What Types of Approaches May Be Used in Therapy?

Therapy is a space for you to learn more about yourself and make sense of your experiences. Many people with addictions and/or mental illnesses – even just regular, everyday problems – benefit from therapy because it allows them to take a step back and gain perspective on issues that may seem to overwhelm them. If you’re currently in therapy, you’ve taken the first step towards improving your mental health – which can ultimately improve your happiness and well-being. There are many types of approaches that can be used in therapy, and the approach used often serves as your therapist’s roadmap for getting to understand you better.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has noted 5 broad categories of approaches used in therapy:


  • Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies: With this type of approach, your therapist may try to understand underlying problems as well as hidden motivations and meaning that may be lurking around in your subconscious. You will likely feel in partnership with your therapist, giving you time to ask them questions and bounce of ideas throughout your discovery.
  • Behavior therapy: This type of approach relies on a person’s individual learning capabilities to help them develop certain desirable patterns of behavior – examples of this include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and desensitization.
  • Cognitive therapy: This approach truly focuses more on a person’s pattern of thinking rather than their behaviors; with this, your therapist may work with you to help you identify ways of thinking that are causing dysfunction in your life so that you may change them over time.
  • Humanistic therapy: An emphasis is placed on a person’s ability to make rational choices and utilize their potential; with this type of therapy approach, your therapist may focus on placing the control and decision-making in your hands, as they may believe that as a client, you are in charge of your own recovery essentially. Examples of this include gestalt therapy and existential therapy.
  • Holistic therapy: Many therapists who utilize this approach prefer to integrate a variety of elements from different approaches to suit that of the client. With this, you may work with your therapist to see what is most conducive to your recovery.


Although there are many different approaches that can be used in therapy, they all can be very effective if used correctly. If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from reputable treatment center to learn more about therapy approaches and which program may be most beneficial to you.

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