Types of psychotherapy

All psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors are equipped to support you with challenges such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or trauma, or with life events such as childbirth, divorce, bereavement, or the loss of a job. But there are many different approaches in which qualified therapists specialise.

You certainly don’t need to understand them all. The important thing is to reach out to someone you think might be a good fit.

If you would like to know more about some of the different philosophies and theories of psychotherapy, visit our page about psychotherapy approaches.

 

Individual talking therapy

One-to-one therapy offers a non-judgmental, confidential and safe space for you to reflect on any emotional difficulties with a trained therapist. That might include grief, anxiety, relationship difficulties, addiction or something else.

Exactly how talking therapy works will depend on the approach your therapist specialises in, which could be anything from psychoanalysis to person-centred psychotherapy. It’s useful to consider which approach might appeal to you. But no matter which approach they use, you will be supported to explore your feelings, behaviours and thoughts.

 

Couples therapy

Couples therapy offers a space for people in a relationship to explore and understand their struggles, including everything from recovering from affairs to difficulty handling conflict, whether you feel you’re at a crisis point or you’re looking to maintain a healthy partnership.

You’ll look at how to better communicate and resolve conflict, with a view to making your relationships healthier and more satisfying. If your relationship can’t be saved, the psychotherapist can help you to manage separating in the best way.

 

Family therapy

This therapy is about family relationships. It works from the premise that a problem lies within the family as a whole, rather than with a single person in it.

The focus is on how family members interact in and outside the therapy session. The therapist supports the family to consider their relationships and behaviours, and how they work together.

 

Group therapy

You work with one or more therapists and a small group of other people to help improve your ability to cope with life’s difficulties and problems.

The aim is to encourage the personal development of people in the group. Through specific exercises and talking, you’ll look at your past experiences as well as interactions between group members. The issues you have in your daily life will inevitably be reflected in your interactions in the group.

It might seem intimidating to speak about your thoughts and feelings and issues you may be struggling with in front of a group of people, but your therapist will make sure that everyone is safe and supported. It can be very powerful to share what you have been going through with people who may have had similar experiences, and to know that you aren’t alone.

 

Animal therapy

This is not psychotherapy for animals, but a type of therapy in which animals are used in the therapeutic process to help improve your mood and reduce anxiety.

Animals including horses, dogs, dolphins, fish, birds, rats or hamsters can be used in therapy sessions. Research shows that caring for another being can help to improve your mental health. The lack of judgment, affection and attention from an animal can help someone to form more fulfilling relationships with humans.

 

Art therapy

Art therapy combines talking therapy with exploring thoughts and feelings using paint, chalk, crayons and, sometimes, sculpture.

Art can help you to express your emotions. If you painted a picture, an art therapist might work with you to look at how you have used size, shapes, space, texture, shade, tone and colour. They’d support you to reflect on how these elements reveal how you view the world.

 

Body therapy

This type of therapy is based on the idea that we experience the world both through our thoughts and emotions and also through our bodies.

Body therapists work traditionally by talking through issues and concerns. They might also work with massage, or encourage you to experiment with movement and practice breathing exercises. The aim is to process traumatic or harmful memories which are held in the body.

 

Dance therapy

Dance therapy is an expressive form of psychotherapy that uses movement and dance to help you explore how your mind and body are connected.

The therapist will encourage you to use movement to express how you are feeling, as well as talking with you. The idea is that the movements we make can represent our unconscious processes.

This can be a very powerful experience for people who don’t feel positively about their body or are detached from it and those who struggle to verbally express themselves. This therapy can be used for both individuals and groups. You don’t have to be a dancer to try it.

 

Drama therapy

Drama therapy uses theatrical techniques to help you explore alternative ways of acting in the world.

You might use role-play, games, mime, puppetry, storytelling and other improvised techniques. This helps develop creativity, imagination, learning, insight and personal growth.

Drama therapy can take place in lots of different settings including hospitals, schools, mental health centres, prisons and businesses.

 

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)

EMDR therapy is for reprocessing distressing life experiences. You’ll look at past events, current triggers and what you need in the future.

While you are asked to recall a traumatic memory, an EMDR therapist uses hand tapping, eye movements or sound to help you connect it with different insights, memories and emotions. The idea is to unblock the disturbing event in your memory, relieve distress, reframe negative beliefs and reduce physical symptoms.

 

Hypnosis

Hypno-psychotherapy uses hypnosis to induce a deep state of heightened relaxation and altered awareness. In this state, the unconscious mind is receptive to alternative perspectives and ideas.

The therapist guides you into a hypnotic or trancelike state using specific exercises or words. This makes it easier to discuss memories, gain insight and alter your behaviour.

 

Nature therapy

Nature therapy normally happens outdoors and encourages you to explore your relationship with nature.

You might have your one to one therapy session in a park or do some gardening in a group. Increasing awareness of the natural world can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and anger.

 

Play therapy

Play therapy helps children to use play to process what they may find difficult to put into words.

The aim is to help children develop ways to cope and feel better about themselves. The therapist will use materials including toys, sand, musical instruments and puppets to help the child express difficult thoughts and feelings through play.

Play therapy can be especially helpful for children with low self-esteem and confidence issues and behavioural problems, or children who are very angry, fearful or worried and may have been through difficult experiences.

 

Therapy that uses worksheets, journaling, or written exercises

Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and journal therapy include written exercises which help you to examine your thoughts and look at how they affect your feelings and behaviour.

In CBT, your therapist might ask you to do some exercises to understand how you can change your thought patterns. In journal therapy, you are supported by a therapist to write down, talk through and analyse your issues and concerns. 

 

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