: Routledge.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 34.) Chapter 7—Brief Psychodynamic Therapy. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64952/

Laengle, Alfried. (2015). Basic principles of existential psychotherapy. 16. 30-35. 

Feizi, M., Kamali, Z., Gholami, M., Abadi, B., & Moeini, S. (2019). The effectiveness of existential psychotherapy on attitude to life and self-flourishing of educated women homemakers. Journal of education and health promotion, 8, 237. https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_473_18

Bauer, G. P., & Kobos, J. C. (1995). Brief therapy: Short-term psychodynamic intervention. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.

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