7 types of therapy (and how they could help you)

    Talking therapy - young man talking to male therapist
    Published: 9 May 2022. Written by: Hattie Parish

    Did you know there are many types of therapy, suitable for a range of issues and life circumstances? Here’s why therapy can be beneficial for anybody.

    From anger and addiction to stress and trauma, therapy can help us with many difficult issues, experiences and behaviours. ‘I strongly believe everyone can benefit from therapy,’ says Jo Love, Mental Health Advocate and Author of Therapy Is… Magic. 

    Love says there are many reasons why someone might seek therapy, whether that’s down to a mental health condition or because they’re going through a tough period – all are normal and valid. ‘Often people try therapy as they want help resolving a particular issue, but equally, it can be about having a regular time and place to prioritise your wellbeing.’

    Each year in England, one in four people experience a mental health problem of some kind, while life events like bereavement, divorce or work pressures can trigger unmanageable stress. Clearly there’s a need for therapy, yet figures suggest only 37% of those experiencing common mental health problems seek treatment. So why are so many of us hesitant?

    Tackling the stigma

    While attitudes towards mental health issues are improving, there are still lingering prejudices – particularly when it comes to seeking help. ‘Shame is a primary barrier to therapy,’ says Psychotherapist and Counsellor Maggie Morrow. ‘It’s about self-esteem – we want to be able to solve things ourselves.’

    Some fear that visiting a therapist somehow paints them as weak. But ‘talking to a mental health professional doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you,’ stresses Love. ‘It takes strength to admit you don’t have all the answers and might benefit from some support.’ 

    Any negative judgements surrounding therapy usually stem from a lack of understanding – fortunately, that’s something you won’t be met with at your appointment. ‘A therapist will hear your story with empathy and without judgement,’ says Belinda Sidhu, Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing at Vitality. ‘They provide a safe, contained space for you to explore and process challenging, sometimes upsetting, thoughts and feelings, and develop better strategies to cope.’

    Other barriers to therapy

    Busy lifestyles can get in the way, and we might feel we just don’t have time for therapy. However, ‘one thing the pandemic showed us is that therapy can be done virtually,’ says Sidhu. Cut out travel times and fitting in a session may feel more doable.

    Making space for therapy in itself can stop things feeling so hectic. ‘I’ve found that, rather than increasing the overwhelm, therapy actually helps to lessen it,’ adds Love.

    Vitality health insurance includes eight online or face-to-face Talking Therapy sessions each plan year. There are several options, including counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Find out more about Vitality’s talking therapy options.

    Different types of therapy: which is best for me?

    There are many types of therapy that can be beneficial. ‘None of them is better than the other,’ says Morrow. ‘They’ve all got useful elements, so I’d advise looking for a therapist who has several types in their toolkit.’

    What’s important to note is that ‘talking’ is part of the majority of therapy, and can be one of the most beneficial and rewarding ways to deal with whatever it is you might be going through. This Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 the theme is loneliness, something which can exacerbate existing mental health illnesses or cause depression and anxiety to heighten. Talking is one of the most effective ways to open up about mental health, and therapy is steeped in the practice of opening up and talking.

    These are just some of the different types of therapy your therapist might have working knowledge of. 

    1. Cognitive behavioural therapy

    Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you explore the ways you think, feel and behave, with the aim of identifying any unhelpful patterns. The idea is by changing these automatic negative patterns, you can manage your problems better. 

    ‘CBT focuses on helping people with triggers in the here and now,’ says Morrow. ‘It doesn’t look at the history of habits and how they developed, so the effects may not last long if CBT isn’t combined with another therapy. But for many it is enough.’

    Suitable for: depression, anxiety, stress, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders.

    2. Somatic therapy

    Somatic therapy aims to ease feelings of being trapped by physical and emotional stress through mind-body exercises. It focuses on noticing physical sensations in the body alongside talking, and can incorporate elements like meditation and breathwork. In particular, it’s believed to release pent-up trauma. ‘This is a relatively new type of therapy, and I would say essential for someone with severe or complex trauma,’ says Morrow. ‘It can help clients faster and in a less overwhelming way than traditional therapies.’

    Suitable for: trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, grief, abuse, relationship problems.

    3. Psychodynamic therapy

    Derived from psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy emphasises the link between past experience and current behaviour. ‘Psychodynamic therapy has a process element,’ says Morrow. ‘It looks at tenets from childhood and past relationships and how we project those onto our present day life. However, it can fall short in helping us develop strategies for proactive change, so may be better combined with CBT.’

    Suitable for: depression, anxiety, relationship problems.

    4. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

    Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) involves becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings as they happen, using mindfulness techniques like meditation and breathing exercises alongside cognitive therapy. ‘It can be combined with acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT,’ says Morrow. ‘This helps people learn to tolerate the intensity of their emotions, anxiety or depression, rather than react to them, then brings in aspects of CBT for the action part.’  

    Suitable for: depression, anxiety, stress, mood disorders.

    5. Systemic therapy

    Sometimes used as a generic term for family or couples therapy, systemic therapies explore ‘transactional’ patterns in relationships. ‘It helps people understand how they operate within their family systems, and how the patterns they learnt in past family dynamics can be projected onto the present,’ says Morrow. 

    Suitable for: family issues, relationships, couples, business counselling.

    6. Humanistic therapy

    Humanistic therapies encourage self-reflection and taking responsibility for your own thoughts and actions, so you can move towards reaching your full potential.

    Approaches include Gestalt therapy (where you focus on your immediate thoughts and feelings to understand how you relate to others), person-centred therapy (where a counsellor offers empathy and acceptance to help you become your ‘true self’), and transactional analysis (which explores our common patterns of communication). 

    ‘Therapies like this can help clients be proactive in creating change,’ says Morrow.

    Suitable for: anxiety, depression, stress, addiction, self-esteem, relationship problems, trauma.

    7. Integrative therapy

    Integrative psychotherapy is just that – an integration of many therapeutic approaches. Your therapist will ideally have experience and training in a range of therapies and can create a tailored treatment plan for you, drawing from different aspects. 

    ‘When therapists are integrated they can provide a range of approaches, and the client is often served better,’ says Morrow. ‘Science shows it’s not one therapy that makes the difference. What really leads to success in therapy is the connection you make with the therapist, and the range of skills the therapist has to help you facilitate change.’