A Guide to Choosing The Right Therapy Modality for You (Part 2)


When entering into therapy, each session will be different depending on your therapist’s chosen techniques and the problems you hope to work on. Expect to spend some time talking about how difficult circumstances, feelings, and behaviours impact your life. Some therapies stay focused on the present while others delve into past experiences, relationships, and traumas to make sense of why you think and behave as you do today. This may even involve processing some upsetting memories or thoughts, which can be a difficult endeavour. Sometimes even, it is not uncommon for you to feel worse, before you begin to feel better.  

However, by choosing a clinician you trust, you can be assured that your therapist is skilled enough to only push you as far as you can go comfortably and can provide you with the tools necessary to overcome difficult processes. Some therapy types stick with more didactic approaches of education and skill development.  Others believe that getting to the root of pain and trauma is necessary for healing.  Though at times it may be upsetting or uncomfortable in the moment to look at our own failings or the failings of others around us, the end goal is to lead a more content, fulfilling life with greater choice of how to move forward.  A good therapist will work with you compassionately, validating your concerns and encouraging your growth through a path that may be tough, but you should feel safe and trust in that relationship as you go forward.

To help your understanding of the various different treatment types available, we wanted to give you some basic synopses of some of the more commonly offered therapy treatments. Each treatment type has depth far beyond what can be summed up in a paragraph, so do continue to seek collaborative guidance from your Psychologist to make sense of the treatment types most appropriate for you and your goals.  

We have spit this up into 5 parts:

  • Part 1: Active Therapies for Developing Tools and Coping Skills for the Present
  • Part 2: Therapies Based on Looking Back into the Past
  • Part 3: Therapies focused on dealing with identified traumas
  • Part 4: Treatments focused on the the use of the Therapeutic Relationship to Heal
  • Part 5: Common Additional Treatment Types for Specific Conditions or Goals

Part 1: Active Therapies for Developing Tools and Coping Skills for the Present

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Also known as CBT)
    The foundation of CBT is the idea that your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and behaviours are interconnected and that negative thoughts can keep you stuck in negative patterns. The CBT triad focuses on the two-way interaction between thoughts, emotions, and behaviour, and how each influences the others. CBT can be beneficial for the treatment of various psychiatric disorders such as mood disorders, anxieties, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, PTSD, panic disorders, psychosis, schizophrenia, sleep problems and addiction issues. Furthermore, it can also be used to treat long term health conditions such as IBS, chronic fatigue and chronic pain.
  • “New Wave” CBT
    New-wave cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) refers to a development in the field of cognitive behavioural therapy that encompasses a more contemporary, innovative, and broad approach to treating mental health conditions. New-wave CBT includes techniques and interventions that build on traditional CBT, but also incorporates new ideas, perspectives, and strategies.
  • Types of “New Wave” CBT
    • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (also known as ACT): ACT is an action-focused method of therapy that has roots in both cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness-based practices. Clients learn to recognize that their deeper emotions are normal reactions to certain circumstances and shouldn’t stand in the way of them being there and then moving on, rather than ignoring, denying, and struggling with them. With this comprehension, clients start to embrace their struggles and resolve to adjust their behaviours to aim for value-based living, regardless of what is happening in their lives or how they feel about it.
    • Compassion Focused Therapy: Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a therapeutic approach which tries to support people who suffer shame, blame and self-criticism, often as a result of early experiences of abuse or neglect or misattunement with early caregivers. It emphasises the cultivation of self-compassion, empathy, and compassion towards others. The goal of CFT is to help individuals develop a more compassionate and kind relationship with themselves and others. Aiming to encourage healing through encouraging compassion to both the self, and to others. CFT draws on principles from evolutionary psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy, and Buddhist psychology, and incorporates mindfulness and visualisation practices. It is often used to treat depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma-related disorders.
    • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: DBT is a form of new-wave CBT that prioritises  tolerating emotional distress.  It is a highly structured, evidence-based approach that is based on the idea that individuals can experience intense and conflicting emotions, and that these emotions can lead to problematic behaviours and relationships. The therapy uses individual or group therapy sessions to help individuals develop skills for regulating their emotions, improving their relationships, and reducing the impact of negative thoughts and behaviours.  It incorporates both mindfulness and cognitive behavioural techniques highlighting four key skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.  DBT is often used to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder, as well as those with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
    • Mindfulness Based therapy: Interventions based on mindfulness, or mindfulness-based therapy treatments, advocate the practice as a crucial component of optimal physical and mental health. Some mindfulness-based methods now used in therapy include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness-based interventions, whether provided individually or in a group setting, are created to intentionally direct a person’s attention on the current experience in a way that is non-judgmental. These interventions may be helpful to those seeking therapy for a variety of difficulties.
  • Positive Psychology
    Positive psychology focuses on the study of human strengths, virtues, and positive emotions. Unlike traditional psychology, which has tended to focus on mental illness and dysfunction, positive psychology aims to understand and promote well-being and happiness. Positive psychology studies factors that contribute to a fulfilling life, such as resilience, gratitude, purpose, and positive relationships. 

The field also explores interventions and strategies that can help individuals to enhance their well-being and develop their strengths. Some of the key practices and interventions in positive psychology include gratitude journaling, mindfulness, building positive relationships, and practising acts of kindness. The field also explores the role of positive emotions, such as happiness and contentment, in overall well-being.

Part 2: Therapies Based on Looking Back into the Past

  • Psychodynamic Therapy
    Psychodynamic therapy is based on the idea that unconscious thoughts, feelings, and experiences from early life and childhood can influence current behaviour and emotional experiences. The therapy aims to bring these unconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface, where they can be understood and processed. It aims to help individuals understand and resolve unconscious conflicts and emotions that may be affecting their current behaviour and relationships.The focus of this type of work tends to look at early attachments, early self-development, primal drives and conflicts to manage these, psychological defences, and early unmet needs and traumas. 

Its defining characteristics include open discussion, self-reflection, self-examination, and the utilisation of the therapeutic relationship as a window into the patient’s subconscious patterns and attachment style.  This treatment tends to be longer-term work and can be highly intense with a focus less on providing active tools for coping but greater fundamental understanding and healing from previous experiences or traumas.  

  • Types of psychodynamic therapy
    • Psychoanalysis: The original form of psychodynamic therapy, developed by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis is a long-term therapy that aims to help individuals gain insight into their unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
    • Object Relations Theory: This approach focuses on the ways in which individuals relate to others and the world around them. Object relations therapy aims to help individuals understand the unconscious patterns of relating that developed in childhood and continue to influence their present relationships.
    • Self Psychology: Developed by Heinz Kohut, this approach focuses on the individual’s self-concept and the need for self-esteem and recognition. Self psychology therapy aims to help individuals develop a more positive sense of self and improve their relationships with others.
    • Interpersonal Psychotherapy: This approach focuses on the individual’s current relationships and social interactions, and aims to improve communication and interpersonal skills.
    • Supportive-Expressive Psychotherapy: This approach combines supportive and expressive techniques to help individuals gain insight into their emotions and behaviours, and to build resilience and coping skills.
  • Schema Therapy
    Schema therapy (ST) is an integrative method that combines components of Gestalt and experiential therapies, attachment and object relations theories, and cognitive behavioural therapy. In schema therapy, you’ll collaborate with a therapist to identify and comprehend your early maladaptive schemas (unhelpful thought patterns we can develop when we are young). The theory is that if specific troublesome schemas aren’t identified, they can have an impact on the way you view yourself and the world around you for the rest of your life, contributing to unhealthy interactions, coping mechanisms and behaviours that create cyclical distress rather than adaptive functioning.
  • Internal Family Systems 

Internal Family Systems (IFS) was developed by Richard Schwartz in the 1990s. It is based on the idea that individuals have different “parts” or sub-personalities within themselves, each with its own unique emotions, beliefs, and behaviours.  IFS proposes that individuals have an innate capacity for healing and growth, and that this capacity can be accessed by exploring and understanding their internal parts. Through the therapeutic process of working with these parts, individuals can learn to understand their internal conflicts and restore balance and harmony to their inner world. The IFS model emphasizes the importance of developing a compassionate and curious attitude toward one’s internal experience, and encourages individuals to explore their parts with an attitude of openness and non-judgment. The goal of IFS therapy is to help individuals integrate their parts and create a more cohesive sense of self.

  • The Hoffman Process
    The Hoffman Process was developed by Bob Hoffman, a British psychotherapist, and is a form of intensive, residential therapy that combines elements of psychodynamic, humanistic, and spiritual approaches. It is a week-long program that takes place in a retreat setting and aims to help individuals understand and transform their unconscious patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaviour.

It is based on the idea that individuals have unconscious emotional and psychological wounds that interfere with their ability to lead fulfilling and authentic lives. Through a combination of group therapy, individual therapy, and experiential exercises, the Hoffman Process aims to help individuals understand and heal these wounds, and to develop greater self-awareness and self-acceptance. The goal of the Hoffman Process is to help individuals break free from limiting beliefs and behaviours, and to develop greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and emotional resilience.

Part 3: Therapies focused on dealing with identified traumas

  • Trauma-Informed treatment
    Trauma-informed therapy takes into account the influence that clients’ trauma has had on their behaviour, mental health, and capacity to participate in therapy. Trauma-informed therapists make the assumption that a client may have experienced trauma in the past and take precautions to prevent unintentionally triggering or re-traumatizing the client during therapy.  Often there is the use of bodywork and somatic experiencing to help engage with how the body holds on to and processes trauma.  Breathing techniques or Polyvagal theory are often used, sometimes in combination with aspects of other treatment approaches for reprocessing early memories, cognitive distortions, attachment issues, defences, etc.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapeutic treatment which was designed to decrease the distress experienced in association with traumatic memories. During EMDR, the client will typically attend to material that would disturb them emotionally, whilst focusing on an external stimulus; this is typically therapist directed eye movement (hence the name), but tapping or audio stimulation are also sometimes used. The idea is that the movement between the internal and external can help the brain access fixed traumatic memories so that they can be processed and settled more effectively.  
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
    Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is a type of behavioural therapy that is used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions. PE is based on the principle of exposure therapy, which seeks to reduce the impact of trauma-related memories by gradually exposing individuals to the source of their trauma in a controlled and safe environment. It is a highly structured and evidence-based approach that typically involves several stages, including assessment, education, skill-building, and exposure exercises. 

The therapy may involve individual or group therapy sessions.  In PE, individuals are asked to recall and describe their traumatic experience in detail, and to confront and engage with traumatic triggers such as reminders of the trauma. The goal of this exposure is to reduce the anxiety associated with the trauma, and to help individuals develop new coping strategies and perspectives.  PE has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD, and has been found to reduce symptoms such as avoidance, intrusive thoughts, and hyperarousal.

  • Somatic Experiencing
    Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a type of therapy that aims to help individuals process and heal from traumatic stress. The approach is based on the idea that traumatic stress can get stored in the body, leading to physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms.  SE aims to help individuals access and discharge the accumulated energy stored in the body as a result of trauma, and to promote resilience and stability. The therapy involves a focus on the body, and encourages individuals to tune into their physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts.  SE is a gentle and non-invasive approach that emphasises a gradual and respectful pace, and seeks to empower individuals to access their inner resources for healing and self-regulation. The therapy aims to help individuals develop a greater sense of self-awareness, connection, and competence, and to promote healing and recovery from trauma.
  • Trauma-Informed CBT
    Trauma-Informed CBT recognizes that individuals who have experienced trauma may have difficulties with trust, safety, and regulation, and that traditional CBT techniques may not be suitable for these individuals. Instead, the approach seeks to create a safe and non-threatening therapeutic environment, where individuals feel supported and empowered to work through their trauma and related symptoms. Trauma-Informed CBT is typically delivered in a collaborative and client-centred manner, and incorporates techniques from trauma-focused therapies such as exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) sometimes.

The goal of the therapy is to help individuals understand the impact of their trauma on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and to develop new coping strategies and perspectives to support their recovery.  It is an approach to therapy that incorporates the principles and practices of CBT with an understanding of the impact of trauma on individuals and their mental health.

Part 4: Treatments focused on the the use of the Therapeutic Relationship to Heal

  • Humanistic Therapy
    Humanistic therapies are a group of psychotherapeutic approaches that focus on the individual’s subjective experience, personal growth, and self-actualization. These therapies are characterised by a non-judgmental and empathetic therapeutic relationship that aims to help individuals gain greater self-awareness and understanding.
  • Types of Humanistic Therapy
    • Person-Centred Therapy: Developed by Carl Rogers, this approach emphasises the importance of the therapeutic relationship and the individual’s innate capacity for growth and change.
    • Gestalt Therapy: This approach focuses on the individual’s present experiences and emotions, and aims to help individuals integrate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
    • Existential Therapy: This approach explores the meaning and purpose of life and helps individuals find greater fulfilment and satisfaction.
    • Transpersonal Psychology: This approach explores the individual’s spiritual and transcendent experiences, and aims to help individuals integrate these experiences into their daily lives.
    • Humanistic-Existential Therapy: This approach combines elements of person-centred therapy and existential therapy to help individuals find meaning, purpose, and fulfilment in life.

These are some of the main types of humanistic therapies, and each approach has its own unique techniques and goals. Humanistic therapies are often used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and relationship difficulties, and aim to promote greater self-awareness, personal growth, and well-being.

Part 5: Common Additional Treatment Types for Specific Conditions or Goals

  • Solution-Focused Treatment
    Solution-Focused Treatment or Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a future-focused, goal-directed, and solution-focused style of therapy, as opposed to in other styles of therapy which tend to focus more on the past issues that led patients to seek therapy. SFBT is a short-term, strength-based, evidence-based therapeutic approach that includes positive psychology ideas and practices. Rather than concentrating on problems, this approach helps clients improve by creating solutions. In its most basic form, SFBT is a vehicle for creating, motivating, attaining, and maintaining desired behavioural change that is hopeful, positive emotion evoking, and future-focused. Solution-focused therapy is often used to treat a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and behavioural issues. The therapy is typically brief, lasting only a few sessions, and it can be delivered in individual or group settings.
  • Motivational Interviewing
    Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a cooperative, goal-oriented approach which focuses on the language that is associated with change. By eliciting and analysing the individual’s own motivations for change within a setting of acceptance and compassion, it is intended to improve personal motivation for and commitment to a particular goal. It often focuses on analysing a person’s readiness to make change and helps them identify the factors for and against change which could help them in their preparation to alter thinking, behaviour, or lifestyle in line with an intended goal.  The focus is on fostering intrinsic motivation and authentic alignment to help overcome obstacles and resistance to change.  This is often used to help people create behaviour change particularly for maladaptive habits, changes that can contribute to the treatment of health conditions (stop smoking, exercise more, eat differently, etc). 
  • Exposure Response Prevention for OCD
    Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of behavioural therapy that is used to treat anxiety disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions. The goal of ERP is to help individuals reduce their anxiety by gradually facing and becoming less sensitive to the objects, situations, or thoughts that trigger their anxiety symptoms. ERP works by gradually exposing individuals to the source of their anxiety in a controlled and safe environment, while preventing them from engaging in compulsive behaviours or other safety-seeking actions that typically serve to reinforce anxiety symptoms. Over time, the goal is for individuals to become less sensitive to the source of their anxiety and to learn new, adaptive coping strategies that reduce their anxiety symptoms. The therapy typically involves several stages, including assessment, education, skill-building, and exposure exercises, and may involve individual or group therapy sessions.
  • Positive Behaviour Support
    PBS, or positive behaviour support, is a person-centred strategy that is typically used for helping those with neurological conditions or learning disabilities. It is centred on collaborating with the person and the people who are close to them to comprehend why someone is upset, how their environment affects them, and the best strategies to keep them secure and content. The idea is to formally analyse the function of challenging behaviours to gain clues how to proactively address unmet needs before challenging behaviours erupt. This type of treatment is generally used within our clientele interested in neuropsychological services.
  • Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT)

PRT is a new type of treatment that focuses on the role of fear, stress, and avoidance on the interpretation of pain signals by the brain.  This type of treatment teaches clients to rewire their brain signals by reducing the subjective experience and conscious messaging of distress when noticing body sensations that they label as painful.  By interrupting the distress feedback look, the brain can access safety and relaxation rather than over-attention, negative attribution, and therefore increased signal sensitivity that often maintains chronic pain.  It is an approach that comes away from traditional medical interventions of pills and surgery to look at the power of the mind’s influence on physical symptoms.

At Healthy Mind Psychology, we have therapists that range in experience across many of these therapy modalities, though we do not offer all types and may need to refer out to other colleagues when a specific treatment type is not available.  Many therapists also combine approaches as appropriate to create a patient-led treatment which may involve techniques for education and skill development before then moving on to treatments that explore the deeper aspects of the psyche or the past.  It is important to have a collaborative approach with both ideas of what you are looking to achieve with also flexibility for guidance towards best treatment options for you.

We will then do our best to find that strong match between what you want and need to heal or grow, and what we do best!

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