7 Different Types of Therapy—and How to Choose the Right One for You
When it comes to therapy, one size definitely doesn’t fit all—although it may seem impossible to differentiate between the many available types of therapy. Because no matter what kind of therapy you seek, it's true that certain therapy practices are standard.
For example, in many modalities of psychotherapy, you can expect to sit across from a therapist, who will ask direct questions to get to the root of what’s bothering you. But rather than having you attempt to figure out solutions on your own while you share your problems (though that does occasionally happen), your therapist may make specific suggestions for new ways to think and behave to help you feel happier and more in control.
“There’s a real emphasis on collaboration between the patient and the therapist,” says Stanley Berman, PhD, a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at William James College, in Newton, Massachusetts.
That said, though many types of therapy may follow a somewhat recognizable blueprint, the specific therapist you choose can also make a difference in your experience. “A good fit between therapist and patient is a strong predictor of success,” says psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Andrew Gerber, MD, PhD, the medical director and CEO of the Austen Riggs Center, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who studies treatment efficacy. You should feel comfortable with your therapist, but you don’t need to be best friends, Dr. Gerber adds.
As a rule of thumb, before booking your first session, always ask a potential therapist if they have experience treating your specific problem. Nothing beats a personal referral, but since many people prefer to keep their therapy experience private, referrals may be hard to get from friends and colleagues. Ask your doctor for a recommendation, or contact your health insurance company for a list of mental health providers in your network. And be ready to make a few calls before finding a match (the process of finding a great therapist for you, specifically, is often compared to dating).
But beyond working with the right person, you need first to figure out the best type of therapy for you—and there are many to choose from. Starting with a therapy method that’s proven to treat the issue you’re dealing with will ultimately increase your odds of getting better. Here's an explainer of the most common and effective types of therapy, and the mental health issues they’re most helpful for.