Types of Mental Health Therapy

types of therapy, types of mental health therapy

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Types of Therapy

Note: This is not intended to replace therapy or engage in a therapeutic relationship of any kind.  Find a professional to consult with about these therapies and what might work best for you and your circumstances.  Find our disclaimer below.

Different types of therapy?  Types of mental health therapy?  You ask this question because you are not sure what therapy is best suited for you and your concerns for mental health.  Or, you could be asking these questions because you are looking for study materials for your future career in therapy.  There will be a focus on these questions from the viewpoint of a potential client seeking out advice and for those who have taken an interest in the wonderful world of the human mind and its intricate ways. 

Let’s focus on some basics to answer the basic question of different types of therapy.  Sigmund Freud is considered the father of psychology.  However, others may argue this was not the beginning of trying to understand the human mind.  Religious texts of various kinds touch on the idea of a connection between mental state and mood.  However, there are more hints toward this connection.  Additionally, the idea of these religious texts making such connections is only an example.  As a matter of fact, a reported cure for mental illness 7000 years ago was called trepidation.  Sigmund Freud began his work on the human mind by observing himself. 

By watching and observing inner turmoil, Freud was able to begin to have an understanding of mental health.  He is known for analyzing his dreams and free association.  He began the ball rolling for the future of different types of mental health therapy.  Yet, in particular, Freud began a form of therapy called psychoanalysis. Different types of therapy have been formed over the last couple hundred years due to Freud taking the steps he did and asking the right questions.  

Okay! Now that the introduction has been completed.  There are reportedly about 500 plus different types of therapy, modalities found in the world.  This number is taken from study material I used to take my state exam written by Howard Rosenthal.  I know what you are thinking, “how in the world am I supposed to choose just one?”  Whether you are a future client or future therapist this can feel overwhelming. 

How to Choose Different Types of Mental Health Therapy for You?

I am seeking therapy.

For some self-disclosure.  Before I sought out a career in mental health therapy, I remember being in your position.  One of the biggest concerns I had was which therapy I needed.  I remember being limited by the type of insurance I had and the size of my wallet.  I hope to clear a few things up about different types of therapy to choose from.  

Okay, getting back to Freud.  He started the ball rolling on different types of therapy and types of mental health therapy.  He started psychodynamic therapy, and this is considered a category of therapy for our purposes.  In the category of psychodynamic therapy, there are different versions and kinds of therapy, but overall, it is found in this category.  For instance, other therapies found in psychodynamic therapy are Jungian, Adlerian, and Otto Rank.  Therefore, this category of therapy, psychoanalysis, has a small group of therapies begun by psychologists with their different flavors of how the mind works.  Some had similar or overlapping theories, but usually, they did not completely agree at certain points.  

Regardless,  how does this information help you?  Understanding there are different categories helps me explain different types of therapy.  These are different categories of different categories of therapy with explanations.  However, keep in mind these are quick examples and barely encompass what these therapies have to offer.  Additionally, this is by no means a comprehensive list of therapies but rather some of the more common ones used. 

Different Kinds of Therapy

Psychoanalysis:  A category of therapies focused on the idea of mental health being targeted in the unconscious mind.  Rather,  the human mind has a part that has information not within the grasp of our awareness as we are awake, so to speak, and it is this information that decides our emotional state.

Is this for me?  Psychoanalytic therapy is considered talk therapy.  Freud uses techniques like dream analysis and free association.  Additionally, there are other techniques from Jung and others that are used for one essential goal.  To bring the unconscious to the conscious mind.  How is this helpful?  Well, having an understanding of our hidden emotional drives that lead to emotions or emotional drives that are a result of emotions can be helpful and bring us to a state of noticing and not ignoring the emotions.  

These questions might help.  “Do I not pay attention to my emotional state?”  “Do I understand emotions?”  “Can I sit quietly with my own thoughts?”  If you answered no to these questions, you may benefit from this kind of therapy.  Additionally, these questions might help.  “ I prefer to talk about my problems with others?”  “ I may want to understand my emotions?”   “Do I want to feel peace internally?”  If you answered yes to these questions, psychoanalysis might be an option for you.  Psychoanalysis, in my mind, was not an option when considering different types of therapy.  


Behavioral Therapy:  Behavioral therapy is an interesting option.  In my opinion, every therapy has its purpose.  Behavioral therapy focuses on outside factors that encourage our current behavior.  Rather, outside factors encourage our habits.  Behavioral therapy was started by Pavlov and his dogs.  If you have not heard about Pavlov and conditioning, click here to learn more.  The focus for this therapy is to consider what may be rewarding your behaviors and change them.  Or, you may need to look at what is not rewarding good behavior and change the negative reward to encourage good behavior.

The way it’s stated here causes this to sound simple and easy.  However, allow me to reassure you.  There is a reason an entire therapy is devoted to this concept.  

Is this for me? This therapy does not necessarily consider emotion as the most important factor but rather gets straight to the problem and how to resolve that problem.  Therefore, if you are interested in getting to the meat of the problem and don’t really work off emotions, this could be a good start for you in therapy.  Behavioral therapy, in my opinion, can be useful for autism disorders. Also, in my opinion, behavioral therapy can be good for those who have learning disabilities.  Regardless, as a parent learning this for their children or you seeking this to stop certain behaviors within you, this can be a good option but does require action and homework outside of sessions in most cases.


Humanistic Therapy:  I had to think about whether to add this to the list of different types of mental health therapy.  Humanistic therapy is a therapy that should be considered when thinking of different types of mental health therapy.  In the psychology profession, humanistic therapy is generally considered more of a way to do therapy and not really a therapy.  Rather, insurance companies don’t usually pay for this kind of therapy.  However, humanistic therapy is something to be used conjointly with any therapy.  

A therapist who follows this ideal in therapy usually listens and has a whole belief that others are inherently good and want to be good.  This method is about completely accepting the person and who they are.  If you struggle with feeling like a victim, it may be best to focus on this ideal for the time being.  I am not singling out those who feel like they are a victim.  Rather, I intended this as a simple example.  For those who feel they are sensitive to what others say, it may be helpful to seek out a therapist who has a humanistic approach.  For example, behavioral therapy is not considered to have a humanistic approach by some, but it can be added if done correctly.

Psychosocial Therapy:  Psychosocial therapy has a humanistic approach to it.  This category of different kinds of therapy has a focus on interactions with social settings.  Rather, psychosocial therapy focuses on helping you be stronger in your society or social environment.  Cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, problem-solving therapy, and others.  Additionally, others consider psychodynamic therapy to be psychosocial therapy.  

A therapy approach for psychosocial therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  This approach is more commonly in use and is a great one to add for consideration of different types of therapy.  CBT is an approach to looking at how we think about a situation or event that influences how we feel.  Every event or situation has an underlying irrational belief, a belief we have that is not true, and this irrational belief causes us to feel bad about ourselves.  The goal is to change the irrational belief to a more positive functioning belief to help us feel better about the event or situation.  In my opinion, CBT can be useful for anyone who is considered able to be social and does not have a cognitive impairment.

Is this for me?  Do I get upset in similar situations every time with a similar feeling?  I feel bothered around the same set of people.  I may feel bothered by my ability to do things.  Do I feel alone and not understand why?  You can ask almost any question about situations or events that are of concern, and if you answer yes to a disturbance, then CBT may be helpful to you. 


Art Therapy:  Art therapy is definitely a different type of therapy.  But in a good way.  There is a lot that goes into this therapy in practice.  However, simply stated, art therapy is a therapy good for those who don’t like to express their feelings in words or those who cannot express their feelings in words.  A basic example is children with feelings best expressed with action, not words.  If you have ever been in a position where you have said to another, words cannot express how you feel.  Art therapy may be right for you. 


Play Therapy: Play therapy is a wonderful tool for kids.  Like art therapy, play therapy is a great way to provide therapy to those who struggle to express their emotions.  Or, in this case, for those who are not able to.  Yes, some children are able to express themselves emotionally in a healthy way with words.  However, it’s more natural for a child to use play.  Types of mental health therapy vary greatly with people who are able to use this therapy.  Regardless of how strange this may sound, here is the truth.  Play therapy is used for any age range.  However, children utilize this the best due to their natural tendency to use toys as words and play as their language.  

Is this for me?  If you have a child part of you that feels it needs something, play therapy may be for you.  If you have a preteen or younger who enjoys playing with toys, puppets, dolls, or similar, then play therapy may be for you.  


Sand Tray Therapy:  The question of different types of therapy brings us to the sand tray.  Sand tray is unique.  Although sand tray, in a way, is like play therapy, it’s not.  However, it may still be accurate to say sand tray therapy is like bringing play therapy to teens and adults.  Like, play therapy and art therapy.  Sand trays can help uncover what is not in conscious awareness by expressing it in the sand.  Rather, this is a great way to express what we struggle to say or are not able to say, even for adults.  If you have questions similar to art therapy and play therapy but feel it’s not for you, then sand tray may be for you. 


Family Therapy:  We can not forget family therapy and couples therapy.  Whether you are seeking therapy for family or couples, the therapy will be the same.  Family therapy is a category in this post due to how many different types of therapy there are.  For instance, Adlerian family therapy, strategic therapy, systemic therapy, transgenerational therapy, communications therapy, and relationship counseling are only a few.  Unfortunately, the extent of how many different family therapies there are is too much for this post.  Regardless, if you are interested in couples or family therapy, I strongly suggest you check out this website for more information.  


EGO-State Therapy: Ego-state therapy is an interesting beast.  This uses psychoanalysis approaches by looking into different parts of the self.  For example, there are different parts within ourselves: child, adult, brother, sister, father, mother, and more.  These different parts have different desires and wishes, and some are not fulfilled.  Approaches of family therapy and group therapy are intermingled with this to bring these parts together to make your authentic self.

Is this for me?  This approach is a kind of talk therapy directed at getting in touch of neglected emotional parts of yourself.  If you answer yes to any of these questions, EGO state therapy may be good for you.  “I struggle to understand myself?”  “Do I struggle to focus on how I feel?” “Do parts of myself feel unfulfilled?”  “ I may struggle to find a time when I feel more than content?”


EMDR: EMDR is a therapy focused on targeting current today triggers you have and connecting past experiences driving those triggers today from the past.  When these past events are gathered in a basket, they can be observed as trauma experiences.  EMDR will then focus on each experience one at a time and use a process of REM sleep while you are awake to activate both sides of your brain to reprocess the above-gathered traumatic experience.  Theoretically, your current trigger is no more.  EMDR encompasses CBT with a measure of exposure therapy and change of thought processing.  EMDR also has psychoeducation, emotional insight, and other factors of therapy.  It’s said that EMDR is a whole therapy.

There you have it for different kinds of therapy.  There are a number of therapies out there, and this is not an extensive list.  This list of types of mental health therapy should be considered at the start of your journey.  I would google each therapy you may find yourself interested in and find out as much as you can.  


Professionally Reviewed by:
Abraham Hudson, Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC)
Graduated from Johns Hopkins University, School of Education, May 2018
Active Mental Health Therapist with Trauma, Anxiety, & Depression since 2018