types of therapy, therapy styles, counseling approaches, counseling modalities

Different Types of Therapy Approaches for Different Issues

So when it comes to therapy, there are several different modalities (or approaches).  Different therapists tend to gravitate to different styles and theories.  Psychoanalytic therapy, for example, is an approach of therapy that focuses more on the subconscious mind and past experiences as a way of better understanding who we are and why we do what we do.  Solution-Focused Therapy, on the other hand, focuses more on the present and future, what's working, what's not working, and goals designed to change thinking and behaviors.  There are many other counseling theories/approaches that I won't get into here today - as I'll be more focused on types of therapy in a more general sense.  If you're looking into working with a therapist, though, it's good to get an idea of the different theoretic orientations (See more about that here) and to understand the approach your potential therapist might take in order to find the best fit for you.  It's not uncommon for therapists to alter their style or to switch between different methods depending on what you might need.  Some therapists consider themselves "eclectic" in this sense - deriving ideas from a broad range of sources.

I personally most often pull from CBT Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (which focuses on the role of our thinking in how we feel and behave), Solution-Focused Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (which uses acceptance and mindfulness based strategies to increase psychological flexibility). Even though I have a pretty solid foundation in these theories, I often adjust my approach depending on the needs of the person in front of me and therapy can look very different from person to person.  Below are some examples of different types of therapy and ways in which therapy might be adapted to make it as individualized as possible.  

  1. Longer-term understanding of self: this type of therapy is less focused on goals and solutions and more focused on understanding yourself.  It's a deep dive that might involve looking at childhood, current and past relationships, behaviors, personality traits, and other things to help people understand themselves.  Even when this isn't the main focus of therapy, there's often at least a little bit of this introspection that takes place in all therapy.  
  2. Short term current issue:  this style of therapy is for people who are dealing with some current issue or crisis that they're not sure how to navigate.  It might be short term in nature because once someone has figured out what to do or how to do it, they might feel ready to move on from therapy.  Some examples include: not being sure what to do about direction of career, difficulty in a relationship (how do I deal with this relationship? Do I stay or do I go? etc), or struggling with a recent transition.  With this type of therapy, we might be more inclined to explore options, pros/cons, and possible implications of any decisions that might need to be made. 
  3. Specific mental health issue with a more directive approach. I often have clients reach out to me because they are struggling with an issue like panic attacks or some other clear-cut mental health diagnosis.  In these cases, therapy might be more straightforward and more directive on my part.  I'll provide some education on what's going on, help you understand what that means, work with you to explore possible causes or underlying reasons, and provide specific strategies and skills for dealing with that issue.  You then go out into the world between sessions and practice those new things you have learned.  Although there will likely be some other exploration going on, it's more focused on what we need to do to treat the issue effectively and to resolve or decrease symptoms.  
  4. Coaching and Accountability.  Some people are less interested in traditional approaches to therapy and are more interested about making changes with some built in accountability.  With this approach, we are likely more focused on creating goals, identifying barriers, and developing a plan with regular check ins.  Mindset might also be a big area of focus.  As we progress from week to week, we take a look at what's working, what's not working, and make adjustments as necessary.  This kind of therapy is appropriate for people who might not necessarily NEED therapy but who know they will benefit from collaboratively working with someone who will help them get unstuck and meet their goals.  
  5. You talk/I actively listen.  Some people come to therapy because they need a place to just talk about their lives and things they are struggling with on a day-to-day basis. They might be less interested in defining specific goals and more interested in just being heard.  When I find that this is what someone is looking for, I'm actively listening, jumping in to provide feedback as necessary or appropriate, sharing observations I see, and reflecting back what I hear. It can be really cathartic to just verbally process thoughts/feelings and some people are able to work out a lot of their own stuff by doing just that.  I might be a little less active in this role but I'm just as engaged and present as I would be with any other type of therapy.

Again, what I've listed here are some broad generalizations about different types of therapy approaches.  To better understand specific psychological counseling theories, click here.  Learning about the different approaches will help you get clear on the type of therapist you want to work with and make you feel better equipped when you're "shopping around".  I always encourage people to do a little bit of research before selecting a therapist.  Read the "about me" sections of their website, google them to see directories they might be listed on (and read their profiles), and ask them questions by phone or email before deciding on one.  

During my first session with people I often ask for preferences as it relates to how I can help best.  Your therapist may or may not ask this, but it's a good idea to let your therapist know if there's something in particular you're looking for.  Want a place to vent?  Hoping to collaboratively work together to find solutions for problems? Wanting to learn specific skills for coping with things like anxiety or depression?  Wanting to better understand and why you operate the way you do?  Wanting to focus more on the past? Or the future?  Are there things from past therapy experiences that have or have not worked well? Let your therapist (or potential therapist) know! This will help them understand how they can help you best.

Looking to start therapy for yourself?  Check out our team of therapists to see if any of them speak to you.  We're happy to take your calls or emails and are able to make ourselves available for a free consultation to answer any questions you might have.  

Float on Counseling is located in the Carrollwood area of Tampa. We are seeing local clients in-person or by secure video sessions - and we offer virtual therapy for anyone physically located anywhere within the state of Florida. Call or text 813-515-9602 or send us a message.  We return all calls and emails!

Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC

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